Guitarist and composer Peter Bernstein is one of the most identifiable voices in jazz guitar in the last 20 years. Noted for his work with stellar musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Cobb, Larry Goldings and Brad Mehldau, Peter’s melodic improvisations and distinct harmonic sense are now influencing many budding guitarists on the scene today.
While maintaining a full schedule as a traveling musician and master clinician, you can still catch Peter often in his home base of NYC. Most recently, a new recording, “Let Loose,” was released on Smoke Sessions Records featuring a balance of thoughtful arrangements of standards and bright new original compositions.
We caught up with Peter on the busy streets of NYC to chat about the new CD, his origins as a player, the long-standing relationship of his trio with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart and what it takes to stay artistically productive as an itinerant artist. Enjoy our chat with Peter Bernstein.
As one of the most exciting Hammond B3 organists of all time, Dr. Lonnie Smith continues to take his combination of swing, groove and sound into new directions. His new CD, “Evolution,” documents just that – the Good Doctor’s blend of soulfulness and spontaneity with a special cast of musicians. There are new originals such as, “For Heaven’s Sake,” “African Suite,” and “Talk About This,” as well as re-imagined standards like, “My Favorite Things,” and “Straight No Chaser”. “Evolution” is a striking and attention-getting CD, but at the same time, familiar enough to make the listener feel right at home. It’s all part of the wizardry of Dr. Lonnie Smith. It was great to talk with the Doctor about coming back home to Blue Note Records and the similarities of late great producers Frank Wolf and Duke Pearson with current label president and producer, Don Was. Dr. Smith also gave us his ideas about how to keep young players and practitioners of the music evolving in the right direction. We hope you enjoy our chat with Dr. Lonnie Smith on Jazzwatch.
Guitarist Ed Cherry’s lyricism and commitment to the groove makes him. He has a direct approach to music that is refreshing as well as distinguishing. As a veteran on the international music scene since the late 70’s, he has amassed important credits with icons such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and organist Big John Patton. And when he steps out to lead his own bands, the results are just as great—there’s even more to appreciate about his distinctive brand of swinging soul. The forthcoming Posi-Tone CD, “Soul Tree,” features Cherry’s organ trio (ft/ Kyle Koehler on Hammond B3 and Anwar Marshall on drums) and contains the roots, branches and leaves that we’ve come to expect from him. It was great to talk to Ed Cherry about growing up in New Haven, CT, seeing guitar greats Jimi Hendrix and Grant Green live at different times and traveling the world and learning from Dizzy. He also talks about what he is drawn to musically that has helped him craft his conception. So glad that we could put the spotlight on the great Ed Cherry. Cop his record and see him live when you can. More info at edcherrymusic.com.
Thanks for joining us for the 50th episode of Jazzwatch! We celebrate the legacy of legendary composer and bassist, Jaco Pastorius, who is the subject of the new documentary, “Jaco: The Film”. Producer and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo spoke with us about Jaco’s impact on him and the nearly six year journey to complete the first-ever documentary on Pastorius. More information on theater screenings and the video on demand release of the film is available at jacothefilm.com. You will also hear feature clips from my 2008 interview with the late Ingrid Pastorius along with rare performance clips of Pastorius during solo spots with Weather Report and his Word of Mouth Ensemble and Big Band.
Guitarist, composer and bandleader Mark Whitfield’s guitar is a joyful sound. His clarity has long shone through in ballads and burners. Whitfield takes the language of guitarists George Benson, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell and has emerged with something of his own – a sound that is unique, powerful and far reaching. He has been featured with a diverse group of players and singers including Chris Botti, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, Burt Bacharach and many more. However, Whitfield is especially proud of his latest project – a stellar band that includes son Davis Whitfield on piano and son Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Whitfield reveals that the group has a new recording in the can. Look for its release soon. In the meantime, they’ll be road-testing the material on the road in the months to come.
