22 June 2009

Race Relations, 50 Years Later

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger ran this photo of Miles Davis a few days ago with the accompanying newspaper caption:
Musician Arrested.

New York -- Miles Davis, 32, of 881 10th Avenue, a trumpeter now appearing in Birdland, 52nd Street and Broadway, was arrested after fighting with patrolman Gerald Kilduff, who had ordered him to move from crowded sidewalk. In the scuffle, Davis was hit on the head with a blackjack for which a St. Clare's ambulance had to be called. (1959)
Of course, in his autobiography, Miles remembered it differently:
I had just finished doing an Armed Forces Day broadcast, you know, Voice of America and all that bullshit. I had just walked this pretty white girl named Judy out to get a cab. She got in the cab, and I'm standing there in front of Birdland wringing wet because it's a hot, steaming, muggy night in August. This white policeman comes up to me and tells me to move on. At the time I was doing a lot of boxing, so I thought to myself, I ought to hit this motherfucker because I knew what he was doing. But instead I said, "Move on, for what? I'm working downstairs. That's my name up there, Miles Davis," and I pointed to my name on the marquee all up in lights.

He said, "I don't care where you work, I said move on! If you don't move on I'm going to arrest you."

I just looked at his face real straight and hard, and I didn't move. Then he said, "You're under arrest!" He reached for his handcuffs, but he was stepping back. Now, boxers had told me that if a guy's going to hit you, if you walk toward him you can see what's happening. I saw by the way he was handling himself that the policeman was an ex-fighter. So I kind of leaned in closer because I wasn't going to give him no distance so he could hit me on the head He stumbled, and all his stuff fell on the sidewalk, and I thought to myself, Oh, shit, they're going to think that I fucked with him or something. I'm waiting for him to put the handcuffs, on, because all his stuff is on the ground and shit. Then I move closer so he won't be able to fuck me up. A crowd had gathered all of a sudden from out of nowhere, and this white detective runs in and BAM! hits me on the head. I never saw him coming. Blood was running down the khaki suit I had on. Then I remember Dorothy Kilgallen coming outside with this horrible look on her face--I had known Dorothy for years and I used to date her good friend Jean Bock--and saying, "Miles, what happened?" I couldn't say nothing. Illinois Jacquet was there, too.

It was almost a race riot, so the police got scared and hurried up and got my ass out of there and took me to the 54th Precinct, where they took pictures of me bleeding and shit. So, I'm sitting there, madder than a motherfucker, right? And they're saying to me in the station, "So you're the wiseguy, huh?" Then they'd bump up against me, you know, try to get me mad so they could probably knock me upside my head again. I'm just sitting there, taking it all in, watching every move they make.
Miles adds, "I would have expected this kind of bullshit about resisting arrest and all [for which he was charged that night] back in East St. Louis (before the city went all black), but not here in New York City, which is supposed to be the slickest, hippest city in the world." For all America's ills, at least some things have changed for the better. On with this month's links.
  • Fresh off the folding of Jazz Times, Nate Chinen's regular column at the magazine, The Gig, has moved over to his new blog of the same name. Here he discusses the jazz influences of indie rock stars Grizzly Bear.
  • Michael Katzif at A Blog Supreme interviews Icons Among Us director Michael Rivoira.
  • Black Classical has released a tribute to Blue Note Records: a huge mix featuring Blue Note tracks from Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, and more. Check it out, it is worth a listen.
  • Don Heckman interviews Jimmy Cobb on the anniversary of Kind of Blue.
  • At Rifftides, Doug Ramsey reiterates what everyone should know: Late-period Ellington is among some of the best music ever recorded.
  • Stephan Mejias takes a look at the latest reissue of Spiritual Unity.
  • Jazz.com has a wide-ranging interview with Jack DeJohnette.
  • Here is a snippet of Charles Mingus' Remember Rockefeller at Aticca (context):

12 June 2009

Pat Metheny Just Blew My Mind

This week in The Guardian, Pat Metheny had this to say about Ornette Coleman (emphasis added):
There's no compromise with Ornette - you have to go into his yard to play.When we recorded the 1986 album Song X together, we wanted to make something unlike anything either of us had done before. I think we created something unique. He is one of the most beautiful souls on the planet, a truly gentle person as funny as he is deep. But I don't think I ever got to understand "harmolodics." When musicians talk about it like they know what it means, I listen warily. When a critic does, you can be sure he's full of it.
No idea? Metheny is the last person I would expect to say this, but now I feel a lot better about not understanding it.

h/t: A Blog Supreme

10 June 2009

This May Explain Why They Never Sent Me That Free DVD With My Subscription...

