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JANUARY 2013: BAD WEATHER; GOOD JAZZ. ACT ONE.

the usual, only better.  sounds like a commercial for a cable compmay, but it’s what this past month has been like for jazz, with reservations.

WINTER JAZZFEST 2013 

Greenwich Village, NYC, hosted the annual celebraton of the multi-fariousness that is jazz.  six venues all within walkng distance of each other. a good thing that geography as it was raw outside.  no fewer than 70 groups were showcased on the 11th & 12th each night wafting into the following morning.

A FEW MOMENTS WITH CLAUDE NOBS AND GEORGE GRUNTZ…

there are three great historical world-class jazz promoters whose paths i have been fortunate to have crossed: George Wein of the Newport Jazz Festivals, the late Norman Granz of Jazz At The Philharmonics, and the recently passed CLAUDE NOBS the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival.

not too far from Montreux another Swiss musical giant, GEORGE GRUNTZ, left us.

Granz’s fame began in a big town, San Francisco.  but Wein & Nobs took their wares to swank sleepy villages and made them more famous than the towns themselves.

PETE LA ROCA SIMS: 1938 – 2012

Symphony Sid’s intoning the phrase every night remains engraved in my mind’s ear as i drifted off to sleep. “…and PETE LA ROCA on drums.”  i envisioned a powerful swarthy dude crouched over a drum kit knocking out those complicated multi-rhythms like “Fungi Mama” backing up other leaders on the Blue Note Label.

DIZZY @ 95: A BRIEF BEIDECKER

IT’S BEEN A DIZZYING FINAL QUARTER:  personal friends Dave Brubeck and Pete LaRoca Sims both passed…  the Sandy and Newtown, Conn. disasters cast a pall.  but as a British comedy troupe sang “always look on the bright side”… Dizzy Gillespie would have turned 95 in 2012.  we celebrated him in myriad ways all over town… our grandson made Bar Mitzvah in the Orlando area… we discovered that Louis Armstrong did indeed sire a child, a daughter, who happens to be the wife of a friend of mine, and a former drummer, for over a half century.  and it’s been kept from us for all these years.  the daughter, Sharon Preston-Folta, has written an e-book, available on Kindle and from amazon.com.  more in 2013.

BOBBY SANABRIA REDUX

in our last blog i observed that the recent MSM Afro-Cuban concert was loud in the extreme.  your attention is drawn, please, to his “comments” as leader Bobby Sanabria took umbrage at that observation.  it is reprinted herewith.
Comment:
In regards to the negative commentary regarding the recent MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra concert, Harlem Hothouses, which was in tribute to long gone Harlem nightclubs and dance halls and the dislike of the conductors leadership by the blogger/writer, it must have gone over the audiences heads since at the very end they, the audience, gave a 6 minute standing ovation (it was timed by the stagehands) to the orchestra and conductor. After three curtain calls they demanded an encore which they received. There were many highlights. One in particular was the world premiere of MSM alumnus Dr. Jeremy Fletcher’s “Invisible Man” which was in dedication to the renowned Ralph Ellison novel of the same name with its unique use of rhythm (the piece was built in multiples of 3, 4 and 12) in nod to the Yoruba deity Elegua, tonal shading – a nod to Ellington’s use of color, and dynamics which were controlled by the conductor. It’s unique use of the bass clarinet as the instrument to be featured (Leo Pelligrino) a choice made by the conductor, received a rousing ovation for Mr. Pelligrino’s unique skills on an instrument rarely featured as a jazz soloist and for composer Fletcher’s brilliant tone poem. Patrick Bartley’s alto feature on Isfahan and the multi-movement finale Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite for Duke Ellington were yet other highlights of many during the evening. The final judges were the audience and the ovation at the end which reflected and affirmed what really happened during the evening.
 
