I read a fantastic book about the life of Chet Baker some years ago. Can’t remember what it was called or who wrote it, but it was sad and harrowing stuff.
Just found this thread, so if anybody’s listeneing…
Nobody has mentioned the great George Russell. One of the first to have a vison for a general theory of music based on a jazz concept. Big influence on Miles Davis and John Coltrane and the modal theory. Made some blinding albums with the likes of Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Eric Dolphy and Steve Swallow. Particularly Ezz-thetics (1961), Stratusphunk (1962) and Jazz in the Space Age (1960). Check this guy out.
On the film front the documentary Mingus: Charles Mingus (1968) is a real insight Mingus’ state of mind at the time as he and his five year old daughter are evicted.
I also remember seeing a really interesting movie years ago from either Denmark or Sweden filmed in the sixties about a group of trad musicians who hire an ex serviceman saxophonist who leads them into modernist pastures whilst indulging his heroin habit. Can’t remember what it was called, but it stuck in the memory. Any ideas?
Oh, and if you want to read a great book about jazz get Mingus’ Beneath The Underdog. A melange of novel and autobiography. It should definitely be made into a proper movie.
I have Russell’s Jazz Workshop (I think that’s what it’s called), and I really like that one. I especially like inclusion of guitar on that.
I can’t remember if I finished Beneath the Underdog, but it was pretty “trippy.” The parts that stand out have nothing to do with music though.
One of the best descriptions of jazz musicians making music comes from Rafi Zabor’s Bear Come Home or something to that effect. The novel is strange in that the main character is a talking bear who also happens to be a great alto-saxophonists. The story itself is OK, but the descriptions of the live performances are great.
Jazz workshop was one of his earlier albums from the mid fifties I believe, included in the album is his first recording of the track Ezz-thetic, a tune he revisits on my favourite album ‘Ezz-thetics’ (Recorded in 1961) which includes Eric Dolphy on Alto Sax and Bass Clarinet. Quite frankly, I don’t think anything can match the sound of Dolphy on bass clarinet, it is utterly beautiful. Therefore, if you haven’t listened to it I also recommend ‘Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus’, featuring Ted Curson on trumpet, Dannie Richmond on Drums and Dolphy on Alto sax and Bass Clarinet. Mingus introduced the album, giving the effect of a live gig, yet it was recorded in the studio. Included is a verion of Fables of Faubus (Original Faubus Fables), with the lyrics included. Superb.
Bear Come Home sounds interesting. I think I shall have to check it, if only for the sax playing bear!
I was wondering whether I should start a thread discussing the best (or worst) Jazz movies that have been made, rather than movies that use jazz on the soundtrack. My personal favourite being Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm, starring Frank Sinatra. I also remember a really cool 50s TV show called Johnny Staccatto, starring John Cassavetes, as a Jazz Musician moonlighting as a private eye. Sheely Mann, Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell showed up as did John Williams, composer of the original Star Wars theme!
Dolphy on bass clarinet is great; he’s not too shabby on alto, either. Not sure if I’ve heard (or even have) that Mingus album. (Is it on the Atlantic label, because I have a box set of Mingus’ Atantic recordings?) I like Dolphy’s recordings with Booker LIttle and some live stuff with Trane.
I think we talked about movies about jazz a little in this thread. As for films with a good jazz soundtrack, the one that leaps out is the Louis Malle film that Miles Davis played on. I kinda like the stuff Sting did for Leaving Las Vegas. Or what about Michel Legrand(?)’s jazzy score for Umbrellas of Cherbourg?
Speaking of Shelly Manne, I recently picked a live recording with Frank Strozier on alto. I think this may have been the first time I’ve heard Strozier, but he sounds good on this.
Too right, Jazz
Dolphy could probably have farted and made it sound like an angel ;) And yes his stuff with Trane is very good, particularly “Live at the Village Vanguard” (there’s that bass clarinet again!)
The Mingus album is actually on Candid Records (CCD 79005) and the copy I have was licenced to Artists Only! Records.
