Saturday, June 19, 2021

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Jazz documentaries, part 1



This week, let's revisit what has become something of a tradition for this feature in summertime, when previewable shows usually slow down dramatically in St. Louis: the "screening" of some jazz-related documentary films available for free viewing online.

Today's first film A Great Day in Harlem is a 1994 American documentary that tells the story behind the famed photograph of the same name. The picture, shot on August 12, 1958 by freelance photographer Art Kane for Esquire magazine, depicts 57 jazz musicians, including many of the biggest names then active in the music, gathered in from of a building on East 126th St. in Harlem.

After the jump, you can see the 1975 BBC documentary Born To Swing, which looks at changes in the post-WWII jazz scene through the eyes of several alumni of the Count Basie band of 1943, including Buddy Tate, Earle Warren, Joe Newman, Dickie Wells, Buck Clayton, and more.

Next up, it's 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz, another BBC documentary from 2009 that looks at how the music was affected by the release that year of four landmark albums - Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come.

That's followed by Inside Out In The Open, a 2001 American film subtitled "An Expressionist Journey Into The World Known As Free Jazz." As the name suggests, the movie looks at free and experimental jazz via performances by and interviews with practitioners such as Marion Brown, Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai, Alan Silva, Burton Greene, Joseph Jarman, William Parker, Daniel Carter, Matthew Shipp, Susie Ibarra, and St. Louis' own Baikida Carroll.

The fifth film, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool is from 1994, and it both explores the consequences of AIDS for the African American community and also spotlights collaborations between jazz performers and hip-hop and "acid jazz" artists, including Donald Byrd, Guru and Ronny Jordan; MC Solaar and Ron Carter; Me’Shell NdegéOcello and Herbie Hancock; The Roots and Roy Ayers; Digable Planets and St. Louis native Lester Bowie; and more.

The last two films aren't jazz documentaries per se, but instead look at a couple of genres closely associated with jazz. Our Latin Thing is a 1972 documentary about the explosion of salsa music in 1970s New York, featuring performances, interviews and in-studio footage, while Blues Story from 2003, looks at modern electric blues and includes interviews and performance footage from a variety of musicians, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Ruth Brown, Bobby "Blue" Bland, St. Louis mainstay Henry Townsend, and many more.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Friday, June 18, 2021

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's StLJN's weekly wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* Lauren Parks, president of the House of Miles in East St. Louis, was interviewed for a Belleville News Democrat article about local culture in ESL.

* Asleep at the Wheel's concert last Friday at the Fox Theatre was reviewed by Dan Durchholz for the Post-Dispatch. The Post also published a gallery of photos from the gig.

* Also in the Post-Dispatch, Kevin Johnson reports on bassist Jahmal Nichols scoring a documentary that aired on PBS. There's also a brief video accompanying the story.

* Still in the Post, Kevin Johnson interviewed singer Robert Nelson about this Saturday's Juneteenth show at Blue Strawberry, and there's a video with that story, too.

* The Riverfront Times reports that the Way Out Club, a fixture of south city nightlife and alternative music for 27 years, will close permanently next month.

* A 1976 interview of saxophonist Julius Hemphill on the public radio program "Fresh Air" was resurfaced this week by pianist Ethan Iverson, who offered his commentary on the talk via Twitter.

* Marcus Baylor and Jean Baylor of the Baylor Project (pictured) were the featured guests this week on radio station WBGO's online video talk show "The Pulse."

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Webster U faculty, alums to perform Monday, June 21 in support of jazz academy in Poland


St. Louis musicians associated with jazz studies at Webster University will perform in support of an international jazz education program in "Bebop, Blues, Ballads and Bossas," a concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 21 at the First Congregational Church, 10 W. Lockwood Ave. in Webster Groves.

The participating musicians all are current and former faculty members and alumni from Webster U, including trumpeter and former department of music chair Mike Parkinson; pianists Kim Portnoy, Carol Schmidt, and Carolbeth True; bassists Willem von Hombracht and Ben Wheeler; drummers Kevin Gianino and Joe Meyer; violinist Abbie Steiling; and saxophonists Paul DeMarinis, Hugh Jones, Mike Karpowicz, Chris Hubbard and Zac Minor.

