Grammy nominated trombonist, composer and educator, Alan Ferber’s new project, “Roots and Transitions” (Sunnyside) breaks new ground on a few levels. First, the songs on the CD examine his continued commitment to music through the lens of his role as a father. Secondly, it showcases a new process that involves composing the music first from the trombone, his primary instrument, as opposed to the piano. The results are not only exciting for the listeners, but Alan tells us that he is enjoying a new longevity and melodic focus in the compositions as well. He also shares his story about his evolution as a musician and as an artist. We had a great chat. Enjoy Alan Ferber on Jazzwatch!
We are proud to welcome pianist, arranger and educator Kenny Barron on Jazzwatch. Since his emergence on the national music scene in the early 1960’s, he has been the pianist of choice for such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard and many more. Honored as an NEA Jazz Master, Mr. Barron has continued to inspire global audiences with his melodically inventive and incredibly swinging approach to the piano. His new Impulse Records CD, “Book of Intuition,” is a magnificent trio program featuring his longtime unit with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagowa and drummer Johnathan Blake. This disc has already distinguished itself as one of the best of 2016. Mr. Barron will celebrate this new CD in a series of performances May 3-8 at The Jazz Standard in NYC. More info at jazzstandard.com and kennybarron.com.
Since the 1960’s, Billy Hart has been acknowledged as a truly brilliant force in the world of improvisational music. Through his experiences with master musicians such as Shirley Horn, Jimmy Smith, Eddie Harris, Miles Davis, and as a member of Herbie Hancock’s ground breaking Mwandishi band, Hart developed a distinct rhythmic, melodic and atmospheric perspective on the drums.
Most recently, Mr. Hart has joined together with recent standout players Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson and Ben Street to form a musical brotherhood based on the ultimate trust and freedom. Over the course of three critically acclaimed CD’s, the group tours the U.S. and abroad. This year (2016), Mr. Hart turns 75, and the wisdom of his beat continues to inspire countless musicians as an educator, master clinician and traveling musician. The fact that so many young musicians continue to learn from and seek out Mr. Hart is encouraging, and I was glad to speak with him for JazzWatch. I felt inspired after our conversation, and I trust that you will enjoy out chat.
Peter Erskine is one of the great drummers of our time. Most recently, he has shared his amazing personal collection of live and unreleased material from his tenure with one of music’s greatest groups, Weather Report. Released at the end of 2015, “The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981” features four discs of pure excellence. Not only do we further experience the brilliance of Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Bobby Thomas, but we hear an energy from Mr. Erskine’s drums that linked tradition to the future.
He isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Peter Erskine has just released “Dr. Um”, a new project featuring the exceptional talents of John Beasley, Janek Gwizdala, Jeff Parker and Bob Sheppard that is sure to satisfy lovers of groove and swing. It’s a wonderfully eclectic project that suggests where Erskine-era Weather Report might have gone if they were around today. Get hip and give a listen to our chat with the great Peter Erskine.
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.
Known for his tenure in the early 2000’s with noted saxophonist and composer Greg Osby, pianist Aaron Parks and his ongoing association with rising star saxophonist Logan Richardson, drummer and composer Tommy Crane’s approach is quick-witted and adaptable but singularly unique. Watching him in action reveals a player committed (mind, body and spirit) to the expression of a given moment.
Tommy Crane borrows from the best but has something uniquely his own. A New York resident for nearly 15 years, Crane quickly established himself as one to watch, but has not attracted the acclaim that he deserves. However, with the forthcoming release of the tentatively-titled, “Late Bloomer” project, Tommy Crane’s groove and attack over a hypnotic blend of electric bass, Farfisa organ and electric guitar may allow him more of the setting and spotlight to attract both established and new listeners curious for a new conception that several have attempted, but have not fully achieved. We can’t wait for this release, and it’s our pleasure to present, in his first full-length interview, the amazing Tommy Crane.
Ulysses Owens Jr.’s multifaceted approach to music ensures that he’ll be with us in excellence for a long while. He’s an accomplished sideman, (Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton), a bandleader featured on his own projects (Unanimous , Onward and Upward) and also features and presents live talent in concert (Minton’s). He’s a thoughtful young man with an ever-growing wisdom as a global citizen and ambassador for improvisational music. As I experienced in a recent concert, not only is his command of the drums powerful and filled with a dynamic pulse, but feeling the actual vibrations of his groove put me in the space of another one of improvisational music’s greatest ambassadors and masters of rhythm, Art Blakey.