Howard Mandel alerted us that Jazz Times might be shutting its doors, and on Monday, the jazz magazine posted the following on its website:
To our readers and members of the jazz community:

JazzTimes has temporarily suspended publication of the magazine and has furloughed the bulk of its staff while it finalizes a sale of its assets. The brand and operation will undergo reorganization and restructuring in order to remain competitive in the current media climate. Print publishing is expected to resume as soon as a sale is closed. New information and statements will be posted at www.jazztimes.com as they become available.

Thank you for your patience during this challenging period.

JazzTimes Management

While I am genuinely disappointed to see JazzTimes go (even if it is only temporary), the fact is there are plenty of other outlets for jazz news and criticism on the web. Even in the jazz blogosphere, a tiny neighborhood on the web comparatively, you can find great jazz content from journalists, musicians, traditional media outlets, and even amateurs (including yours truly). The end of JazzTimes may be a bit of a shock right now, but the music, and the accompanying background noise, will play on.

Other views on JazzTimes:
Marc Myers
Howard Mandel
Doug Ramsey
James Hale
Ted Gioia and Alan Kurtz debate the situation in the comments of this post.

07 June 2009

Under The Radar: Sounds of Joy

Joe Lovano

Having recently reviewed new releases from Joshua Redman and Fly, I have been thinking a lot about the saxophone-bass-drums trio. Though I usually enjoy these albums, I am often left feeling there is a certain underlying sameness present on these albums: Sonny Rollins plus John Coltrane with bits of Ornette Coleman added for flavor. This is not to say that these saxophonists all sound the same, but that they are often drawing from the same well. However, there is one saxophone trio album that has been on my mind lately, chiefly because it does not sound like any of the other saxophone trio albums that have passed through my iPod lately.

A major reason this album sticks out from most other saxophone trios is Lovano's sound on tenor. Though he is steeped in the same rhythmic and harmonic traditions as Redman, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, and any number of other tenormen, his tone is a throwback to the gruff sounds of
Ben Webster or Coleman Hawkins. Whereas most current tenor saxophonists sound much like John Coltrane or Joe Henderson, with a clean, even tone, Lovano almost sounds as if it is a struggle to make a tone on his horn. It is a refreshing deviation from the norm, and one of the traits that first drew me to Lovano's work.

For an example of Lovano's sound, see this YouTube of Lovano playing in a trio setting:

Lovano's signature sound is on full display on Sounds of Joy, but the album is of course also notable for his improvisations and the alchemy cultivated between Lovano, bassist Anthony Cox, and drummer Ed Blackwell. For a group that ostensibly did not play much together live (though I could be wrong), these three played very well together (which is not a surprise in the case of Blackwell - if he could keep up with Ornette Coleman, then he could hang with anyone else). Apropos of Coleman, the tunes on the album (including four Lovano originals) are quite reminiscent of Ornette in that they feature simple but catchy melodies that stand out on their own.

But I digress. One of the lingering criticisms of contemporary jazz is that with so many players developing within an institutionalized jazz education structure (under which instrumentalists study mostly the same stylistic forebears at the conservatory/university), most (if not all) of the up-and-coming jazz musicians sound an awful lot alike, save for some nuances. Someone as distinctive as Thelonious Monk could never make it out of the conservatory without losing what makes him unique, according to this line of criticism. Listening to someone like Lovano, whose sound reflects an era of jazz which sometimes receives short shrift from modern players, is a refreshing foray into an alternate universe of jazz, where instrumentalists can develop out of a much more diverse pool of influences.

EXTRA CREDIT: Those looking for more Lovano would do well to check out Grand Slam, a live recording featuring Lovano with Jim Hall, George Mraz, and Lewis Nash. If you can handle that, follow it up with any of Lovano's albums with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell (including I Have the Room Above Her, Time and Time Again, and Sound of Love).

Track Listing: Sounds of Joy; Strength and Courage; I'll Wait and Pray; Cedar Avenue and S
pace; Bass and Space; Ettenro; Until the Moment Was Now; This One's For Lacy; 23rd Street Theme
Personnel: Joe Lovano, saxophone; Anthony Cox, bass; Ed Blackwell, drums