I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about Sting, I know the Jazz fraternity took him to their bosom after The Police, but I still find it hard to mention Mr Sumner and Jazz in the same breath. My problem maybe? but he just ain’t really Jazz as far as I’m concerned, but then that opens up another debate about what Jazz really is…
Oh, and another great Jazz movie is ’Round Midnight starring Dexter Gordon, directed by Betrand Tavernier – a nostalgic nod to the French jazz scene and musicians Bud Powell and Lester Young.
Oh, I’m used to the antipathy towards Sting (not just from jazz fans). I’m not claiming that he’s a jazz musician, but if I recall correctly, he covered jazz standards on that Leaving Las Vegas soundtrack. He performed it in a torchy way, if I remember correctly.
I think I mentioned Round Midnight somewhere in this thread. Do you know of any good jazz films/docs that go into the music making aspects?
To be honest, I think the making of jazz or jazz theory, is a bit of a desert when it comes to films or documentaries.
The BBC have shown a couple of pretty good programmes in the past, most recently ‘1959: The Year That Changed Jazz’ that looked at four albums from 1959 that changed the face of the music; Mingus, Brubeck, Davis and Coleman.
There is also a miniseries ‘Jazz; A Film by Ken Burns’ that follows the history of Jazz in the US. It focussed on a number of major figures throughout its 10 episodes, but it received some criticism for its focus on the more ‘classic’ end of jazz, particularly from the jazz community itself.
However, this is a site worth checking out.
The guy seems to know his stuff and points to many documentaries that have been made.
I want to see that BBC film on 1959.
I think I’ve been to jazzonfilm.com but I’ll check it out again. Thanks.
Anyone familiar with Sam Rivers? He is playing at a club near me next week and I was wondering if it’s a “can’t miss” or a “maybe.”
Yes, I’m familiar with him. I don’t know if it’s a can’t miss date, as it depends on your tastes. Of the recent stuff I’ve heard (maybe ten years old), he had a odd-metered funky feeling to his music with some dissonance thrown in (if I remember correctly). If you’re familiar with M-Base musicians like Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, you’ll know what I mean. Dave Holland’s group has a similar sound, too.
Rivers was one of musicians who combined playing the changes (in a bop-ish way) and playing outside the changes (a la early 60s Ornette Coleman). Lately though, there’s a funkier rhythm, played in what sounded like odd time signatures (e.g. 7/4, etc.). Is he playing in a trio or big band setting? Some of the big band stuff I’ve heard was pretty interesting, abstract, but interesting.
The guy is getting old, though, and he may not be with us much longer, so in that sense it might be a “must see” date. I hope his health is OK.
Sun Ra is awesome
Eric Dolphy is awesome
Ornette Coleman is awesome
Anthony Braxton is awesome
Sam Rivers is awesome
One time Cecil Taylor (who is OLD) tried to pick up my 21 year old friend (who was also a guy.) Cecil then gave my friend his phone number and told him to call him later. So we prank called him later. True story.
Jazzaloha: The 1959 movie is on Youtube, though I didn’t find it too insightful:
Hey, thanks Fraser. I’ll try to check it out.
You punked, CT? Dang.
How did I miss this thread? Jazz has been my first love for decades now, although I did stopped being current when Miles went electronic. He and Louis Armstrong have always been the first musicians that come to mind. Had about 600 Albums/CDs at one point, but moved and left quite a few behind.
Coincidently, just a week ago, I dusted off “Jazz, a Film by Ken Burns”, which was mentioned earlier. It’s a PBS production (10 discs x 2 hours) and is a great source of information on jazz beginning in New Orleans and stopping at about late Miles. Suits me fine.
Almost all my favourites have been mentioned including Louis & Miles, Mingus, Coltrane, Bill Evans, etc. I am really ticked off though that composer and big band leader Duke Ellington is in absentia (did I miss him?). Drummer Max Roach, who could make those skins positively hum, and pianist Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines are also on my ‘must have’ list.
Saw vocalist Sheila Jordon at a small Toronto club a few months ago. She said that her ex-husband Duke Jordan was Charlie Parker’s pianist for a term, and the only reason she married him was so she could be close to The Bird.
@MELBROWN – Thanks for sharing that interesting anecdote about Duke Jordan’s old lady.
Hey, I mentioned Ellington, and Max Roach as well on my previous post so don’t worry they weren’t left out here.