Composer, bandleader, saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Benny Golson has established a legacy built on the pursuit of excellence. That excellence has also contributed to the legacy and careers of peers such as Art Farmer, Art Blakey & Lee Morgan while raising the bar among improvisers and composers for all generations that followed. His reputation as a true gentleman is equally renowned. Mr. Golson is a leading clinician and his current group featuring the rhythm section of drummer Carl Allen, bassist Buster Williams and pianist Mike LeDonne is a leading ensemble churning out the truest swing. You wont find a more honest and pleasant soul as Mr. Golson, and it was a treasure to have a conversation with him for Jazzwatch. If you have not seen him in concert, please do so, and be on the lookout for a new CD from Mr. Golson in 2016.
Over the last fifteen years, vocalist and songwriter Rene Marie has risen to international and popular acclaim by sticking to her guns. As you’ll hear, Rene has fought hard to be where she is and it’s paying off. She was nominated for the 2014 “Best Jazz Vocal Album” Grammy award for “I Wanna Be Evil” – her trbute to the late Eartha Kitt. These days Rene is traveling the world with her group and is preparing to record a brand new CD of all original compositions. She advocates for vocalists and musicians to be themselves and to take their craft as seriously as possible. We hope that you enjoy our chat with Rene Marie.
Grammy Award Winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson continues to inspire audiences in live performance and on her latest CD, “Coming Forth By Day.” Wilson’s distinctive aura, the synergy of her band and producer Nick Launay guide listeners through a moving devotion to the great Billie Holiday. The genre-less approach to noted Great American Songbook (GAS) classics that Holiday favored is firmly in the tradition of Wilson’s conception. She’s broken numerous barriers for the current generation of artists with regard to the types of tunes that can be covered beyond the standards, but when the material steers toward the classics found on “Coming Forth”, Wilson and company shape the arrangements in the moment and keep their ears in the present with an eye toward the future. In our conversation, Cassandra shares some insight into the making of the record, reflects on key members of her touring band and shares some wisdom with us that she gained along the way.
Ron Carter is a national treasure. His musical excellence has been a source of inspiration for many musicians and listeners throughout his 50 plus year career. As the most recorded bassist in jazz history, he has been featured alongside such masters as Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Bobby Timmons, Aretha Franklin, Carmen McRae, B.B. King, A Tribe Called Quest, Jim Hall and Bill Frissel. He is a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master (1998), a Grammy Award Winner and a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at City College of NYC (2002). His Big Band, Foursight and Golden Striker ensembles continue to earn critical praise and popular acclaim, and his new foundation, Finding the Right Notes, advocates for arts access for the up and coming generation of music makers. http://www.roncarter.net
Most noted for his work with the groups Lettuce and Soulive, guitarist Eric Krasno has been touring the world since 1999 with his grooving blend of agility, grit and spirit. With Soulive, Krasno has released over fifteen CDs and collaborated with an extensive variety of artists including Dave Matthews, Chaka Khan, George Porter, John Scofield, Melvin Sparks, Charlie Hunter and Derek Trucks. Krasno just formed a new label, Feel Music Group, and launched a new signature series instrument with Ibanez Guitars. In this conversation, he shares some great stories about the beginning of Soulive, the influence and mentorship of the late Yusef Lateef as well as a preview of this year’s annual Bowlive concert residency in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.
Guitarist Matthew Stevens is one of the most impressive voices on guitar to emerge on the international music scene in the last decade. As a player and composer , Stevens blends the visceral and cerebral elements of modern music in a distinctive blend that has been sought by such players as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist Esperanza Spaulding, drummer Jamire Williams and trumpeter Christian Scott. On “Woodwork,” Stevens is out front and at the helm of an amazing group of like-minded players including long-time collaborator, drummer Eric Doob, percussionist Paulo Stagnaro, bassist Vicente Archer and pianist Gerald Clayton. Stevens’ “Woodwork” is a dynamic release and is sure to be among the best recordings of 2015.
Guitarist Russell Malone’s commitment to melody, rhythm and harmony have earned him a unique place in improvisational music. Not only has he assisted fellow musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Smith and Dianne Reeves in their groups, but Malone has won several fans of the music through his highly acclaimed solo albums and gigs as a leader. His new High Note recording, “Love Looks Good On You,” is a fantastic example of his natural wisdom and ability to choose unique material as a canvas to showcase his soulful and energetic guitar style. Enjoy our chat with Russell Malone.