We caught Ulysses just after a tour of China to talk to him about his recent road trips as a bandleader and his philosophy about cultivating new audiences at home and abroad. Enjoy our chat and learn more about him at http://www.usojazzy.com.
As one of the most prolific pianists today, Orrin Evans remains constant in his documentation of his growth and musical wisdom. His latest CD, “The Evolution of Oneself” places him in a premier trio context with drummer Kareem Riggins and bassist Christian McBride. The music swings, grooves and floats but always with a pulse. This album further captivates with a few surprises. Evans’ youngest son produces a very captivating three-part interlude, “Genesis,” that is broken up over the course of the CD, while the surprising appearance of the Americana tune, “Wildwood Flower,” and Grover Washington Jr.’s, “A Secret Place” further demonstrates Evans’ ability to consistently shine through among the diversity of material and influences.
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.
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.
Pianist George Cables is an amazing giant of the music. After decades of incredible on-the-bandstand experiences with legends such as Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes, Cables is now sought by fellow pianists and music lovers through his classic recordings, “Cables’ Vision” and “Phantom of the City.” His newest effort, “In Good Company” features longstanding trio collaborators, Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis. Look no further for the personification of swing, musical wisdom and empathy. In our chat, Mr. Cables shares reflections on the new recording, piano peers, and his personal journey from a young musician and admirer of the music to his current status as an accomplished master of jazz and beyond.
Terence Blanchard is a jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and film score composer.
Since Blanchard emerged on the scene in 1980 with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and then shortly thereafter with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, he has been a leading artist in jazz. He was an integral figure in the 1980’s jazz resurgence, having recorded several award-winning albums and having performed with the jazz elite.
He is known as a straight-ahead artist in the hard bop tradition but has recently developed an African-fusion style of playing that makes him unique from other trumpeters on the performance circuit. It is as a film composer that Blanchard reaches his widest audience. His trumpet can be heard on nearly fifty film scores; more than forty bear his compositional style.
Greg Bryant recently spoke with him about the release of his latest project, “Breathless” backstage at the Jazz Standard before his CD release show.
Multi-instrumentalist and trumpet master Nicholas Payton continues to spread the Black American Music tradition to audiences across the globe. His forthcoming double CD, “Letters” is a diverse representation of this tradition and he plans to have the project out this summer. As has become customary in concert, the forthcoming release features Payton on trumpet, piano and Rhodes piano, along with Vicente Archer’s bass and the drums of Bill Stewart. You’ll also hear Payton covering organ and vocal duties on “Letters.” In our interview, Payton speaks about his new process for composing, the recent BAM Festival held in his honor in Italy, his affinity for his home city of New Orleans and reflections on music masters and mentors such as Ray Brown and Elvin Jones. Hear samples of the forthcoming “Letters” project at soundcloud.com/NicholasPayton and find out more information at nicholaspayton.com.
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
For well over 50 years, Bob Cranshaw’s blend of groove and swing have been part of the public consciousness. He’s recorded alongside such master musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Hutcherson and Grant Green, and he’s been the house bassist for Sesame Street for over 40 years. In this interview, Mr. Cranshaw reflects on his career and his main idea/motivation for playing — to make an audience (and his fellow band mates) feel the groove. In addition to having been in the Sonny Rollins’ touring ensemble since 1959, Mr. Cranshaw is a frequent sit-in guest at Smoke Jazz Club‘s (NYC) Tuesday evening performances with Mike LeDonne’s Groover Quartet.