in addition, Mr. Sanabria added the following commentary,   which i pass on for your consideration.  Sanabria is correct as to Louis’s cry in The Peanut Vendor; he does NOT sing “Maaa-ni,” but “Mar-ie.”  mea culpa.
as i wrote to Mr. Sanabria, we critics sometimes lose sight of the fact that, as i have always maintained, audiences are  the bottom line.  for good or for ill.  and this one responded positively, and loudly.  nothing personal was intended or implied.  that’s why we’re out here.  for good of for ill.
Hi Arnold,
I would appreciate that you print my rebuttal immediately and not wait a month for your next blog. Your comments did not convey anything but a dismissive, disrespectful, arrogant tone/attitude toward not only me and my work, but to my talented students who played their butts off and wowed the audience present. In addition your trivialization of the original compositions that were premiered at the concert and their composers by mentioning only one and not the other in your review was truly low. As you well know, both pieces received rousing ovations. There was even thunderous applause in the middle of the performance of Eugene Marlow’s Billy Taylor tribute piece the band was swinging so hard. My solo on Mango Mangue (on timbales not drums) which you chose to characterize as nothing but triple FFF loudness, received the loudest ovation. I have the audio of the entire concert to prove it.
Since I know you personally and consider you a friend and colleague, I’m frankly shocked and disappointed in your arrogance and total misrepresentation of what went down. What concert did you attend? One would only expect something like this from a person who has a vendetta against another person.
BTW, since you’re a stickler for accuracy and are into ”I gotcha’ ” moments, Armstrong does not sing the opening phrase “Maaa-ni” on his version of El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor). As I pointed out at my presentation for the Ellington Society, he completely changed the words to say Ma – rie, a womans name, which has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics and meaning of the original song.
Be that as it may, I agree with you totally, his interpretation of just the word itself on the recording is sublime. Imagine what it would have been if he had sung the real lyric(s).
Ache’ (positive energy),
Bobby Sanabria

 

SYMPHONIC ELLINGTON; AFRO-CUBAN, ET AL

The Manhattan School of Music‘s Jazz Program celebrated three decades of superb performances during the 2012-2013 season.  as casually as i say that put into the proper perspective 30 years of jazz is a lifetime, almost a third of our musical journey.  i got the opportunity to be present for a few of their concerts as well as some related performances.  herewith the first report.

putting it in context, there were a couple of storms in there, petrol shortages, major power outages, floods, a public transportation shutdown and a sudden spurt of winter in New York City.

T90TS THIELEMANS @ JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER’S 25th ANNIVERSARY

JEAN “TOOTS” THIELEMANS turned 90 in 2012 and we celebrated with him.  his Apple two night birthday party was held on the stage of Rose Hall at Jazz At Lincoln Center with celebrants from two of his worlds: jazz and Brasilian music.  missing were the myriad pop stars on whose recordings he “tinkles” (sic) and the Sesame St. denizens for whom he blows their theme.  (the tinkling line is among his favs.)

Toots @ 90 was the opening gambit of J@LC’s Silver Anny, a season-long celebration of 25 years of performances and lectures presented in their multiple venued midtown edifice in the Time-Warner complex on Broadway and West 60th St., Columbus Circle.  for a complete schedule of events go to www.jalc.org. 

REMEMBERING MAT DOMBER PRESERVATIONIST OF THE MAINSTREAM

MAT DOMBER, founder and CEO of Arbors Records, passed away in Sept. 2012  (see links below for obituaries and more details).  his CDs encompassed the legendary, near legendary, and legends to be of mainstream jazz, the Who’s Who of What’s What of our tradition.

Arbors –the name is an amalgam of his and his widow Rachel’s surnames– is based in Clearwater, Florida.  his annual Clearwater Festival was an oasis in this jazz-desert.  his ever-smiling visage and warm greetings was a calming demeanor.  the entire staff reflected this Santa Claus-like cherub.

THE GREAT CUBAN ENCOUNTER+35, CHAPTER 6 : “THE VOYAGE HOME”

i’ve stolen the title of this chapter from a Star Trek movie as it all seems so phantasmagorical.  it was May 1977.  we had just spent a week on board the SS Daphne getting to and celebrating on an island that was, and remains, if only somewhat less so, off limits to U.S. citizens.  some on board  had performed for Cuban audiences including one at a private get-together jam session with the Cuban fusion group Irakere from which came subsequent defectors, among them Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval.  we got to meet the group’s leader, the brilliant keyboardist Chucho Valdes.  a couple of other passengers met with Cuban authorities, which in retrospect seems to be what this mission was all about (Chapter 3).

RYAN TRUESDELL’S GIL EVANS CENTENNIAL PROJECT REDUX

the celebration of Gil Evans’ 100th in 2012 continued into 2013.  conductor  Ryan Truesdell brought the large 16-piece ensemble into Jazz Standard for an encore presentation  (see my previous comments).  it was a tripartite week.  the first two days were given over to Evans’ Claude Thornhill sojourn.  next came the albums such as “Individualism,” concluding with the last day’s dedication of the Miles Davis collaborations.  i was present in the middle.


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