They'll be playing in support of the International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA) in Krakow, Poland, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. ISJA serves high school and college students from Poland and other countries, offering a curriculum that includes small combos, vocal jazz ensemble, music theory, history and improvisation, master classes, and nightly jam sessions for students and faculty. More than 100 students are expected at this year's session.

Parkinson was the ISJA's artistic director from 1995 to 2004, and von Hombracht served in the same capacity from 2008 to 2014. In addition, a number of Webster U faculty members and gradate students over the years have served as guest instructors or teaching assistants for the program.

Now, as the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary, both Parkinson and von Hombracht (pictured) have been invited to return for the anniversary festivities, which will be held July 25 through August 1 at the Penderecki Academy of Music in Krakow. Proceeds from the June 21 concert will help to underwrite their travel expenses to and from Krakow.

General admission to "Bebop, Blues, Ballads and Bossas" is $10 per person, and tickets will be available only at the door.

Sunday Session: June 13, 2021

Terence Blanchard
Here's this week's roundup of various music-related items of interest:

* Tulsa Race Massacre: How The Gap Band Was a Tribute to the Former ‘Black Wall Street’ (TheWrap.com)
* JazzTimes 10: Essential Horace Silver Recordings (Jazz Times)
* A “Phenomenal Concept,” and A Mega Synth Studio Goes Minimalist (SonicScoop.com)
* Five Months Later, Only 31 of 13,619 Music Venues Have Gotten Their Grants Approved (Rolling Stone)
* ‘This sounds like a human synthesiser’: the evolution of rap, one verse at a time (The Guardian)
* A Guide to the Early Work of Sonny Rollins on Prestige Records (Bandcamp.com)
* The Strange World Of… Don Cherry (TheQuietus.com)
* Floating Along In Uncertainty With Vijay Iyer (NPR)
* The Sound of Joy (SPIN)
* ‘Perry Mason’ composer Terence Blanchard: ‘It was a huge honor’ to remix the iconic theme of the original series (GoldDerby.com)
* U.S. Jazz Venues Announce Reopening (Jazz Times)
* Ray Charles’ ‘True Genius’ Box Set to Feature Previously Unreleased Live Tracks (Rolling Stone via Yahoo News)
* Tone Glow 067: George Lewis (ToneGlow.Substack.com)
* Jazz vs. Classical Funding (AllAboutJazz.com)
* Uncovering the Rich History of Spanish Experimental Music (Bandcamp.com)
* Rolling Stones, Tom Jones and more join campaign for law change on streaming (The Guardian)
* Just a Lego robot strumming a ukulele (AVClub.com)
* Chronology: Freddie Redd Steps Out of the Shadows (Jazz Times)
* Larry Goldings Reaches New Audience as Comedian (Jazz Times)
* Julian Lage: “I bought a stethoscope and taped it to the back of the Telecaster. I could only handle it for about a day and thought, ‘This is abusive!’“ (MusicRadar.com)
* Live music is back, but for roadies and crews, the pandemic’s toll may be irreversible (Los Angeles Times)
* In historic move, Sony Music is disregarding unrecouped balances for heritage catalog artists (MusicBusinessWorldwide.com)
* Overdue Ovation: Steve Slagle Remains Optimistic with New Album (Jazz Times)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Janet Evra & Will Buchanan's "St. Louis Music Box"



This week, let's take a look at "St. Louis Music Box," a video project created and produced over the past year by hassist/singer Janet Evra and guitarist Will Buchanan.

When the pandemic hit last spring and all gigs were canceled, Evra and Buchanan, who are married as well as musical partners, like a lot of musicians found themselves with some time on their hands. One of the projects they devised to fill the void was the "St. Louis Music Box" series, in which they and various musical friends team up to collaborate remotely on new arrangements of familiar popular tunes from the 70s and 80s.

Singer Anita Jackson has been a mainstay on the project, doing lead vocals on five of the six videos released so far, while Evra concentrated on bass and co-production duties. While most of tghe musicians are from St. Louis, the remote-collaboration nature of the project has made it possible to enlist some famous guest stars, most notably veteran trumpeter Randy Brecker and piano phenom Taylor Eigsti.

The "St. Louis Music Box" series kicked off last year in July with a video cover of the Kool and the Gang disco-era hit "Ladies' Night," performed by Evra, Buchanan, Jackson, keyboard player Andrew Stephen, and drummer Tim Moore.