Pianist Harold Mabern is one of the true treasures of improvisational music. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and self taught as a pianist, he and his peers (George Coleman, Frank Strozier, Booker Little) developed rapidly. As he discusses in our chat, Mr. Mabern’s move to the city of Chicago after high school graduation further enhanced his pedigree. As the pianist for the MJT +3, his harmonic and rhythmic ideas were the ideal compliment to Walter Perkins and Bob Cranshaw. In this interview, Mabern speaks about these beginnings and his move to New York where he has remained a first call pianist for the last 50 years holding the piano chair with fellow luminaries such as Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. He began recording as a leader for Prestige Records in 1968, and his newest recording, “Afro Blue,” on the Smoke Sessions Label pairs his group with all-star vocalists Gregory Porter, Alexis Cole, Kurt Elling, Norah Jones and Jane Monheit. This CD promises to be a unique addition to his body of work and will help to further introduce him to a greater addition of listeners. Play on, Mr. Mabern!
Since his initial rise to prominence on the national music scene, Les McCann has been a vessel overflowing with creative expression. First recognized for his soulful and dynamic piano playing in the early 60s, Les grew his audience with two hit tunes (“With These Hands”, “Compared to What”) in the latter part of the decade featuring his distinctive vocals. All along the way, he always kept a high quality camera nearby. Whether in a new city, hanging after a festival set or just heading out with friends, insiders welcomed Les into various circles and he often captured the mood of the moment with a candid image. Now in 2015, several of these prime images are collected for the first time in Les’ book, “Invitation to Openness,” a collection bearing the same title as his 1972 masterwork for Atlantic Records. As I spoke with Mr. McCann, he shared memories about many of the now legendary stars that are photographed in this book, some memories about the classic LP/CD, “Invitation,” and the sharpest wit and wisdom that you’re ever likely to hear. Enjoy.
Gerald Clayton has earned a unique place among the current generation of pianists and composers. He’s equally versed in the rich tradition of jazz as well as its modern sounds and explorations. Not only has Clayton been called upon to perform with father John and uncle Jeff Clayton in their award-winning ensembles, he’s also been featured with a diverse array of A-list bandleaders such as vocalist Gretchen Parlato, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Clayton’s trio and expanded ensembles have been featured over three acclaimed releases (Two-Shade, Bond and Life Force) and he has enjoyed leading these ensembles in tours across the U.S. and abroad. He spoke with us about his growth and development in the music while imparting some wisdom about sharing improvisational music with new listeners.
Pianist and composer Matthew Shipp is an original voice on the modern improvisational music scene. Having been in the ensembles of noted improvisers such as Roscoe Mitchell, William Parker and David S. Ware, Shipp has enhanced his musical legacy primarily through assembling a string of his own intense and diverse musical ensembles. Recent recordings, “One”, “Un Piano,” 4D,” “Piano Sutras,” “Root of Things,” and, “To Duke,” are direct examples of Shipp’s tireless dedication to the art of improvising. It’s honest and direct music that commands attention. Shipp speaks about his origins, many of his lasting musical associations and the need for continually presenting diverse programming at festivals and concert series.
Acclaimed drummer and composer Jack DeJohnette is a true master of rhythm. As one of the last distinct voices to emerge from the golden era of improvisational music, DeJohnette is perhaps at the peak of his powers in 2015. His career has spanned through the ensembles of Miles Davis, Charles Lloyd, Bill Evans, Jackie McLean, Jon Patton and Keith Jarrett in addition to his unique ensembles as a leader. Following his 2012 NEA Jazz Master Award, DeJohnette was contacted by the Chicago Jazz Festival and asked to headline one of the evenings the following year with any ensemble of his choosing. Armed with reed-men Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, bassist Larry Gray and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, DeJohnette orchestrated one of his most adventurous live performances in recent years. This reunion of old friends was recorded, edited, mastered, and as is now available on the ECM release, “Made In Chicago.” In this chat, DeJohnette speaks about his origins in Chicago and many of the names and places that helped to develop his conception of music.
Jazzwatch is happy to present our extended conversation with drummer Damion Reid. His unique blend of traditional and contemporary elements of rhythm has been well-represented on recordings and in live performances around the world with an amazing cast of artists such as Robert Hurst, Steve Coleman, Rudresh Mahanthapa, Greg Osby and Robert Glasper. In this conversation, Reid shares wisdom from the late drum master Billy Higgins – an early mentor and advocate. He also reflects and provides insight on his role in the recently re-formed Robert Glasper Trio – a sound that continues to engage and inspire the current generation of musicians and listeners. As amazing as Reid is at recording, he is certainly one to experience live. Keep informed on his latest happenings and upcoming performances at www.damionreid.com.