Russell’s CD release show will take place on the 17th and 18th of February, 2015 at The Jazz Standard.
It was a treat to catch the amazing and ever-evolving bassist and bandleader Christian McBride. As he continues to win listeners with his infectious sense of groove and swing, Christian has become one of the more frequent ambassadors and representatives for our music. In this conversation, Christian gives us a window into new recording projects being prepared for release, a special duo touring project with another monster bassist and his take on the scene that he’s been a vital member of over the last several years.
In perhaps his most prolific period, John Coltrane was documented several times at his probing best in 1965. The master saxophonist recorded no less than ten albums’ worth of material in that year alone. In this special edition of JazzWatch, Greg spotlights rare Coltrane Quartet performances from The Half Note in NYC (March 19, 1965) and at Seattle, Washington’s Penthouse (September 30, 1965). As the Half Note served as Coltrane’s New York “home” performance venue in the mid 60s, the latter date and location is notable for bringing us the recordings that were issued as Coltrane’s “Live in Seattle.”
Pianist Chip Crawford’s rhythmic precision and harmonic invention distinguishes him as a unique improviser. After moving to NYC 15 years ago, Crawford met singer Gregory Porter and a unique musical fellowship was born. For the last three years, the group has traveled the world, earned Grammys and won new listeners. Chip tells us all about the journey, gives us insight into several of the band’s tunes and his approach to supporting one of the great voices of our time.
Drummer Roy McCurdy has proven to be the man for the job for a who’s who of music legends such as Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and others. He’s been a part of the changing musical landscape since his emergence on the scene in the early 60’s. He continues to train a new generation of instrumentalists. He discusses his tenure in the Adderley group, how Sonny Rollins helped him build his endurance and how he accompanied some of the most legendary jazz singers to ever grace the stage.
Mocean Worker combines his knowledge of real instruments with cutting edge technology to produce music that is catchy, groovy and points the way to the masters and legends that came before. He’s a bassist, he’s a producer, and as the son of producer Joel Dorn, he had first hand encounters with music legends such as Marcus Miller, Miles Davis, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Luther Vandross and Art Neville.
Terreon Gully is one of the premiere drummers of our time. His comprehensive approach to music has mad him the drummer of choice for Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, David Sanborn, Joe Locke and Stefon Harris. Drawing his influences equally from gospel, R&B, straight ahead jazz and Hip-Hop has given him a unique sound that influences today’s percussionists across genre.
Special shouts out to Noel Rose of Brooklyn, NY, Mr. Graham Spice of Lexington, Va and to others of you who shared your reflections on Episode 1. I feel energized and encouraged to continue. Drop us a line with any questions/suggestions that you have. Looking forward to connecting with you 1 on 1.
As I mentioned at the end of our last podcast, I was fortunate to attend the 2013 JazzConnect conference in NYC just a few weeks ago presented by Jazztimes and the Jazzforward Coalition.
It was good to meet and see so many musicians, executives and presenters all in one space…many of them also in town for the APAP conference for arts presenters. Registration was at no cost and conference goers could attend or roam freely through any of the 16 panels ranging from streaming rights issues to the new musicians mentorship model, provided over the course of 2 days.
Two of the panels that I happened to attend and felt were particularly important concerned the 21st century jazz Tour and the truth about jazz radio. For the do it yourself model employed by many artists—-i think that its helpful to learn about different approaches and what diverse gatekeepers look for when they present rising talent on the air or on the stage. For the touring panel, drummer and composer Alison Miller was important to hear from as a self-managed artist who has begun to successfully tour and promote her projects apart from her work with such luminaries as Ani DiFranco, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Ben Allison to name a few.
Artist Managers Gail Boyd and Liz Pinta (MMW) also shed light on ways that artists can cut costs in the beginning to promote not only economic but physical sustainability while on the road.