After the jump, you can check out their version of "Ain't Nobody," a song written by Prince that in 1984 was one of singer Chaka Khan's last hits as a member of the band Rufus. The recording features Randy Brecker and the same band as "Ladies' night," except with drummer Dhoruba Hill in for Moore.

The next song, a cover of Natalie Cole's "This Will Be," uses mostly the same musicians, but with tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown instead of Brecker and Tim Moore back behind the drum kit.

That's followed by another disco-era song, Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," with both Jackson and Evra on vocals and Paul Brackens playing the bass, and then by a cover of the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden" with Evra as vocal soloist accompanied by Brackens, Moore, and keyboard player Ryan Marquez.

The final video and most recent in the series is "Some Kind of Wonderful," made famous in 1974 by Grand Funk Railroad, and here featuring Taylor Eigsti on piano along with Evra, Buchanan, Jackson, and Noore. No word yet as to when and if another installment might be forthcoming, but you can keep an eye out for one by checking in on Evra's YouTube channel,

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Friday, June 11, 2021

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Ulysses Owens, Jr
Here's StLJN's weekly wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* The Kranzberg Arts Foundation this week announced that they'll be taking applications for their 2021-22 artist-in-residency program starting Tuesday, June 15. The program is open to all individual artists - visual arts, writers, filmmakers, etc - as well as musicians. The deadline to apply is August 1; for more information or to submit an application, go to https://www.kranzbergartsfoundation.org/residencies/.

* The Sheldon's Peter Palermo discusses the hall's immediate post-pandemic plans and next season in an interview with the St. Louis American's Danielle Brown..

* Drummer and educator Henry Ettman will be teaching a jazz course online next month via the Washington University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. "New Sounds, New Artists, New Scenes: Jazz in the 21st Century" will explore "new and evolving artists and groups, changing jazz styles from mainstream to avant-garde, and the impact of external forces such as technology, political/cultural turbulence and the pandemic." The course will meet (online) from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Wednesdays starting July 7, continuing through July 28. To register, go to https://osher.wustl.edu/course-registration-2/ or call (314) 935-4237.

* The connections between Miles Davis' late-period electric music and "punk jazz" are elucidated in a review of the trumpeter's album Dark Magus newly published on the swesite PunkNews.org.

* Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson was interviewed by Daniel Durchholz for the Post-Dispatch in advance of the band's gig tonight at the Fox Theatre.

* Pianist Peter Martin's company Open Studio is introducing another weekly webcast, this one starring drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. in "a journey through all things #DRUMS with various guest drummers, musicians, artists, and music industry professionals." The program will air live at 5:00 p.m. Wednesdays on the company's Facebook page, starting next week with drummer Lewis Nash as the featured guest/interviewee.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Sunday Session: June 6, 2021

Anthony Braxton
Here's this week's roundup of various music-related items of interest:

* The Making of Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks" (Reverb.com)
* Chops: Sam Gendel Creates a Distinctive Sax Sound (Jazz Times)
* With 'Zero Grasses,' Jen Shyu Forges Grief into Revelation (WBGO)
* What Music Is Making Movies Tick? Here Are the 12 Biggest Film Sync Licensing Trends of 2021 (DigitalMusicNews.com)
* 47 Years of Music Industry Change — In 47 Seconds or Less (DigitalMusicNews.com)
* Interview with Jeff “Tain” Watts (EthanIverson.com)
* From Heliopolis to Saturn: Sun Ra and Egypt (DIYWorldwide.com)
* Man in Black at 50: Johnny Cash’s empathy is needed more than ever (The Guardian)
* Jazz Singer Nnenna Freelon Works Through Grief With New Album And Podcast (NPR)
* After Delays and Snafus, Music Venues Tenuously Seeing Next Steps Toward Relief (Rolling Stone)
* The ‘Big Bang’ in Jazz History (WNYC)
* How SoundScan Changed Everything We Knew About Popular Music (TheRinger.com)
* Riddle Me This: Jazz Artists Remember Arranger Nelson Riddle on His Centennial (Jazziz)
* The Source - Sun Ra and his Arkestra’s Egpytian adventure (The Nation)
* Alice Coltrane Turiya Sings Reissue Announced (Pitchfork.com)
* A Legendary Stand by the Lee Morgan Quintet Finally Sees Full Release, as 'The Complete Live at the Lighthouse' (WBGO)
* As Grants For Shuttered Venues Trickle Out, Many Owners Are Still Waiting (NPR)
* Producer Mitch Easter shares the inside story of R.E.M.’s early recording sessions: “It was glorious. They rehearsed a lot just because they liked to play together“ (MusicRadar.com)
* ‘Songs In A Minor’ at 20: How Alicia Keys' debut album set the tone for contemporary R&B (USA Today)
* Anthony Braxton On The Radiance Of Standards, His Search For Charlie Parker & The Forces That Divide America (Grammy.com)
* Hear Bach's Music Like You've Never Heard It Before: Upside Down (NPR)
* What Is Asian American Music, Really (Pitchfork.com)
* Gary Bartz & Jazz Is Dead (Jazz Times)

Saturday, June 05, 2021

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Memories of Oliver Nelson



The nearly ubiquitous Miles Davis notwithstanding, which jazz musician from the St. Louis area has been heard by the most people throughout the world? It's probably impossible to measure something like that with any degree of exactitude, but one certainly can make an informed guess.

Any short list would have to include trumpeter Clark Terry, famed for nearly seven decades as a high-profile jazz soloist and recording artist, member of the Ellington and Basie big bands, and veteran of television and session work; and saxophonist David Sanborn, who has had a very popular career as a solo artist, as well as being one of the most recorded session players of his era and the host of various radio and television programs.

Another, more unexpected contender for the title would have to be saxophonist, arranger and composer Oliver Nelson, who packed a lot of music into his all-too-brief 43 years on planet Earth. Born in St. Louis on June 4, 1932, Nelson was working with local bands by age 15 and joined saxophonist Louis Jordan's big band at 18, playing alto sax and arranging.

After serving in the Marine Corps and attending Washington University in St. Louis and Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Nelson moved to New York, where he established himself as a soloist, bandleader and arranger/composer. His big breakthrough came with the album The Blues and the Abstract Truth, which featured his tune "Stolen Moments," now a standard played by musicians everywhere.

Nelson went on to record many big-band albums and to work as an arranger for a number of well-known jazz musicians, including Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Hodges, Wes Montgomery, Buddy Rich, and Jimmy Smith. In 1967, he moved to Los Angeles, where, along with his old pal Quincy Jones, he became one of the first African-American composers to get significant amounts of work scoring television and films.

Nelson wrote music for hugely popular TV shows such as Ironside, Night Gallery, Columbo, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman, reaching tens of millions of people every week. He also wrote the score for the film Death of a Gunfighter, arranged Gato Barbieri's music for the movie Last Tango in Paris, and produced and arranged popular music for singers including Nancy Wilson, James Brown, the Temptations, and Diana Ross.

Tragically, Nelson died of a heart attack on October 28, 1975. Given the vast quantity and generally high quality of the music he wrote during his short life, one can't help but wonder how much more he could have accomplished had he lived longer.

Even so, Nelson's legacy is quite impressive - his recordings still hold up well today; his film and TV music remains emblematic of its era; and "Stolen Moments" likely will continue to be played forever. Moreover, the path he helped to pave in Hollywood has been well-utilized by subsequent generations of musicians; for example, it's hard to imagine someone like Terence Blanchard getting the chance to write all those film scores absent the pioneering work of Nelson and Jones.

Today, as a tribute to this under-appreciated St. Louis jazz great, we've got what seem to be the only videos online of Nelson in live performance. The first three videos show of Nelson performing and conducting the multi-national Berlin Dream Band playing his arrangements for a TV program recorded in 1970 in Berlin.

The first video, "Black Brown and Beautiful," is a Nelson original that also features him as the soloist, while the second, "Milestones" has solos by Leo Wright and Klaus Marmulla on altos and Rolf Roemer on tenor. The third video shows the band playing Nelson's arrangement of the gospel standard "Down By The Riverside."

Those clips are followed by two short excerpts of a performance of Nelson's composition "Swiss Suite," recorded in 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The existence of these excerpts suggests there might be more video out there, but until and unless something else surfaces, these clips would seem to be the only film or video recordings of any Nelson performances.

(This is an edited version of a post originally published in June 2009.)

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...