NEA Jazz Master Lou Donaldson remains one of the foremost practitioners of swinging, feel-good groove music. He cut his teeth playing for original bebop jazz audiences as a sideman and bandleader appearing on the now classic, “A Night At Birdland” recording from 1954. For the next 20 plus years, Poppa Lou set out on his own to develop a touring route that would reach urban jazz audiences from New York to California. The crowd that he cultivated were major supporters and pushed records like “Blues Walk” and “Alligator Boogaloo” to radio and jukebox hits and best sellers. Several of his groovy tunes from the later 60’s and early 70’s saw new life as samples in Hip Hop productions by artists such as De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Mad Lib, Pete Rock and many more. Lou gave us some great wisdom in this conversation. Enjoy!
As the newest protégé of acclaimed producer and composer Quincy Jones, pianist Justin Kauflin has traveled the world wowing audiences over the last two years. Justin’s new recording “Dedication” honors many of the influential and essential persons in his life including musical mentor and trumpet icon Clark Terry. Kauflin and Terry’s friendship is also the subject of the superb documentary “Keep on Keeping on.”
Drummer, producer and educator Terri Lyne Carrington stays on the go. She tours the world with both her, “Mosaic Project” and “Money Jungle” projects, with the former project as the recipient of the 2011 Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album. As she’s collaborated with fellow giants as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Nancy Wilson, Liz Wright, Dianne Reeves and Christian McBride, Terri strives to make music that is artful, yet accessible, inspiring a whole new generation of listeners and music makers.
Dara Tucker has a voice that is equally memorable and refreshing. As she draws from gospel, singer-songwriter, soul and jazz artists both past and present, she’s been able to catch the ear and attention of noted artists such as Cassandra Wilson, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Charlie Hunter. Her original compositions found on “The Sun Season” uplift and celebrate the human spirit with an energy that is accessible to fans of jazz and beyond.
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.
Sullivan Joseph Fortner Jr. is a native New Orleanian who has already made a significant foray into the jazz world that belies his young age. While touring with Stefon Harris & Blackout, Christian Scott Quintet, and the Roy Hargrove Quintet, Sullivan completed his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance at Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz. He has studied and performed with The Marsalis Family, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, The Jordan Family, Irvin Mayfield, Peter Martin, and Dave Liebman.
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.
If you haven’t heard of Tivon Pennicott yet, don’t worry. You will soon. Having amassed two Grammy wins for his work as a soloist on Gregory Porter’s “Be Good” and “Liquid Spirit,” and for performing with star musicians such as Kenny Burrell, Roy Hargrove, and Johnny O’Neal, Pennicott’s new record, “Lover of Nature” is poised to be one of the best new releases in jazz in quite some time. The young tenor discusses his formative years growing up in Georgia, his Jamaican heritage and his acclimation to the big-city jazz scene.
Family friends and mentors are the common thread in Duane Eubanks’ forthcoming CD release, “Things of That Particular Nature” available 1/2015 on Sunnyside Records. Since his arrival on the New York scene in the mid-90’s, Duane has absorbed the information of the masters, built lasting friendships (many of whom are heard on his new CD) and continues to pass knowledge and wisdom on to the rising generation of new improvisers.
Pianist Cyrus Chestnut has played with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Kathleen Battle to Betty Carter to James Moody. His blend of soul and swing has elevated him to become one of the most reliable pianists of his generation. His recent CD, Midnight Melodies from the newly-formed label, The Smoke Sessions, spent a month at the top of the JazzWeek chart.
On this week’s episode, we talk about his new professorship at Howard University – a long-held dream of his. He also has a new project in the works with David Williams and Victor Lewis. We talk about his ideas about passing the lineage of the music down to up and coming players.
On today’s JazzWatch, Greg interviews legendary drummer Mike Clark. You may know him from his tenure with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, but he’s also put in time with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Vince Guaraldi, Albert Collins and Jimmy Reed.
Mike discusses learning to play traditional jazz, blues, post-Bop in addition to being on of the innovators of linear funk drumming. Be on the lookout for his forthcoming CD with pianist Michael Wolff, and his new book with fellow drum icon, Lenny White.