@JAZZALOHA – You’re absolutely right about Michel Legrand’s music for Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Check out his music on another Demy film, The Young Girls of Rochefort. Do you like the Phil Woods? The brilliant alto sax master recorded “Images” with Legrand in the ’70’s, one of my personal favorites. Unfairly panned by critics for being too commercial, I still have my pop’s original LP, while the cd is only available on Japanese import for some reason. But the title track alone is worth the price.
@Noel – Yes, you certainly did include those individuals in your blog…my apologies!
You mentioned Lester Young. He’s my favourite on that instrument. Among the current guys, Herbie Hancock, Nicholas Payton and Jack Black’s father-in-law (Charlie Haden) come immediately to mind. A guy with a great sense of humour along with talent is Clark Terry. He was having serious problems with his vision so cancelled out of a gig here and hasn’t been back. Most of the guys who don’t come back have simply died. Aaargh!
It’s interesting you say ‘you stopped being current when Miles went electronic’.
For me some very interesting things have happened in jazz since then, particularly the influence Miles had on the next generation of jazz musicians, particularly Hancock, Zawinul, and McLaughlin. These guys really became the standard bearers for jazz over the next decade. Another musician who took jazz into new territories was Ornette Coleman and his electric group, Primetime. ‘In All Languages’ is a personal favourite, with the tunes first played by Coleman’s original quartet – Cherry, Haden, and Higgins and then the same set of tunes played by the Primetime Ensemble; love him or hate him it’s difficult to deny his influence, particularly on the M-base scene.
My personal favourite over the past 25 years has been James Blood Ulmer, maybe not strictly a jazz musician, but an innovative blues man, whose work from the early eighties is ground breaking. Defunkt are another group of musicians I had a lot of time for in the mid-eighties, led by Joe Bowie, brother of Lester Bowie, they blended a mixture of free jazz and funk, ‘Thermonuclear Sweat’ is a classic of the genre and again a big influence on the M-Base collective.
I’ve seen Young Girls, but I can’t really remember what the music was like. As for Phil Woods, I have one album by him (the title escapes me), but I haven’t really listened to much of his stuff. What one or two recordings would you recommend. Btw, I have no problem with him playing on pop recordings. I like his solo (I think it’s him) on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.”
I haven’t been into Duke lately, although that doesn’t mean I don’t regard him highly. I really like Paul Gonsalves, though and Blanton-Webster recordings. As for Prez, I’ve been wanting to get some small group recordings of his or the recordings with Basie on Decca. I don’t think I have him in my collection.
I like a lot of jazz that’s incorporate “electronic” influences as well, but I never got into Prime Time, although I wanted to. (There was one album by Bern Nix, a guitarist who played in Prime Time, that I liked, but that was more of an inside-outside acoustic guitar trio.) I reacted similarly to Blood (I had his Tales from Captain Black.) I don’t know the who harmolodic playing in a rock/funk setting just didn’t do it for me—although the concept appeals tom. I also followed Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, but I never connected to that music. I preferred when Jackson played with Last Exit—the group with Sonny Sharrock, Peter Brotzmann and Bill Laswell—or Cecil Taylor.
There is probably some influence on the M-base musicians in that the M-Base guys have that “lopsided” sounding funk thing going. Btw, what are your thoughts on the music of M-Base musicians. Imo, if I had to name an important trend in the 80s, they would be it. I think many of the more original and interesting jazz musicians now are influenced by that music.
As for the 70s, I preferred Miles early 70’s stuff particularly with the Corea-Holland-DeJohnette-Moreira group. What a killer rhythm that was! (If only stuck to the more rock-groove oriented stuff!) I also like a lot of Weather Report.
My favorite of that time (and still today) is the Pat Metheny Group. I really love the way this group incorporated the music of their day into jazz. Metheny and Mays are terrific composers, too.
I did go through an m-base phase in the late eighties after seeing Steve Coleman at the Bracknell Jazz Festival. I loved the album ‘World Expansion’. For me it took the musical ideas of Defunkt closer to the emerging hip hop scene (whereas Defunkt were firmly camped in the JBs funk idea). And I think you’re probably right in that much of the younger jazzers use the m-base sound as a springboard for their sound.Here in Blighty, that’s most apparent in the music of Soweto Kinch.
But I’ve kind of lost touch with US progressive jazz since the early 90s, mainly due to the explosion of British Electronica, with the likes of The Future Sound of London using the improvisational techniques of jazz to create electronic musical soundscapes, and drum & bass pioneer Goldie’s work which was heavily influenced by Pat Methany.
However, in the UK the most ‘progressive’ form of ‘jazz’ can probably be heard from the likes of groups like Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland, a kind of Jazz Funk Punk Electronica hybrid. I would like to think they are a part of a long line of British Jazz eccentrics like Robert Wyatt’s Soft Machine and Ian Carr’s Nucleus.
If you can find it James Ulmer’s ‘Free Lancing’ is probably the peak of his eighties creativity. An absolute scorcher of an album!
What the heck happened to Steve Coleman? He’s one of the M-basers that I haven’t really heard anything from (although I haven’t been following the jazz scene now). Speaking of hip-hop and jazz, what happened to Courtney Pine? He was touted as one of the more interesting voices in the early 90s. I never really got into his stuff—-indeed, most of the attempts to synthesis jazz and hip-hop have disappointed me (although I really would like it to work). Ditto the attempts at synthesizing jazz and electronica.
I don’t get to hear many UK jazz musicians, but oddly enough I have a couple of tracks from Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland (from a UK label sampler). I didn’t really listen to it closely, but on strictly based on a cursory listen, I didn’t hear anything that grabbed me.
I’ll keep my eyes out of Free Lancing. Who plays on it?
Btw, one of my favorite groups is AMM. Ever check them out (although they’re completely different from the stuff we’re talking about)?
lately i have been listening to a lot of david murray, albert ayler and an album that ginger baker did with bill frisell.
I’m really a noob to jazz, but John McLaughlin/The Mahavishnu Orchestra has always amazed me.
I’ve been getting into some more electronic/acid jazz, like Thievery Corporation, but I don’t seriously listen to jazz aside from Mahavishnu, Thievery, and sometimes Norah Jones.
After owning the cassette tape of Going Back Home, I finally picked up the cd version. I really liked that album. First of all, I generally like Frisell playing as a sideman, rather than as a leader. (Most of the tunes on his albums are slow-medium tempo atmospheric tunes—which I don’t really love.) Secnnd, Ginger Baker swings—and rocks! The guy is a not just a banger, but a highly skilled and tasteful drummer—and he can play jazz. Finally, I love Haden’s sound on this—really fat and upfront in the mix.
Which Murray albums have you been listening to?
Came back to this thread to see what was happening. Boy, have I been left behind!
No matter. Glad you guys are listening.
sleep and work!
Steve Coleman? I must admit to not having looked him up since the late eighties, but apparently there is an m-base website.
And at the following link I believe you can download Coleman’s albums for free!
At the moment I’m reliving World Expansions…ah memories.
Courtney Pine? Well he’s still going. He now plays an amalgam of world beats fused with jazz, and he’s rather good on the bass clarinet (I’m just a sucker for the instrument). And the last I heard he also had a radio show on the BBC. Pine made it big in the early eighties with His Big Band The Jazz Warriors, which spawned an entire London jazz scene at the same time as the Loose Tubes Big Band. He was then offered a seat in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers but turned it down to pursue his vision for British Jazz. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in this year’s honour’s list. So he obviously did something right!
Ulmer’s Freelancing is essentially Amin Ali on bass and Calvin Weston on drums, augmented by a horn section comprising of David Murray, Oliver Lake and Olu Dara. Quite a line up.
I can’t say I’ve heard AMM, but I have seen Evan Parker who collaborated with them, and also had the good fortune of being present at an Eddie Prevost seminar when attending a summer jazz school in west London many years ago.
Oh, and Polar Bear are playing at our local arts centre next Thursday, so, something to look forward to…..
I just stopped in to say that I saw Ornette Coleman live a few days ago, and he killed. Just wanted to bask in the jealousy. :)
Wow, just feel the jealousy!
I saw him a couple of times a while back, first with Primetime (my wife was pregnant at th time, and we were just pinned to the back wall, and then with the London Symphony Orchestra at the London Queen Elizabeth Hall playing Skies of America, the orchestra were rather bemused to say the least!