On the broadcast side of things, it was good to meet and hear from moderator Derrick Lucas of 90.1 in Rochester, NY and Mark Ruffin of Sirius Sattelite Radio’s Real Jazz Channel as they disected a select group of new recordings to explain why they would or would not air them. These gentlemen along with other panelists brought to light certain programming preferences—-interesting to hear that there is a shortage of jazz male vocal records, that some jazz stations wont air much blues-based material, the preference toward a mostly acoustic sound (but not guitar), preferences toward second generation standards verses the GAS, the proliferation of female vocal recordings, and which tunes overall can make the cut without a ride symbol or “swing” beat. ***
And, while I was not able to attend the panel on “Presenting Jazz More Creatively”, I think the panel titled “Race in Jazz” yielded a hidden gem at the very end of the discourse and a question that I hope the organizers and the music community can begin to seriously address in the years to come, and that is, How do we cultivate and provide access to arts funding and programming for youth and among members of underrepresented populations? That’s a real issue that can have some positive results.
If we want to ensure that youth and members of underrepresented populations have the chance to experience live creative music then they must learn to not only desire it but have access to capital to create opportunities for the music to happen. It would be great to also see more festivals, clubs and performing arts groups diversify their talent buying, creative and artistic committees. And again, although this issue is a grand one, that might be something the committee could fine tune for a future panel.
Of course, the Winter Jazz Festival was on in full swing just after Jazz Connected ended. A big success six venues all participating and hosting two nights of shows. Shout out to Brice Rosenbloom and his staff. Many of the other clubs hosting other fantastic acts Blue Note featured Donald Harrison Smalls with a great series of gigs for drummer Gregory Hutchinson’s new group and Jazz Standard hosting the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio and Octet.
No Stress BUMP MUSIC
If you want to see brief clips/ highlights of Jazz connect , head over to the jazzwatch youtubechannel at youtube.com/gbjazzwatch. And, catch a clip of the good Dr. at the Hammond B3 in action at youtube.com/gbjazzwatch. We’re always on the watch for the active ear here at Jazzwatch.
CHARLIE HUNTER TRACK/Ghost Mall
Segment 3—Interview(CH) (Runtime — 15 minutes)
As we talk about the DIY model, I recently had the oportunity to speak with 7 string guitarist Charlie Hunter about that approach. Having seen and employed both models of operation, for Charlie its still about getting into the van and driving thousands of miles around the country bringing the music to the people. He’s endured and seen changes not only in the music industry, but also within the communities—and his latest recording “Not Getting Behind is the New Getting Ahead” is his attempt to reflect the changes and adaptations that we’ve all had to make in our communities over the past several years though tunes like “There used to be a night club there,” “Economy with Dignity,” “Ghost Mall” and and the title track.
Charlie plus longtime friend and drummer Scott Amendola create grooves and moods on this disk that address the “right now blues”—-good for all that ails you. This is yours truly, The Watchman, Greg Bryant. We’ll her a portion of the tune “Economy with Dignity” followed by our talk with Charlie Hunter about the new record, his relationship to the beat, the DIY model and an early upclose live dose of John Lee Hooker, right here on JazzWatch.
CHARLIE HUNTER/ECONOMY WITH DIGNITY(30 sec)
Segment 4— Ending (Runtime – 3 minutes)
Catch the Omaha Diner Group March 1st at New York’s Cutting Room & PHILADELPHIA’S WORLD CAFE lIVE MARCH 2. & Charlie and Scott Amendola go to Japan this February. More info at charliehunter.com and on facebook.com/charliehunter.
Thanks to No Stress for our theme and transition tracks. No Stress is a hip trackmaker on the rise that you should check out. More sounds and information available at nostress.bandcamp.com. JazzWatch is written by yours truly, Greg Bryant for Watchman Music and produced and edited by Dara Tucker.
Welcome to the 1st JazzWatch podcast. On the show we examine several of the top releases
of 2012 from artists such as vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spaulding, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummers Johnathan Blake and Jamire Williams (Erimaj), and we listen to clips from The Less McCann Trio’s OOP (out of print) LP masterpiece “Les MccCan LTD. in San Francisco from 1960. We also share a clip from an interview conducted with master drummer Louis Hayes.As we strive to be ‘On the Watch for the Active Ear’ at JazzWatch, let us know what some of your favorite releases of 2012 were. Who will be the ones to watch in 2013? Send us your feedback and show ideas—and watch what happens! Theme music by No Stress. http://nostress.bandcamp.com/album/–
Below you’ll find links for all the music featured on this week’s podcast: