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1975 Monterey Jazz Festival – House Band Jam Session – Past Daily Downbeat – Past Daily

1975 Monterey Jazz Festival – House Band Jam Session – Past Daily Downbeat – Past Daily


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https://pastdaily.com/2016/01/24/1975-monterey-jazz-festival-house-band-jam-session-past-daily-downbeat/
 

1975 Monterey Jazz Festival – House Band Jam Session – Past Daily Downbeat

Paul Desmond - Svend Assmussen - 1975

1975 Monterey Jazz Festival – Paul Desmond and Svend Asmussen – two of the All-star House Band.

1975 Monterey Jazz Festival – House Band Jam Session – Sept. 20, 1975 – KBCA-FM Los Angeles – Gordon Skene Sound Collection 

1975 Monterey Jazz Festival this weekend. An illustrious and talent-filled festival, taking place some 41 years ago. The entire festival was broadcast live, and relayed to then-Jazz station KBCA-FM in Los Angeles, who ran it non-stop. Great show, as is evidenced by this jam session given by the House Band, which consisted of Paul Desmond, Sven Asmussen, John Lewis, Harry “Sweets”Edison, Clark Terry, Benny GolsonMundell LoweToots Thielemanns, Richard Davis and a host of others, all crammed on stage and offering up a delightful stew of hot Jazz for some 35 minutes.

All held together and MC’d by Jimmy Lyons, the festival cut a very wide musical swath; featuring everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and the Tashiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band to Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Meters. It signified the changes going on in Jazz, how the old guard was still holding on, but the new breed of musicians were coming on the scene in a big way.

It wound up being one of the more satisfying Jazz festivals in the 1970s – proving once again that Jazz was a melting pot of ideas and points of view; that it was ever-evolving, but that it wasn’t rejecting its history but rather learning and perfecting because of it.

Highlights of this festival have been available on DVD, but not the whole Festival, and not complete sets. And even though this one is missing the first few minutes, and a technical problem forced me to drop a rendition of Willow Weep For Me with Harry Sweets Edison because his muted trumpet played havoc with the sound. Still, most of these performances haven’t been available in any form. So if you’re new to Jazz and hearing about The Monterey Jazz Festival and the legacy of performers taking part, here’s a sample of what 1975 was like.

Enjoy – and come back for more in the coming weeks.

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Jan Erik Kongshaug, Maestro of Recorded Sound, Dies at 75 – The New York Times

Jan Erik Kongshaug, Maestro of Recorded Sound, Dies at 75 – The New York Times


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Jan Erik Kongshaug, Maestro of Recorded Sound, Dies at 75

The techniques he developed with Manfred Eicher, the founder of the ECM label, had a major influence on the recordings of Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett and many others. 

The recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, right, with the producer Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM Records, at a session led by the trumpeter Kenny Wheeler at the Power Station in New York in 1996. “We had an influence on each other,” Mr. Eicher said of Mr. Konshaug. “We learned to capture sound together, to shape sound together.”
The recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, right, with the producer Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM Records, at a session led by the trumpeter Kenny Wheeler at the Power Station in New York in 1996. “We had an influence on each other,” Mr. Eicher said of Mr. Konshaug. “We learned to capture sound together, to shape sound together.”Credit…Patrick Hinely

Giovanni Russonello

By Giovanni Russonello

  • Nov. 12, 2019
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Jan Erik Kongshaug, a recording engineer who helped sculpt the rich and quietly splendorous sound of ECM Records, an influential label that has produced timeless jazz and contemporary classical recordings, died on Nov. 5 in Oslo. He was 75.

His son Espen said the cause was a chronic lung ailment.

Mr. Kongshaug’s wide-ranging career included work with some of Norway’s best-known pop musicians. A guitarist since childhood, he also recorded two jazz albums of his own.

But his most lasting contributions came with ECM, where he engineered or mastered hundreds of albums from 1970 until the end of his life. Though he played a more inconspicuous role than Manfred Eicher, the label’s renowned founder and main producer, Mr. Kongshaug was arguably just as crucial to defining the famous “ECM sound,” which relied on precision and fidelity and used heavy helpings of reverb to create a feeling of both magnitude and intimacy.

“We had an influence on each other,” Mr. Eicher recalled in a phone interview. “He was not an experienced engineer at the beginning; I was not an experienced producer. We learned to capture sound together, to shape sound together.”

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The pair first collaborated on the experimental Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s 1970 quartet record, “Afric Pepperbird,” one of the earliest ECM albums. They felt an immediate kinship.

“We had the same attitude towards sound; it was very easy,” Mr. Kongshaug said in a 2010 interview with the website All About Jazz. “We didn’t have to talk. It just worked, and it sounded nice.”

The techniques they developed would leave a major mark on the recorded output of the guitarist Pat Metheny, the pianists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, the vibraphonist Gary Burton and other jazz luminaries, as well as contemporary classical artists on ECM’s roster like Meredith Monk and Arvo Pärt.

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Mr. Eicher, the guitarist Pat Metheny and Mr. Kongshaug, seated from left, with the percussionist Nana Vasconcelos in 1981. Mr. Eicher, the guitarist Pat Metheny and Mr. Kongshaug, seated from left, with the percussionist Nana Vasconcelos in 1981.Credit…Deborah Feingold, via ECM Records

“Across styles,” The New York Times critic Jon Pareles wrote of ECM in 2017, “the label’s hallmark has been the contemplative detail of its music, a kind of acoustic enhanced realism.”

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Despite the sonic distinctiveness of the albums they made together, Mr. Kongshaug always adapted to the strengths and idiosyncrasies of the musicians he recorded. He would sometimes place microphones far from the instruments to capture the sound of the room; other times he simply used reverb to create the feeling of space, on occasion combining reverbs with different effects on a single track.

“He changed the sound as necessary when we recorded,” Mr. Eicher said. “Chick Corea’s solo records, Paul Bley’s solo record ‘Open, to Love’ and Keith Jarrett’s ‘Facing You’: All three piano players recorded on the same piano, but all sounded very different — from the mic positions, the different action. We never had a standard sound.”

Jan Erik Kongshaug was born on July 4, 1944, in Trondheim, Norway. His parents, John Kongshaug and Bjorg Alice Teigen, were professional musicians on Trondheim’s dance-music scene.

In addition to his son Espen, Mr. Kongshaug is survived by his wife, Kirsten Steen; two other sons, Rune and Paal; and five grandchildren.

Jan grew up around music. By the time he was 10, he had performed an accordion solo on the radio; soon after, he and his parents began to play publicly as a family trio. He eventually took up the guitar as his main instrument. 

He played for a year on a cruise ship; it docked repeatedly in New York City, and he often went to jazz clubs to hear greats like John Coltrane perform.

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After returning home in 1964, he became well known on the Trondheim scene. The Norwegian magazine Jazznytt awarded him first place (in a tie) as best guitarist in its 1967 poll.

After studying electrical engineering for two years, Mr. Kongshaug moved to Oslo and took a position at Arne Bendiksen Studio, where he filled a dual role as studio musician and sound engineer. It was there that his collaboration with Mr. Eicher began. When Mr. Kongshaug moved to Talent Studio in Oslo in the mid-1970s, Mr. Eicher followed him and began recording ECM artists there. (Founded in 1969, the label is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.)

All the while, Mr. Kongshaug worked steadily as a performing musician: with the pop band the Beefeaters in the late 1960s and early ’70s, with the traditional dance musician Sven Nyhus’s quartet for two decades and with the jazz composer Frode Thingnæs’s ensemble for roughly as long.

After a stint back in Trondheim, he returned to Oslo and in 1984 founded Rainbow Studio, which remains one of Norway’s premier recording studios.

He received the Spellemannspris (the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy) in 1982 and in 1990 for his work as a sound engineer. This year he was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit from the Norwegian government and received a prize from the Rockheim, Norway’s museum of popular music. In March, more than 400 musicians convened in Oslo to perform in his honor at the Kongshaug Festival.

Kari Bremnes, a popular vocalist in Norway who often recorded with Mr. Kongshaug, remembered him fondly in an email.

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“I knew Jan Erik Kongshaug as a remarkable sensitive and talented listener,” she wrote. “He had this deep understanding of — and respect for — musicians and every instrument played. 

“Jan Erik didn’t talk much,” she continued, “he was a humble man in person, and his focus was always on the music and how to make it sound as true and genuine as possible.”

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 13, 2019, Section B, Page 11 of the New York edition with the headline: Jan Erik Kongshaug, 75; Shaped the Sound of Records by Corea, Jarrett and Others. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Borden’s “Milkshake in a Can” commercial – 1965 – YouTube

Borden’s “Milkshake in a Can” commercial – 1965 – YouTube


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Robert Freeman, Photographer of Beatles Albums, Dies at 82

By Richard Sandomir

Updated Nov. 12, 2019, 11:20 a.m. ET

Robert Freeman, who helped define the image of the Beatles by taking the cover photographs for five of their early albums, including “With the Beatles” and “Rubber Soul,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in London. He was 82. 

His former wife Tiddy Rowan said the cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Freeman’s association with the Beatles was relatively brief — about three years — but memorable. He shot his first album cover for them in 1963 as their popularity was soaring, then joined them in 1964 on their tour of the United States; he photographed his last in late 1965, for “Rubber Soul,” which drew attention for its distorted picture.

That image was a twist on the standard group shot.

Mr. Freeman was projecting slides from his photo shoot onto an album-size piece of cardboard propped on a table. When the cardboard tilted backward, the effect was a fisheye version of the band’s faces. John Lennon dominated the picture “like some cruelly impassive, suede-collared Tartar prince,” Philip Norman wrote in “John Lennon: The Life” (2008).

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The fisheye effect on one of the most striking Beatles album covers was accidental. “Because the album was titled ‘Rubber Soul,’” Paul McCartney said, “we felt that the image fitted perfectly.” The fisheye effect on one of the most striking Beatles album covers was accidental. “Because the album was titled ‘Rubber Soul,’” Paul McCartney said, “we felt that the image fitted perfectly.”

The band loved it. As Paul McCartney recalled on his website after Mr. Freeman’s death, “He assured us that it was possible to print it this way and because the album was titled ‘Rubber Soul’ we felt that the image fitted perfectly.”

Another sort of serendipity led to Mr. Freeman’s cover photograph of the British release “With the Beatles” in August 1963, his first work with the group. 

He had not been a photographer for long, but his portraits of jazz musicians like John Coltrane for The Sunday Times of London and other publications had impressed Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager. Mr. Epstein asked Mr. Freeman to come to Eastbourne, England, to shoot the cover of their second album.

Mr. Freeman’s portraits of jazz musicians, like this one of John Coltrane, impressed the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, who asked him to shoot the cover of the group’s second album, “With the Beatles” (titled “Meet the Beatles” in the United States). Robert Freeman

The conditions were ideal. Light from the windows on one side of a hotel dining room left their faces partly in shadows. A maroon curtain created a dark background behind them. 

“They came down at midday wearing their black polo-necked sweaters,” Mr. Freeman wrote in his book “The Beatles: A Private View” (2003). “It seemed natural to photograph them in black-and-white wearing their customary dark clothes. It gave unity to the image. There was no makeup, hairdresser or stylist — just myself, the Beatles and a camera.”

Mindful of how to fit the four Beatles onto an album cover, he asked Ringo Starr to stand in the right corner of the frame and bend his knee, as if he were a rung below the others. “He was the last to join the group, he was the shortest and he was the drummer,” Mr. Freeman wrote.

The same picture, but with a bluish tint, appeared early the next year on the United States release of “Meet the Beatles,” which had many of the same songs as “With the Beatles.”

Mr. McCartney said the photograph was not a carefully arranged studio shot.

“I think it took no more than half an hour to accomplish,” he wrote.

Mr. Freeman’s photography helped define the Beatles’ iconography before they moved onto a pen and black ink illustration for the cover of “Revolver,” by the bassist and artist Klaus Voormann, and the wildly innovative artwork for the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s” cover, which was designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

The cover of the album “A Hard Day’s Night” was distinguished by Mr. Freeman’s photographs of each Beatle, one row above the other, in five different poses. And his cover photo for “Help!” showed the Beatles standing side by side in matching blue outfits and making semaphore signals.

Robert Grahame Freeman was born on Dec. 5, 1936, in London to Freddy and Dorothy (Rumble) Freeman. His father was an insurance broker for theaters in London. During World War II, Robert was evacuated to Yorkshire for about a year while his sisters stayed in London.

His interest in photography had its origins at Clare College at the University of Cambridge, where he studied modern languages and worked at the student newspaper. After he graduated and served in the British Army, he began working at The Sunday Times of London and other publications, which brought him to Brian Epstein’s attention.

Mr. Freeman’s career ranged well beyond his short time with the Beatles. While still shooting their album covers, he was hired in 1963 to be the first photographer of the sexy glamour calendar published by the Pirelli tire company. One model he photographed for the 1964 calendar was Sonny Spielhagen, his first wife. They would later divorce.

He went on to make television commercials in Britain and directed the films “The Touchables” (1968) and “Secret World” (1969), which starred Jacqueline Bisset. He photographed Sophia Loren, Andy Warhol and Jimmy Cliff, and made a film of a performance by Mr. Cliff.

While living in Hong Kong with Ms. Rowan, his second wife, he took up landscape photography and formed a company with her to produce and direct commercials.

In the 1990s he moved to Spain, where he became friendly with the director Pedro Almodóvar and took pictures of him and Penélope Cruz, his frequent star.

He is survived by a daughter and a son, Janine and Dean Freeman, from his marriage to Ms. Spielhagen; a daughter, Holly Freeman, from his marriage to Ms. Rowan, an author; six grandchildren; one great-grandson; and a sister, Barbara Floyd.

Mr. Freeman stayed in Spain for about 20 years, selling his photographs privately before a stroke led him to move back to London. 

“He lost the use of his left hand and couldn’t walk properly,” Ms. Rowan said by phone. “He’d shuffle around his apartment and would take pictures in Battersea Park from his wheelchair.”

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Borden’s “Milkshake in a Can” commercial – 1965 – YouTube

Borden’s “Milkshake in a Can” commercial – 1965 – YouTube


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This 45 came into the store yesterday:

Borden’s “Milkshake in a Can” commercial – 1965

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p_H4wq2j9g

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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R.I.P. Gerry Teekens

R.I.P. Gerry Teekens


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I first met Gerry Teekens back in 1975 on my first trip to Amsterdam.

I went to a local jazz club to see Archie Shepp.

I arrived early. 

No one was there except the bartender.

I asked  when the music will start and he said after the soccer game.

Sure as shit as soon as that game ended the joint filled up.

This guy comes in and puts down some rugs and sets up some jazz albums to sell.

I introduce myself and he sez he’s Gerry Teekens.

That’s how he started before he founded Criss Cross one of the great European jazz labels along with Nils Winter’s Steeplechase Records and Wim Wight’s Timeless Records both of whom I met when I ran the jazz dept. at Happy Tunes.

Here’s a prime example of one of Gerry’s excellent productions:

Tony Reedus Minor Thang – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8GWc3aueGc

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Gerry Teekens, Whose Criss Cross Label Was a Harbor to Several Jazz Generations, Dies at 83 | WBGO

Gerry Teekens, Whose Criss Cross Label Was a Harbor to Several Jazz Generations, Dies at 83 | WBGO


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Gerry Teekens, Whose Criss Cross Label Was a Harbor to Several Jazz Generations, Dies at 83

By David R. Adler • 20 hours ago

 

Gerry Teekens, founder and proprietor of Criss Cross Jazz, an unassuming Dutch indie label that became a vital repository of recorded jazz from the 1980s onward, died on Oct. 31. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by his son, Jerry Teekens, Jr. At the news, tributes poured in from Criss Cross artists old and new, including soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and guitarist David Gilmore.

Formerly a professional drummer, Teekens founded Criss Cross in 1981 with a mission to document swinging, straight-ahead jazz of the highest caliber. At first the roster featured musicians as revered as guitarist Jimmy Raney and saxophonist Warne Marsh, but it grew to include the young and the promising: saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Chris Potter and Mark Turner, to name but a few, and pianists Orrin Evans, Bill Charlap and Benny Green.

 

 

Multiple times a year, Teekens would cross the ocean from Enschede, Netherlands (thus the Criss Cross name), taking up at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed studio in New Jersey (and later at Systems Two in Brooklyn) for a full week of recording — knocking out an album a day, in the old-school way.

In recent years the Criss Cross aesthetic began to broaden, with artists like alto saxophonist David Binney and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin using electronics and synthesizers, moving beyond the strictures of one-take-and-done while still remaining on board with the label.

Teekens had his diehard personal tastes — his fondness for standards, bebop and blues — but he also trusted artists with whom he’d developed a track record and a rapport. So he oversaw a catalog that came to embody some of jazz’s inner tensions, as a music of tradition and change all at once.

Criss Cross releases have a certain standardized and simple look, each one accompanied by lengthy liner notes reflecting a fastidious house style. I wrote more than 30 of these, starting in 2002. Teekens would sometimes invite me to Systems Two — where I witnessed recording sessions by pianist David Kikoski and guitarists Adam Rogers, Lage Lund and Mike Moreno, among others — before commissioning me to write.

He wasn’t especially chatty between takes, and hard to read at times, but out of the blue he could start reminiscing about seeing Bud Powell live in Europe in the early ’60s. Inscrutably, he might cease contact for years, only to end the silence with a sudden voicemail, in that unmistakably gravelly high-pitched voice: “This is Gerry Teekens. I need some liner notes. I’m in a terrible hurry.”

In an email, Orrin Evans remembers Teekens as “an opinionated dude with strong views on what was ‘swinging’ or not.” Evans adds: “Most times we fought about my sidemen and the material I chose for my record dates — but he helped me pay my rent with those dates at least once a year, and by watching him run a label I learned what to do and what not to do when I started my label.”

Gerry Teekens was born on Dec. 5, 1935 in The Hague, Netherlands. After a stint as a working drummer, he became a professor of German studies and taught the subject for 25 years. In his free time, he organized tours and concerts for American jazz musicians including Marsh and Raney, two of Criss Cross’ inaugural artists, along with trumpeters Johnny Coles and Chet Baker, pianists Kirk Lightsey and Kenny Barron, saxophonist Clifford Jordan and others.

In addition to his son, Teekens is survived by his wife and two grandchildren.

The best way to appreciate Teekens’ significance is to catalog-dive the 400-plus recordings listed at the utilitarian yet efficient Criss Cross website. What you’ll find is a specific yet wideranging subset of modern jazz history, starting in the Young Lion years, with heady releases by the likes of trumpeter Tom Harrell (Moon Alley) and saxophonist Sam Newsome (Sam I Am, his debut and only recording on tenor).

A few years later comes Mark Turner’s influential debut Yam-Yam, along with efforts by Tim Warfield, Ralph Bowen, Walt Weiskopf and Seamus Blake — a tenor sax lineage that carried forward on the label with Dayna Stephens and Noah Preminger.

 

 

Trombonists Wycliffe Gordon, Conrad Herwig and Steve Davis had a healthy presence as well, as did the late organist Melvin Rhyne. The label’s output began to slow around 2017; its three releases in 2019 were Preminger’s After Life, Lage Lund’s Terrible Animals and bassist Matt Brewer’s Ganymede.

 

 

In a critical appreciation of Teekens and Criss Cross for The New York Times in 1996, Peter Watrous compared the label’s role to that of Blue Note or Prestige in the ‘50s.

“It is recording works that make up the backbone of jazz, played by musicians who might not be photogenic, charismatic or extroverted enough to be taken up by the pop star-making machinery of major labels,” Watrous wrote. “Criss Cross’ releases are a record of the daily activity of jazz practice without the intrusion of marketing or the weight of financial expectation.”

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Gerry Teekens, R.I.P | Enschede | tubantia.nl

Gerry Teekens, R.I.P | Enschede | tubantia.nl


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https://www.tubantia.nl/enschede/oprichter-internationaal-jazzlabel-criss-cross-overleden-in-enschede-br~aad06504/

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Founder of international jazz label Criss Cross passed away in EnschedeENSCHEDE – In May the newest CD was released on the international label Criss Cross Jazz, with the title After Life, oddly enough. Gerry Teekens, the man who started the internationally acclaimed label in 1981 and kept it on his own, died on October 31 in his hometown of Enschede at the age of 83.Ton Ouwehand06-11-19, 16:01 Gerry Teekens , owner of the international record company Criss Cross Jazz. © Wim Corduwener At the end of the sixties, he came to Enschede from The Hague to become a German teacher at Ichthus College. He chose Enschede because a home was offered. He then had a life as a jazz musician as a drummer. He was a teacher for 25 years. He gave music to it, he thought that was too serious a thing to do. He did organize jazz concerts at the Ichthus. The Sesjun radio program was broadcast live from the auditorium a number of times. Teekens had important American jazz musicians playing there: saxonists Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Teddy Edwards, guitarists Jimmy Raney, Doug Raney and vibraphonist Dave Pike. He invited pupils such as Adje van den Berg and Herman Kok at home. He would let them hear what was really good, Adje told later. At Teekens he first heard the great jazz guitarists. Paul Acket Bird Award Teekens was a full-time teacher, but he led a double life in jazz. During the school holidays he organized tours of important American musicians through Europe. He collected jazz records all his life. At concerts, he was ready with sound carriers afterwards. It often happened that he gave German on Monday morning at 8 am, while he was just coming from Paris. The American guitarist Jimmy Raney meant a lot to him. To record the music, he rented a studio after a tour: Raney ’81 became the first Criss Cross album. More than four hundred would follow. Especially of young musicians, many of whom have become top of the jazz world. North Sea Jazz distinguished him in 1999 with a Paul Acket Bird Award. His son Jerry announced that he would continue Criss Cross with his two daughters. “My father’s life’s work cannot be lost.”
 

Oprichter internationaal jazzlabel Criss Cross overleden in Enschede

ENSCHEDE – In mei verscheen de nieuwste cd op het internationale label Criss Cross Jazz, met gek genoeg de titel After Life. Gerry Teekens, de man die in 1981 het internationaal hoog aangeschreven label begon en in z’n eentje draaiend hield, is op 31 oktober in zijn woonplaats Enschede op 83-jarige leeftijd overleden.

Ton Ouwehand06-11-19, 16:01

Gerry Teekens, eigenaar van de internationale platenmaatschappij Criss Cross Jazz.
Gerry Teekens, eigenaar van de internationale platenmaatschappij Criss Cross Jazz. © Wim Corduwener

Eind jaren zestig kwam hij vanuit Den Haag naar Enschede om leraar Duits te worden op het Ichthus College. Hij koos voor Enschede omdat er een woning bij werd aangeboden. Hij had er toen als drummer een leven als jazzmuzikant opzitten. Op de kop af 25 jaar was hij docent. Het musiceren gaf hij eraan, dat vond hij een te serieuze zaak om erbij te doen. Wel organiseerde hij jazzconcerten op het Ichthus. 

Het radioprogramma Sesjun werd een aantal keren live vanuit de aula uitgezonden. Teekens liet er belangrijke Amerikaanse jazzmusici spelen: de saxonisten Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Teddy Edwards, de gitaristen Jimmy Raney, Doug Raney en vibrafonist Dave Pike.

Leerlingen als Adje van den Berg en Herman Kok nodigde hij thuis uit. Hij zou ze laten horen wat echt goed was, vertelde Adje later. Bij Teekens hoorde hij voor het eerst de grote jazzgitaristen.

 

Paul Acket Bird Award

 

Teekens was fulltime docent, maar hij leidde een dubbelleven in de jazz. In de schoolvakanties organiseerde hij tournees van belangrijke Amerikaanse musici door Europa. Hij verzamelde zijn hele leven jazzplaten. Bij concerten stond hij na afloop klaar met geluidsdragers. Het kwam regelmatig voor dat hij op maandagochtend om 8 uur Duits gaf, terwijl net uit Parijs kwam. 

De Amerikaanse gitarist Jimmy Raney betekende veel voor hem. Om de muziek vast te leggen huurde hij na een tournee een studio: Raney’81 werd de eerste Criss Cross-plaat. Er zouden er meer dan vierhonderd volgen. Met name van jonge musici, van wie velen tot de top van de jazzwereld zijn gaan behoren. North Sea Jazz onderscheidde hem in 1999 met een Paul Acket Bird Award.

Zijn zoon Jerry laat weten Criss Cross samen met zijn twee dochters voort te zetten. “Het levenswerk van mijn vader mag niet verloren gaan.”

 
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Selling Your Record Collection To Move On In Life The Focus Of New Documentary Based At Dusty Groove – Block Club Chicago

Selling Your Record Collection To Move On In Life The Focus Of New Documentary Based At Dusty Groove – Block Club Chicago


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https://blockclubchicago.org/2019/10/28/selling-your-record-collection-to-move-on-in-life-the-focus-of-new-documentary-based-at-dusty-groove/
 

Selling Your Record Collection To Move On In Life The Focus Of New Documentary Based At Dusty Groove

“It’s really not about how cool records are or the resurgence of vinyl, it’s really about people who are letting go of the things that once defined them.”

Oct 28, 2019 8:00AM CST

WEST TOWN — A new documentary about West Town’s Dusty Groove records is a lot more than a story about vinyl.

The film, “Dusty Groove: The Sound of Transition,” is Chicago filmmaker Danielle Beverly’s look at several people at a transition in their lives, often opting to sell their record collections to move on to their next phase. 

But Beverly provides enough footage of record culture to satisfy the vinyl lovers.

“If someone loves vinyl records and record stores, they are going to love this film. The vinyl nerds are going to get their fix. But it’s really not about how cool records are or the resurgence of vinyl, it’s really about people who are letting go of the things that once defined them,” Beverly said.

Beverly is a professor at Northwestern University who teaches documentary filmmaking both in Evanston and at the school’s campus in Qatar. She recently moved back to Chicago from Qatar.

The idea for her film came to her when she met up with her friend of more than 20 years, Rick Wojcik, owner of Dusty Groove at 1120 N Ashland Ave. about 9 years ago.

“I had just finished buying a record collection from a woman named Jazzy Joyce, who was one of the first female hip-hop DJs in New York,” Wojcik recalled. “This was like 2010 and Joyce was just ready to start the next chapter of her life. And as with everybody when I buy these records, hers was just a fascinating story.”

Dusty Groove record store owner Rick Wojcik digging for records.Danielle Beverly

Beverly was looking for ideas for new projects and approached Joyce after learning about her from Wojcik. Joyce declined the offer.  

“Danielle was disappointed but I told her there was a million stories. I’m always hearing the life story of all these people,” Wojcik said, explaining that one of his main duties is to go look at record collections of people who are thinking of selling them to him. 

Once Beverly discovered more, she was convinced it would make for a riveting film. She said that while Dusty Groove may seem like merely the setting for the film, it couldn’t be done with another record store because of Wojcik’s expertise and access to the record sellers.

“He provides access, and in documentaries we have no film without the people in front of the camera. Rick is walking into people’s private spaces, they are giving him their trust, and in the same sense they are giving me their trust,” Beverly said. 

As for the stories in the film, viewers get a glimpse of characters such as Chicago jazz drummer John Jarrett and his wife, who are selling their large collection to help their grandson; a man whose father worked for MGM and would bring home records, which turned him into a collector; Chicago saxophone player Grady Johnson, who is 92 and facing stage IV cancer; and others who are looking to part with collections for various reasons ranging from creating more space in their apartments to starting a new chapter in their life, or both. 

Danielle Beverly92-year-old Grady Johnson, one of Chicago’s first Black pharmacists, contemplates selling his records to Dusty Groove owner and used vinyl buyer, Rick Wojcik. 

Several of the people could have been the focus of their own film, but Beverly was able to strike a balance and incorporate them all into her 83-minute project.

There is also a segment of the film focused on JP Schauer, Wojcik’s former business partner and current employee who made his own transition coming out as a gay man. 

Among the most poignant segments is a jazz DJ “battle of the alley” that happens in the street next to Dusty Groove’s store during an anniversary celebration. The “battle” is a recreation of a little-known Chicago tradition of jazz DJ’s bringing their equipment to an alley near 51st and South St. Lawrence Avenue in the 1960s in 1970s to “battle.” Each DJ is allowed six records: four up-tempo tracks, one medium-tempo or vocal and one big-band tune. 

The film, currently making the rounds on the festival circuit, will be in shown at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the Department of Cultural Affair’s Year Of Chicago Music. Wojcik, who is serving on the department’s music legacy working group for The Year of Chicago Music, said a date for the screening has not been announced yet. 

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

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Song Nat King Cole Wrote for DC Club Owner Getting Released

Song Nat King Cole Wrote for DC Club Owner Getting Released


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https://www.nbcwashington.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Song-Nat-King-Cole-Wrote-for-DC-Club-Owner-Getting-Wider-Release_Washington-DC-564257892.html

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Today is Roger Kellaway’s 80th birthday (happy birthday, Roger!). – JazzWax

Today is Roger Kellaway’s 80th birthday (happy birthday, Roger!). – JazzWax


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https://www.jazzwax.com/2019/11/interview-roger-kellaway.html?utm_source=feedblitz
 

Interview: Roger Kellaway

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Today is Roger Kellaway’s 80th birthday (happy birthday, Roger!). Roger is an exceptional jazz pianist with a stunning technique who appears on many of my favorite jazz albums, including Oliver Nelson’s More Blues and the Abstract Truth (1964), Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin’ (1965) and Sonny Rollins’s Alfie (1966). His leadership albums also are extraordinary, so much so you can’t believe your ears.

To celebrate his birthday, Roger will appear at New York’s Birdland Theater on November 15 and 16 (at 7 and 9:45 p.m.). He’ll be backed by guitarist Ron Ben-Hur and bassist Jay Leonhart. He’ll also appear that evening upstairs (at 8:30 and 11 p.m.) as a special guest with the Django Reinhardt Festival. For tickets and information, go here.

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Roger also has a new CD out—The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway (IPO), featuring Roger on piano, Bruce Forman on guitar and Dan Lutz on bass. It was recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in 2009. You’ll find it here or here. You can listen here

 

 

Recently I had a chance to catch up with Roger…

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JazzWax: What was life like in the 1940s when you grew up in Waban, Mass.?

Roger Kellaway: Waban was a small New England town with one policeman, one drugstore, one bank, one market, one shoe-repair store, one barbershop, one library and one community center where we used to watch Laurel & Hardy movies on Saturday mornings for a nickel. Locomotive trains up there were still powered by steam. At some point, I started playing a little guitar.

JW: When did you start taking piano lessons? 
RK: I began formal piano lessons at age 7. At age 11, I discovered George Shearing’s I’ll Remember April. I bought the sheet music. and the song became my piano solo for several years. After Shearing, I listened to pianists Billy Taylor, Oscar Peterson and Horace Silver. My listening habits were mostly classical but I quickly added jazz and big bands. In junior high school, eight kids tried out for the piano in the orchestra. So I started playing the upright bass. I taught myself how to play. Four years later, I played fourth bass in the Massachusetts All-State Orchestra under Frederick Fennell.

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JW: Did you play jazz bass during this period?

RK: Yes, in the King’s Men, our local band. Dick Sudhalter was in the band playing cornet. I continued on the bass until I arrived in New York in 1960. At that time, I sat in on bass with Jimmy Giuffre (above) and Jim Hall. Jimmy offered me the gig, but due to complications in my personal life, I decided not to do it. I often think back to that time and realize that Jimmy’s next band was with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow.

JW: Who was most helpful to you early on?
RK: In school, I had two influences pushing me in two different directions. First, was Dick Sudhalter, pushing me toward Dixieland. His father had played alto sax in early Dixieland bands. Dick was strongly influenced by Bix Beiderbecke. The second influence was Dave Schreier who played tenor sax and was pushing me toward modern jazz.

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JW: Who were you listening to most at this point?

RK: Igor Stravinsky and other Russian composers. I also discovered Fats Waller. Two other strong musical influences at the New England Conservatory were multi-instrumentalists Dick Wetmore and Leroy “Sam” Parkins. Dick played cornet, baritone horn and violin. He had the most beautiful lyrical style of playing on all three instruments. I played bass with him at Boston’s Hotel Buckminister in the basement where we played a mixture of Dixieland and modern jazz. However, every other Sunday featured the beginnings of jazz and poetry. Someone would read poet E.E. Cummings, and we’d accompany the reader with improvisations based on some of Dick’s 12-tone rows. Needless to say, by this point, I was listening to Dixieland followed by Arnold Schoenberg.

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JW: What else can you share about Sam Parkins?
RK: Sam played tenor sax and clarinet. I played bass with him at a Dixieland gig on Cape Cod. The drummer was Tommy Benford, who had been around the world twice with Fats Waller. Tommy’s drum solos, to me, were more interesting than Max Roach’s. By then I was a Clifford Brown and Max Roach fan. At the end of the Cape Cod gig, Sam and I drove to his house in Brookline, Mass. I stayed overnight, and for hours we improvised four-handed atonal sonatas on his piano. All of these events with Dick and Sam were playing and listening moments more than teacher-student moments. Playing with Dick and Sam provided me with a different lesson. As I listened closely to how they played, I figured out how to accompany them and reach the highest musical experience. [Photo above of Sam Parkins courtesy of Ed Berger]

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JW: Do you remember much from one of your first recordings, the album with Mark Murphy? That was some group of musicians.

RK: You’re referring to Mark Murphy’s That’s How I Love the Blues for Riverside in 1962. That was a sensational moment in my life. However, the first recording I did with Mark was a Gene Lees song, Fly Away My Sadness backed by the Al Cohn Orchestra. I’m not sure the recording was ever released. [Here’s the Mark Murphy Riverside single It’s Like Love and Fly Away, My Sadness…]

 

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JW: What made Ben Webster special? 

RK: Ben Webster and I never hung out together, so I got to know him only on recording sessions. How do you accompany Ben Webster? You listen to his every note and phrase, and stay out of the way of his gorgeous sound. I recorded three albums with Ben: More, with Clark Terry, on which I wrote all of the arrangements; More Blues and the Abstract Truth; and See You at the Fair. I played on half the latter album, loving the tracks with piano and disliking intensely the two tracks that I had to play electric harpsichord—an early synthesizer experience. The keyboard’s action was so loose that it was difficult to control.

 

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JW: More Blues and the Abstract Truth has a wonderful cinematic feel. What was arranger Oliver Nelson like to work with?

RK: More Blues and the Abstract Truth is one of my very favorite albums, along with Sonny Rollins’s Alfie and Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin’. The title track was the hardest chart. We took it home to work on and recorded it the next day. All the other tracks were done in one take. At this time in New York, studio players could sight-read the music and make it sound as if they had been playing it for weeks. The studio scene was highly energetic and passionate then, especially for someone like Oliver. His music made you feel that way. So, the end results were high-quality music. Oliver, this nice and gentle guy, would give a simple downbeat and unleash all of this sun power. What a sound!

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JW: What did you think of Wes Montgomery? You’re on two of his albums.

RK: Wes was pretty quiet. He didn’t say much. For Bumpin’, we rehearsed for four days, giving Wes an opportunity to memorize the music, since he didn’t read music. The rehearsals were supervised by 
Don Sebesky, who later arranged the strings and harp overdubs. My second Wes encounter was a gig at New York’s Half Note, where I would spend 2½ years with the Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer quintet.

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JW: How did you wind up on the gig?

RK: I was subbing for Wynton Kelly. This was just after Bumpin’ was released. For some reason, Wynton couldn’t make it. He must have liked my work on Bumpin’ and recommended me for the gig. What a happy moment. The bass player was Paul Chambers and the drummer was Jimmie Smith. What a wonderful time. That was the only opportunity I had to play with Paul. I played later with Smith on an album called Just Friends with Zoot Sims and Harry “Sweets” Edison. The bass player was John Heard.

JW: Montgomery’s Goin’ Out of My Head was a big turning point in jazz-pop. What do you recall from that session?
RK: I don’t have any memory of the session. Except for the opening left-hand octaves, there’s not enough piano in the mix to tell whether it’s me or Herbie Hancock. I know I played on half of the album. But, those tracks were taken from the Bumpin’ recording sessions—even the outtakes from that album.

JW: Who were you listening to during your period in New York?
RK: In the early 1960s, my listening habits were shape-shifting again, adding Olivier Messiaen, Lucciano Berio, John Cage, Edgar Varese and various avant-garde composers of electronic music and musique concrète.

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JW: What do you remember about Sonny Rollins’s Alfie album?

RK: Alfie was another one of my favorites. Can you imagine—Sonny Rollins and Oliver Nelson? Everything on the session was sheer joy. Track #4, Transition Theme, has two of my piano solos. In the middle of Sonny’s solo, he stopped playing and moved off-mike. When I saw him do this, I grabbed the space for a second piano solo.

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JW: Trombonist J.J. Johnson’s Betwixt and Between in 1968 with trombonist Kai Winding has an unusual sound.

RK: I played piano and electric keyboard on there. I arranged Just a Funky Old Vegetable Bin. It’s unfortunate that the style of the album didn’t give me much of a chance to play with J.J. or Kai Winding.

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JW: How did you come to work as singer Bobby Darin’s music director? 

RK: I was coming off a year as musical director for comedian Jack E Leonard. Jack used to be a dancer and he always liked a band behind him. Drummer Stan Levey recommended me to Bobby. I rehearsed a few tunes with Bobby on a Thursday and got the gig. We were to open at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas the following Tuesday. He sang me a concept he had for The Shadow of Your Smile. Then he asked me to check his files for the arrangement. I searched but didn’t find the chart. When I told him no such arrangement existed in his file, he said, without skipping a beat, “Well, there will be by next Tuesday.” That was Bobby. [Photo above, from left, of Michael Kollendor, Roger Kellaway, Tony Ensiago and Chuck Domanico on Bobby Darin’s world tour in 1967]

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JW: How did the Dr. Dolittle album come together?

RK: Bobby was very direct and clear about what he wanted musically and how he wanted the stage show to be handled. I took a lot of musical dictation from him for the first year regarding several arrangements. Then, out of the blue, in 1967, he called me and had me join him in his suite at the Flamingo. He presented me with Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Newman’s music to the Dr. Doolittle film that came out that year. We found his keys on each tune. Then he gave me the name of the recording studio and the instrumentation—a 35-piece orchestra. He said we’d be recording in three weeks. With just one year of experience under my belt, I delivered the arrangements for what would become Bobby Darin Sings Dr. Doolittle. I’m still extremely proud of the album and my arrangements.

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JW: What do you think of Darin?

RK: Bobby will always be one of the greatest performers I ever worked with. He swung with ease, he used to stage with ease, he related to the audience with ease and confidence. He walked on and every move was perfection. What a teacher. I learned my stage timing from Bobby Darin. And Jack E. Leonard.

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JW: How did your fabulous cello quartet album in 1970 evolve? Those three albums remain gorgeous.

RK: In 1969 I was writing pieces for cello and piano. I wanted to play piano against original cello music. Edgar Lustgarten was my favorite studio cellist, so I asked him to come by my house and play through my new pieces with me. He agreed. In my mind, that was the beginning of my cello quartet albums.

JW: Were the musicians carefully selected?
RK: Absolutely. I picked Chuck Domanico on bass and Emil Richards on percussion. I wanted the group to express the sound of wood. Also, three of us could improvise in unusual time signatures. For example, Sunrise, from my first album, Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet (1970) is in 15/8; and Esque from the same album is in 5/4.

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JW: Why call it a cello quartet when there’s only one cellist?

RK: The music I was writing for this group was put in a stack I called “Cello Quartet.” The other stack was called “Sax Quartet,” relating to my group with Tom Scott. So, I kept the name “Cello Quartet.” Remember, Bartok had a piece called Clarinet Trio that didn’t feature three clarinets. Along the way, I met Steve Goldman, who said he’d like to produce the album. I was with A&M records at the time, so, I took the idea to Herb Alpert. He said, “Go,” and the Cello Quartetwas born.

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JW: How did you get the job writing Remembering You, the closing theme to TV’s All in the Family?

RK: Dave Grusin had just finished a film with Bud Yorkin, a partner of Norman Lear. Given his schedule, Dave didn’t have time for this TV sitcom project. So he recommended me. I read the pilot script and wrote a theme song, not knowing they had already hired Lee Adams and Charles Straus to write Those Were The Days. I drove into Hollywood and played my song on the cello for director John Rich, Norman Lear and Carroll O’Connor.

JW: What did they think?
RK: They loved it immediately. I recorded it on piano. So, the first six episodes had an end credit with two songs—Lee Adams and Charles Straus for Those Were the Days and Roger Kellaway and Carroll O’Connor for Remembering You. My wife, Jorjana, suggested I go to Norman Lear and tell him that we didn’t need Adams/Straus on the end-theme credits. All in the Family was the first TV show to have an opening theme and a different closing theme. [Here it is…]

 

 

JW: What are five of your favorite Roger Kellaway albums and why?
RK: The Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet (A&M/1970). This is an important album in my life. Because of this album, I began being called the “father of crossover.” I’ll take it!

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In Japan
 (All Art Jazz/1986). This is my first Japanese CD. The original title of the album was Kellaway Plays Broadway, but our Japanese producers thought that Kellaway and Broadway was too rhyme-y.”

Meets the Duo (Chiaroscuro/1992). This was my first opportunity to record with the piano-guitar-bass format. It was a wonderful group—me with guitarist Gene Bertoncini and bassist Michael Moore. I had played duo with Michael for two years, and Michael played duo with Gene for about five years.

Live At Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 11 (Concord/1991). This is one of my favorite solo piano CDs.

Inside & Out (Concord/1995) was recorded with cornetist Ruby Braff. I first met Ruby when I was a teenager. So this CD links to my childhood. I love how much music we made together.

Albums with Red Mitchell. Red was my partner for eight years. We made eight CDs together. I loved every one of them.

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Heroes
 (IPO/2005) is my tribute to the old Oscar Peterson Trio. It won the French Jazz Academy’s Classic Jazz Prize.

Duke at the Roadhouse (IPO/2012). Here I recorded with Eddie Daniels on clarinet and James Holland on cello. It won the French Jazz Academy’s Grand Prix Award.

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Kadri Gopalnath, 69, Dies; Brought the Saxophone to Indian Music – The New York Times

Kadri Gopalnath, 69, Dies; Brought the Saxophone to Indian Music – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/arts/music/kadri-gopalnath-dead.html
 

Kadri Gopalnath, 69, Dies; Brought the Saxophone to Indian Music

Drawn to an instrument that sounded exotic to him, he became one of the most prominent classical musicians in India.

Kadri Gopalnath in concert at the Asia Society in Manhattan in 2005. He adapted the vocal inflections of traditional Indian singers to the saxophone.
Kadri Gopalnath in concert at the Asia Society in Manhattan in 2005. He adapted the vocal inflections of traditional Indian singers to the saxophone.Credit…Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Giovanni Russonello

By Giovanni Russonello

  • Oct. 31, 2019Updated 4:13 p.m. ET
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Kadri Gopalnath was a youngster growing up in a small village in southern India when he first heard the alto saxophone at aperformance by the Mysore Palace Band, a holdover from the years of British rule, which mixed Indian and European repertoire.

The saxophone’s sound struck Kadri as something different from the penetrating drone of the nadhaswaram, the traditional double-reed instrument that his father played every day in the local temple, and that Kadri had been learning. The alto saxophone’s blooming quality felt exotic, and it drew him in.

With help from neighbors and attendees of the temple, his father pulled together money and sent away for a saxophone. But rather than learn traditional Western repertoire, Kadri set about interpolating the ragas (harmonic modes) and gamakams (ornaments and slurs) of classical South Indian music onto the instrument. His main strategy was to adapt the vocal inflections of Indian singers to the saxophone, though his sound always carried a redolence of the nadhaswaram’s pinched, scalding tone.

Eventually Mr. Gopalnath would become one of the most prominent classical musicians in India, and the first to show on a grand scale how the saxophone, despite its Western-tempered tuning, could be a real asset in Carnatic music, not just a novelty.­

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His renown spread across the globe thanks to numerous albums (allmusic.com lists him as a leader on over 100) and frequent appearances at festivals in Europe and the Americas. He has been cited as an influence by such prominent jazz musicians as the New York-based alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa — who collaborated with Mr. Gopalnath on a widely celebrated album, “Kinsmen” (2008), and sometimes toured with him — and Shabaka Hutchings, a young British tenor saxophone star who brought him to the Le Guess Who festival in the Netherlands last year.

 

“He was such a revolutionary, in playing any kind of Indian classical music on the saxophone,” Mr. Mahanthappa said in a phone interview. “The vehicle of Indian music is the voice; it’s really hard to imitate that intonation and the sliding between notes.”

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Mr. Gopalnath in 2004, the year he was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri. Mr. Gopalnath in 2004, the year he was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.Credit…Press Information Bureau of India

Nevertheless, by the time of Mr. Gopalnath’s death on Oct. 11, at 69, his legend was in place. “His name,” The Hindu newspaper said, “was a synonym with saxophone in the country.”

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Mr. Gopalnath’s son Manikanth, a film composer and producer, confirmed the death, at a hospital in Mangalore, India. He did not specify the cause but said that his father had been ill for some time, and that after a back ailment rendered him unable to play the saxophone, he stopped eating. 

“His life was about being onstage,” Manikanth Gopalnath said. “He decided to go.”

In addition to Manikanth, Mr. Gopalnath is survived by his wife, Sarojini Gopalnath; another son, Guruprasad; a daughter, Ambika Mohan; and six grandchildren.

Kadri Gopalnath was born in Sajipamuda, a village in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, on Dec. 6, 1949, the eldest of eight children. His father, Thaniyappa, earned only a modest living as a temple musician, while his mother, Gangamma, kept the home.

In an interview with The Hindu in 2012, Mr. Gopalnath reflected on the hardships of his early life. “I started out with nothing, right from ground level,” he said. “It was not easy for my father to bring up eight children. I look back on those fledgling days with a sense of surprise, awe.”

He began playing the nadhaswaram, studying under his father, but after switching to the saxophone in his adolescence he moved to Mangalore, Karnataka’s major metropolis, to pursue music on a broader stage. 

Moving throughout southern India, he studied successively under three major gurus, including a fellow saxophonist, Gopalakrishna Iyer. The last and most consequential was T.V. Gopalakrishnan, an esteemed vocalist, mrudangam drummer and violinist based in Chennai, where Mr. Gopalnath became a prominent figure on the music scene.

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Mr. Gopalnath’s career had begun in the years when, across the Atlantic Ocean, John Coltrane’s was coming to a close. Coltrane had transformed jazz in part by investigating Indian styles and bringing them into an American context through the tenor saxophone. Mr. Gopalnath went the other way: He listened to jazz instrumentalists for their technique and inspiration, but bent the instrument to more traditional Carnatic ends.

A performance at the 1980 Bombay Jazz Festival caused Mr. Gopalnath’s star to rise across India. But he didn’t catch his big commercial break until 1994, when he recorded the soundtrack to “Duet,” a hit Tamil-language film whose protagonist was a saxophonist. 

That year he also became the first Indian classical musician to perform at the prestigious BBC Promenade, and he soon began performing more often in festivals across the world, typically in combos with other stars of Carnatic music.

At home, he came to be known as India’s “saxophone chaktavry,” the Sanskrit term for a good king. In 2004 he was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.

Throughout his adult life, he called the saxophone his “greatest love.”

“I am just 65 years old, not yet tired of playing classical music and ragas on saxophone,” he told the website emirates247.com in 2015. “I have never counted the number of concerts or the number of hours spent playing saxophone, within and outside India, over five decades. I have traveled a long way in 50 years, and yet there is a long way to go in the world of music.”

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Ronnie Scott’s At 60, Music Stars Celebrate The Iconic London Jazz Venue

Ronnie Scott’s At 60, Music Stars Celebrate The Iconic London Jazz Venue


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Ronnie Scott’s At 60, Music Stars Celebrate The Iconic London Jazz Venue

Oisin Lunny

Miles Davis at Ronnie Scott's

Miles Davis at Ronnie Scott’s

DAVID REDFERN/www.davidredfern.com courtesy of Ronnie Scott’s

Iconic London jazz venue Ronnie Scott’s holds a special place in the hearts of musicians and music lovers all over the world. This evening the Royal Albert Hall will be transformed into the world’s most famous jazz club, and stars such as Courtney PineMadeline BellImelda MayNigel Kennedy and Van Morrisonwill come to pay their musical respects at a 60th Anniversary Gala concert for Ronnie Scott’s charitable foundation

Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott's

Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott’s

Courtesy of Courtney Pine

World-renowned jazz musician, Courtney Pine CBE, recalls that Ronnie Scott’s was where he “first felt that jazz bolt of lightning,” but his first visit to the venue was not without its obstacles. “As youngsters, we dreamed about going into central London and experiencing the amazing nightlife that Soho offered. As a jazz fan, the club known as Ronnie Scott’s was the place to be. So, we tried to get into the club even though we were under-aged. Drummer Frank Tontoh and I tried to get into the club to see the great American trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, but we were refused entry. ‘You guys don’t want to come in here, you should go upstairs,’ the infamous doorman Monty declared to us. Upstairs was the disco that people like me were supposed to rave at, but my brothers in arms and I were absolutely determined to witness real live jazz for the first time, so we waited.” 

The iconic neon sign for Ronnie Scott's

The iconic neon sign for Ronnie Scott’s

Ronnie Scott’s

The perseverance of the young jazz fanatics paid off when Monty the doorman eventually granted them access to the hallowed venue. They were quickly ushered to “the last seats available, and the worst apparently,” but the young Pine and his friends were utterly spellbound. “We were in the seats behind the drummer! Carl Allen, 19 at the time, played drums for Hubbard, and did he play! The first solo by Freddie lasted over 15 minutes; in fact, at one point during this intense solo Hubbard jumped up in excitement, so much so that audience also jumped up! For me, this was a revelatory moment; my record collection, video or tales of jazz never prepared me for this true live experience. I believe that at that point in time I decided to become a jazz musician, and if you ever get to the club you will now see a Dave Sheperd picture of me in that very spot where I first felt that jazz bolt of lightning. Growing up, I have received many negative and discouraging opinions about becoming a jazz musician, but that night changed everything.” 

Ronnie Scott's interior

Ronnie Scott’s interior

Ronnie Scott’s

Pine describes Ronnie Scott’s in beautifully artistic terms: “It’s a place in time created by musicians to assist in the development of the most humanistic expression of art, and a living example of a musical temple that brings people together.” How fitting that the young jazz warrior should amongst the headliners honoring the birthplace of his passion, many decades later. 

Alice Russell

Alice Russell

Photo courtesy of Alice Russell

U.K. soul singer Alice Russell has graced the stage at the venue many times, and like all of the musicians I spoke to, has nothing but fond memories: “The thing that always gets me at Ronnie’s is a homely welcome feeling. As soon as you stroll through the door on to the soft carpet from the Soho streets for soundcheck, to walking on stage for the show, it’s steeped in the imprints and memories of the hundreds of musicians and characters that have been there before.” 

For Russell, to step into the venue is to join a living continuum of rich musical history, “Both on the stage and in the audience, you can sense all that music and that connection that has happened in that room.” 

Onyx Collective

Onyx Collective

Maxwell Deter courtesy of Big Dada records

Onyx Collective, the mysterious New York jazz ensemble, performed their first U.K. gig in the venue and share Russell’s sense of homecoming, they explain. “Ronnie Scott’s is a pillar of jazz culture and a place that will always feel like home. It’s a vessel that carries the spirit of the musicians of today and yesterday. It is a place that holds the echoes of the tradition while also being a platform for the evolution of high forms of new music.” 

The collective’s midnight set at Ronnie Scott’s followed hot on the heels of another London gig, which took place in a “dark, hot, smoke-filled room of craziness.” Their Ronnie Scott’s set started with the trio of Isaiah Barr, Daryl Johns and Austin Williamson, and then welcomed U.S. soul singer Nick Hakim on to finish the set. “The crowd gave us a standing ovation… and the night became one we would all never forget.” 

Jordan Rakei

Jordan Rakei

Dan Medhurst courtesy of Ninja Tune records

Antipodean multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Jordan Rakei is another grateful alumnus of the Soho venue: “I had the privilege of playing there in 2018, and it was surreal being on the same stage that all the legends have played on!” 

Like many, he considers the venue to be one of the best places not only to perform, but to listen, and to find inspiration. “Ronnie Scott’s is always a place I can discover new music. I’ve been countless times and have discovered and seen some of my favorite bands.” 

Ashley Slater

Ashley Slater

Goat Noise Photography courtesy of Ashley Slater

A band who have had more than their share of unforgettable nights at the venue are “masters of musical mayhem and genius” the 21-piece jazz collective Loose Tubes. Their trombonist Ashley Slater is also well known for his work as lead singer with chart-toppers Freakpower, and more recently as one half of Kitten and The Hip

As someone who has performed in the venue for over three decades, Slater has a treasure trove of anecdotes about the venue, although some were too spicy for publication. “For me, Ronnie’s is the spiritual home of British jazz. I hung out and played there a lot during the ’80s and ’90s and saw, played with, and hung out with some real jazz legends. It was a wonderful place for young, aspiring jazz players to meet and interact with their heroes and inspirations. As far as I’m aware, it’s one of the few venues in the world where that was possible, basically because the downstairs bar was also the dressing room, so if you were down there, you were hangin’!” 

Viva Cuba at Ronnie Scott's

Viva Cuba at Ronnie Scott’s

Ronnie Scott’s

Slater was a regular gigging musician at the venue: “As a trombone player, getting to do a week at Ronnie’s was always the best gig, the place was always packed, and you got to catch up with friends and acquaintances every night after the shows. I usually played with large ensembles; as a bass trombone player that was the vibe. The stage was always crowded, the heat was usually insane, and the vibe could range from quite serious (George Russell and Carla Bley bands required maximum personal engagement) to absolutely beyond raucous when Loose Tubes was in the room. And out of it, as our nightly gigs often ended with us wandering up and down Frith Street wailing to the high heavens on our super-heated horns.” 

 

For Slater, the venue is still of profound importance to the world of music today. “I think that, even to this day, Ronnie’s is the pressure cooker in which young-and old-players get to really bring all that they’ve learned and practiced to the stage. The place absolutely bled music from every wall, and you could feel that when you walked in. Nowadays, we might call it nicotine, but back then, we called it ‘vibes.’ Ronnie’s, along with a handful of other venerable venues-like the 606 and the Jazz Café-really help to keep jazz alive, and that’s as important now as it ever was.” 

Ronnie Scott

Ronnie Scott

DAVID REDFERN/www.davidredfern.com courtesy of Ronnie Scott’s

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Falco-Eigo-Bellino WPI Jazz History Database

Falco-Eigo-Bellino WPI Jazz History Database


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Yesterday (10-30-19) I had the honor and pleasure to be interviewd by Tom Bellino about my 40+ years in the record business for the Jazz History Database which is housed at WPI in Worcester, MA. 

The database is managed by Professor Richard Falco Director of Jazz Studies Assistant Teaching Professor of Music WPI
Jazz History Database:

http://www.jazzhistorydatabase.com/index.php

My inyerview will be posted soon.

Rich Falco-Jim Eigo-Tom Bellino

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The Long Journey of Charlie Parker’s Saxophone | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian

The Long Journey of Charlie Parker’s Saxophone | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian


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The Long Journey of Charlie Parker’s Saxophone

The newly acquired instrument, played by the father of bebop, is on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Allison Keyes

 
Charlie Parker
American jazz musicians Charlie Parker, on alto sax, and Thelonious Monk, on piano, perform at the Open Door Cafe, in New York City on September 14, 1953. (getty Images, Bob Parent / Contributor)

smithsonian.com 
October 24, 2019

In August of 1955, Chan Parker, the widow of legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker, was in a rowboat in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, trying to save the legacy of the love of her life.

Roiling flood waters were rising in the wake of Hurricane Diane, and Parker, just months after the death of one of the fathers of bebop, was determined to get the important things out as water threatened their house located on a peninsula in Lumberville.

“She couldn’t save him in life, but she could save his remains,” says Chan Parker’s daughter Kim, who was 9 at the time. The now 73-year-old is Charlie Parker’s stepdaughter, and the two were fierce guardians of the memory of the man known by many as “Bird.”

“All the water came up overnight . . . and we had to escape. But my mother kept going back,” Kim Parker recalls. “At every opportunity, she went back because she had to get things out of that house and what she got out of the house belonged to Bird . . . which was two horns, the contracts, the paperwork, the history and the memories.”

The memories were of her life with a man described as brilliant, seminal, an innovative musician who helped change the shape of jazz as the world knew it, whose soaring, intricate improvisations continue to influence musicians today. One of those horns, the last saxophone he owned, recently went on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The King Super 20 Alto sax is as beautiful, and unique, as the man who made it sing.

Charlie Parker's saxophone
The brass alto sax owned, ca.1947, has an engraved sterling silver bell with a floral design and Charlie Parker’s name. Some of the keys have mother of pearl inlays. (NMAAHC)

“This is one of two instruments that have clear provenance and connection with Charlie Parker,” explains Dwandalyn Reece, the museum’s curator of music and the performing arts. The second is a plastic saxophone on display at the American Jazz Museum in his birthplace, Kansas City, Mo.

“But the instrument we have is actually one that he acquired in late 1947, and was custom-made for him. It is really a unique instrument both in its style and substance, and really is the one associated with the bebop Charlie Parker sound,” Reece says.

Looking at the instrument, one feels as if the metal would feel molten, if you could run your fingers along its shimmering body, or caress its keys. The body is made of brass, and it has an engraved sterling silver bell with a floral design and Charlie Parker’s name. Some of the keys have mother of pearl inlays. It is simply beautiful. Reece says it was made for him after Parker got an endorsement deal in December 1947 with Cleveland’s H.N. White Company—later known as King’s Musical Instruments. Parker picked it up from Manny’s Music Store in Midtown Manhattan.

“It has a large bore bell (the flared part of the instrument) which offered a kind of unique, what some people describe as a throaty timbre,” Reece explains. “He could effortlessly switch it to a dark and velvety tone. Parker was able to switch between different sounds in his playing and dealing with harmonies and melodies.”

Reece says it also has distinct fingering, which made Parker’s prowess and virtuosity as an instrumentalist even more astounding. The museum believes it was the horn Parker played on his seminal album Charlie Parker with Strings, released in 1950 on Mercury Records. It has no pictures to prove it, but Reece says it’s a high probability that he was playing that horn most of the time from 1947 until he pawned it shortly before his March 1955 death.

“He had a substance abuse problem and he was known for pawning several of his instruments to acquire funds to support his addictions,” Reece says. “His health started failing way before 1955 just because of the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and when the coroner did his report, he was identified as a 50- or 60-year old man when he was actually just the young age of 34.”

But Parker was so much more than his addictions.

Classic tunes from Charlie Parker (above in an undated photograph) from “A Night in Tunisia,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Just Friends” and “Yardbird Suite” turned the jazz world on its ear.
Classic tunes from Charlie Parker (above in an undated photograph) from “A Night in Tunisia,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Just Friends” and “Yardbird Suite” turned the jazz world on its ear. (Getty Images, William Gottlieb, contributor)

“He’s right up there with Louis Armstrong who really shaped the landscape of jazz and the way that he influenced not only . . . jazz but the direction of American music,” Reece says. “Bebop is a more personal and cerebral kind of music and he influenced instrumentalists and vocalists. Think of Ella Fitzgerald scatting . . . which is really a way of improvising that takes simple chords but makes them more complex.”

Charlie Parker was born August 29, 1920, in Kansas City. By the time he was 15, the alto saxophone was his instrument of choice. Parker dropped out of school that year to pursue a full time musical career. He had already begun to develop the improvisational style that ended up transforming jazz. Parker did his first recording in 1940, with Jay McShann’s swing band. By 1945, Parker was involved in the first bebop recording session with Dizzie Gillespie and Miles Davis. Parker’s deconstruction of musical melodies allowed him to take chords on a journey that turned his solos into fiery, bouncing masterful journeys with previously untried rhythm and phrasing.

His work on classic tunes from “A Night in Tunisia,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Just Friends” and “Yardbird Suite” turned the jazz world on its ear. In 1949, Parker made his European debut at the Paris International Jazz Festival and was treated like royalty. That same year, the legendary Birdland Club, named after Parker, opened in New York City. Legend has it that Parker got his nicknames—“Bird” and “Yardbird,” either because he was free as a bird, or because he accidentally hit a chicken (known as a yard bird) while driving on tour with the band.

But in the 1950s, Parker again became addicted to heroin and alcohol. His physical and mental health deteriorated, despite the efforts of his common-law wife, Chan Berg, who took on his last name. They never officially married, but had two children. When Chan Parker moved in with him in May of 1950, she brought her then 3-year-old daughter Kim.

In 1955, Parker was visiting with his friend, Baroness Pannonica “Nica” de Koenigswarter, a wealthy European patroness of jazz greats including Thelonius Monk. While resting at her Boston apartment after refusing her entreaties to go to a hospital, Parker died on March 12. Fans wrote “Bird Lives!” on the walls of jazz clubs around the world. Charlie Parker was immortalized in actor, director and long-time jazz enthusiast Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film Bird.

In her book, Chan Parker wrote about Charlie: “His courtship of death turned inward upon himself. I could do nothing but hold on, drag my feet and pull him back toward life all the time. I was hoping to postpone the inevitable. I held on until I had to let go.”

Kim Parker is a jazz singer in her own right, and says she thinks of the history of the man the public knows as Bird, and the man who was her father very separately.

“He was Daddy—he was always Daddy to me. . . . I’m the only person that got that,” Kim Parker says. “Bird was very special and I loved him very much and so my memories are very precious. I’m not stingy with him because I think they are an important link to who Bird was.”

In 1955, when Kim’s mother Chan was dragging Parker’s legacy out of their flooding home in Pennsylvania, she was just a child. The family was left with nothing. But she says the only reason that the family had the saxophones in the first place was because her mother was able to save them both from the pawnshops where her father had left them.

“The King and the Grafton—the plastic Grafton is what she rescued from the rising waters,” Kim Parker recalls. “She didn’t care about clothes or anything like that. . . . She was really diligent and very insightful.”

Kim Parker says the plastic saxophone was sold by the auction house Christie’s in the 1990s, partly because she wanted her mother to have some comfort at the end of her life. It went for $140,000. Chan Parker died in 1999. In 2017, Kim Parker says, the family arranged a private sale and the King saxophone was acquired and donated to the Smithsonian. Kim Parker was overjoyed.

“When I heard it was the Smithsonian I was just so proud, so proud because Bird was recognized as part of our history,” Kim Parker says. “I mean, Bird is never going to die.”

 

 

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

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Fred Taylor, impresario of jazz in Boston for decades, dies at 90 – The Boston Globe

Fred Taylor, impresario of jazz in Boston for decades, dies at 90 – The Boston Globe


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Fred Taylor, impresario of jazz in Boston for decades, dies at 90

By Bryan Marquard Globe Staff,October 27, 2019, 3:17 p.m.

Fred Taylor (left) was greeted by jazz singers Paul Broadnax and Donna Byrne in 2017 at a party where he was honored for his years of work at Scullers Jazz Club.
Fred Taylor (left) was greeted by jazz singers Paul Broadnax and Donna Byrne in 2017 at a party where he was honored for his years of work at Scullers Jazz Club.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File

At Brubeck’s request, he sold the tape to a record company, which released it as the “Jazz at Storyville” album — crediting Mr. Taylor as the engineer.

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Mr. Taylor, who went on to become a legend in Boston’s music scene, booking acts into the Jazz Workshop, Paul’s Mall, and Scullers clubs, was 90 when he died Saturday of cancer. He had lived most recently in Watertown, after many years in a Kenmore Square condo that was a museum of jazz memorabilia.

“He was the real deal — he was very caring and inspiring,” said jazz guitarist Al Di Meola, a solo star who formerly played with pianist Chick Corea in the jazz fusion band Return to Forever.

“He lived for the music, and was very proud of who he brought in, and became friends with the artists, which was kind of rare,” said Di Meola, who used to frequent the Jazz Workshop when he was a Berklee College of Music student, and was booked into Boston gigs by Mr. Taylor once his own career flourished.

“He was like my older uncle, and I’m sure he was like that for many people,” Di Meola said. “Fred should be honored by the city of Boston for what he’s done for the arts, and who he has brought in, and what he’s meant to the city.”

Mr. Taylor nurtured the careers of so many musicians that at times it seemed as if the list of those he didn’t book would be shorter than the list of those he did.

At the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall, side-by-side Boylston Street clubs he helped run from the mid-1960s until 1978, Mr. Taylor booked jazz musicians including Duke Ellington, Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Bill Evans, and Sonny Rollins.

Mr. Taylor with Boston radio personality Ron Della Chiesa (left) and David Colella of the Colonnade Hotel at the 2017 party.
Mr. Taylor with Boston radio personality Ron Della Chiesa (left) and David Colella of the Colonnade Hotel at the 2017 party.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

He forged a particularly close professional friendship with Miles Davis, who turned to Mr. Taylor when the trumpeter scheduled a series of concerts to end a five-year hiatus from performing. Mr. Taylor booked the historic run at Kix, a disco off Kenmore Square.

Mr. Taylor also booked non-jazz acts at Paul’s Mall, including musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and Earth, Wind & Fire, and comedians such as Lily Tomlin and George Carlin.

Born in Boston on June 8, 1929, Mr. Taylor was the only child of Frank Taylor and Ann Feinstone. He grew up in Newton, where he took piano lessons from the teacher known as Madame Margaret Chaloff, who later counted among her students the likes of Keith Jarrett.

As a teenager, Mr. Taylor bought jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts,” a recording that changed his life. Mr. Taylor began going into Boston to hear big bands at the RKO Boston Theater, and to haunt the racks at Smilin’ Jack’s records on Massachusetts Avenue. He eventually started frequenting jazz clubs.

Mr. Taylor graduated in 1951 from Boston University, where he studied economics, and went to work in the family business selling mattresses, until music became a full-time venture.

He launched HT Productions in 1961 and would go on to produce concerts until 2017 for artists including Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, early in their careers.

With Tony Mauriello, his partner from the Boylston Street clubs, Mr. Taylor ran Cinema 733 (above the clubs) and, for about a decade, the Harvard Square Theater.

Beginning in 1990, Mr. Taylor was the entertainment director at Scullers Jazz Club in the DoubleTree Suites Hotel in Boston, until he was dismissed at the end of 2016. He subsequently booked shows — in his late 80s — at the Cabot in Beverly.

His many honors included JazzBoston’s Roy Haynes Award in 2014, for contributions to the jazz community, and the inaugural George Wein Impresario Award, from Berklee in 2015.

Mr. Taylor never married — “I’m married to the business,” he said in 2004 — and leaves no immediate family.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 10/30 in Levine Chapels in Brookline. Plans for a memorial concert will be announced.

Throughout a career that spanned more than 65 years, Mr. Taylor never lost his eagerness for nurturing talented young musicians, such saxophonist Grace Kelly, who grew up in Brookline.

“He’s like a little kid when he discovers new talent. He’s excited,” Kelly told the Globe in June. “He can’t wait to book the next show. He can’t wait to connect people.”

And at times Mr. Taylor saw his multi-faceted career — managing and recording musicians, running movie theaters, booking clubs, and promoting concerts — as his own long improvised solo.

“I never planned anything,” he told the Globe in 2014, “it just osmosed from one thing to another.”

A full obituary will follow.

Mr. Taylor in 2014.
Mr. Taylor in 2014.Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe/File

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

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John Conyers Jr., Longest-Serving African-American in Congressional History, Dies at 90 – The New York Times

John Conyers Jr., Longest-Serving African-American in Congressional History, Dies at 90 – The New York Times


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John Conyers Jr., Longest-Serving African-American in Congressional History, Dies at 90

By Adam Clymer

Oct. 27, 2019

Representative John Conyers Jr., an advocate of liberal causes for five decades and the longest-serving African-American in the history of Congress, died at his home in Detroit on Sunday. He was 90. 

His death was confirmed by a family spokeswoman, Holly Baird.

Mr. Conyers, a Democrat, resigned in 2017 after accusations of unwelcome sexual advances by two women. His lawyers denied the accusations, but both Paul Ryan, a Republican and then the speaker of the House, and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader at the time and the current speaker, found the complaints credible and demanded that he step down. 

Mr. Conyers was the only member of the House Judiciary Committee to participate in impeachment inquiries against both Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

In 1974, he said impeachment of Mr. Nixon was necessary “to restore to our government the proper balance of constitutional power and to serve notice on all future presidents that such abuse of power will never again be tolerated.”

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But in 1998 he argued that Mr. Clinton’s relations with Monica Lewinsky did not merit impeachment. Republicans, he said, “say the president has to be impeached to uphold the rule of law, but we say the president can’t be impeached without denigrating the rule of law and devaluating the standard of impeachable offenses.”

“This is not Watergate,” he added. “It is an extramarital affair.”

 

Mr. Conyers at a news conference on the impeachment process, in 1998. Mr. Conyers at a news conference on the impeachment process, in 1998.Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly, via Getty Images

 

But he died as one of many prominent men in politics, entertainment and journalism accused of sexual misconduct, often toward employees. Unlike many of the others, Mr. Conyers did not admit wrongdoing.

In fact, on the day he stepped down, he again denied that he had harassed former employees and said he did not know where the allegations came from.

A sharp critic of the Iraq War and the broad antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, Mr. Conyers talked of impeaching President George W. Bush in 2005. But Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, discouraged the idea as a distraction from Democratic efforts to win control of the House, and he dropped it before becoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007.

Mr. Conyers was always one of the most liberal members of the House. The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action rated his votes “liberal” 90 percent of the time over his career.

First elected in 1964 — after winning the Democratic nomination by only 108 votes — Mr. Conyers was an early critic of the Vietnam War, voting against funding it the following May. He was one of only seven representatives, all Democrats, who did.

His outspoken stands and congressional efforts tell the history of liberal causes over the last half-century. 

In the 1960s he worked with Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Howard H. Baker and defeated legislation to undo Supreme Court decisions requiring congressional districts in any state to have roughly equal populations. 

In 1968, only days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Conyers began a long and ultimately successful effort to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday, which was declared in 1983.

In the 1970s he began a long campaign for a government-run, single-payer system of national health insurance, and he proposed banning private ownership of handguns after assassination attempts against President Gerald R. Ford.

In the ’80s Mr. Conyers opposed the Reagan administration’s missile defense plans and its policy of “constructive engagement” with the apartheid regime in South Africa. He criticized the death penalty and began a series of hearings on police brutality that angered New York’s mayors, Ed Koch in 1983 and Rudolph Giuliani in 1997. But he also worked to create and enlarge federal death benefits for police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty.

In the 1990s he opposed the Persian Gulf war and pushed legislation to study the issue of reparations for slavery. He also challenged Janet Reno, the attorney general, over the government’s raid on the Branch Davidians religious sect at its compound in Waco, Texas, which ended with more than 70 people being killed.

Issues of race occupied, but did not preoccupy, Mr. Conyers. He was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. He opposed calls for “black power,” a movement that sought to create black institutions and make black people a political force, and instead emphasized the importance of registering and voting.

And he supported censure of the flamboyant black congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in 1967 for misuse of congressional funds. The House voted to deny him his seat, overriding a recommendation from a special committee where Mr. Conyers served. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled that his exclusion was unconstitutional.

Later that year The Washington Post said Mr. Conyers was “emerging as the leading Negro voice in Congress and as a growing figure in Negro America.” While there were five other black members of Congress at the time, The Post said, “only Conyers acts as though he has a constituency of 22 million Negroes.”

Mr. Conyers never rose beyond two House committee chairmanships, first of Government Operations in the 1980s and then of Judiciary. He ran twice for speaker of the House, in 1971 and 1973, losing overwhelmingly, and had two failed runs for mayor of Detroit, in 1989 and 1993.

John James Conyers Jr. was born in Detroit on May 16, 1929, a son of John and Lucille (Simpson) Conyers. His father was an executive of the United Auto Workers. 

After high school, he worked as a spot welder in a Lincoln automobile plant and took night courses at Wayne State University. He enlisted in the Army in 1950, served in Korea as a second lieutenant and was discharged in 1954. He returned to Wayne State, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and a law degree in 1958.

From 1958 to 1961 he worked as a legislative aide to Representative John D. Dingell Jr., who in 2009 became the longest-serving member in the history of the House. He worked in state government and as a lawyer until running for Congress in 1964.

Mr. Conyers is survived by his wife, Monica, and sons, John and Carl.

A longtime bachelor, Mr. Conyers, at the age of 61, married Monica Esters, a 25-year-old former staff member, in 1990. 

Monica Conyers had a short-lived political career of her own. She was elected to the Detroit City Council in 2005 and became its interim president in 2008. In 2009 she was convicted of taking a bribe and resigned. In 2010 she was sentenced to 37 months in prison. There was no suggestion that her husband was involved.

Mr. Conyers was known as a spiffy dresser. In January 2010, GQ called him one of the “District Dandies.” This “clotheshorse,” the magazine said, “knows a nailhead from a hopsack, digs double-breasteds, and favors patterned shirts and ties. He’s a lifetime sartorial achiever.”

One of Mr. Conyers’s enduring interests was jazz. He played the cornet in high school and haunted Detroit jazz clubs. A lover of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, he hosted a jazz program on a Washington radio station in the 1970s. In 1987 he got Congress to pass a resolution designating jazz as a “national American treasure.”

Adam Clymer, a reporter and editor at The Times from 1977 to 2003, died in 2018. Mariel Padilla contributed reporting.

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Fred Taylor, Who Spent His Life Supporting The Boston Jazz Scene, Dies At 90 | The ARTery

Fred Taylor, Who Spent His Life Supporting The Boston Jazz Scene, Dies At 90 | The ARTery


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https://www.wbur.org/artery/2019/10/26/fred-taylor-boston-jazz-scene
 

Fred Taylor, Who Spent His Life Supporting The Boston Jazz Scene, Dies At 90

Simón Rios

Fred Taylor, who for six decades brought some of the biggest names in jazz and comedy to the Boston area, died Saturday at the age of 90.

He was born in Boston in 1929. His parents were Jewish and owned a mattress and upholstery business. The family moved to Newton when he was a young boy — and his love for jazz began when he heard Dizzy Gillespie’s 1944 hit “Salt Peanuts.”

Taylor worked as a mattress salesman in the 1950s after graduating from Boston University. He played piano and dabbled as a drummer — but his mission turned out to be music promotion.

Sue Auclair, a marketing professional who worked with Taylor for decades, says Taylor would obsess over the most minute details: “He’d be there with the coffee makers and drive out to Costco and get big platters of food.”

Fred Taylor in his office in Allston in 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Fred Taylor in his office in Allston in 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Taylor promoted jazz giants like Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, George Benson and mainstream megastars like Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

In 1981, Miles Davis picked Boston as the place to launch his comeback after years away from the music business. Davis recounted in his autobiography he wouldn’t have come to Boston for anybody but Taylor.

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“We did eight shows there with Miles,” recalls Auclair. “And it was sold out before we could even print the tickets.”

Auclair says the shows were transcendent. “People were in tears. People were screaming, going crazy,” she remembers. “And after each set of those eight shows, people wanted encores. And they all — I don’t know how it happened — they just started chanting, ‘We want Miles. We want Miles.’ And he would come out, play an encore and they would keep screaming.”

Taylor counted many music legends as his good friends, particularly jazz icon Dave Brubeck. In a 2017 interview with WBUR, Taylor said their friendship began with a tape recorder. He had used it to tape one of Brubeck’s performances.

“At the end he says, ‘I’d like to hear what you got,’ ” Taylor recalled in the interview. “So we jumped into my car. I drive to Newton — I’m still living with my folks — and I had a big hi-fi system, I plugged it in he says, ‘Wow, that’s great!’ “

The recording went on to become an early-era LP, which helped boost Brubeck’s career and get him signed to Columbia Records.

Fred Taylor updating a marquee at Paul's Mall. (Courtesy)
Fred Taylor updating a marquee at Paul’s Mall. (Courtesy)

In 1965 and ‘66, Taylor and a business partner bought two adjacent basement nightclubs near Copley Square — Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop. They became the high notes of Boston’s jazz scene. Taylor also branched out to the comedy business, bringing in comics like George Carlin, Lily Tomlin and Richard Pryor.

Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop were admired and respected, but weren’t big enough to bring in revenue to pay the big acts. The clubs closed in ’78, with B.B. King and Milt Jackson taking the final bows.

After that, Taylor and his partner bought the Harvard Square Theater. According to Taylor’s account, the movie theater was a lucrative business, and they sold it to a national chain in 1986.

His next big undertaking was Scullers Jazz Club, where he became entertainment director in 1990.

“It was basically just a hotel lounge when he got there that sometimes had music,” said local jazz historian Dick Vacca. Vacca helped write Taylor’s autobiography, set to be released next spring.

“He made the business,” Vacca said. “He did a lot of working, innovated, and he brought a lot of people into town. He was heartbroken when they told him that they were they were done.”

Scullers let Taylor go in 2016 after a 26-year run.

Some musicians talked about boycotting the club, but Taylor insisted against it. That’s because, for Taylor, it was always about the music.

“You gotta keep that forward momentum. I mean memories are good, but don’t get caught up and stay there.”

Fred Taylor

“He does it for all of the most pure, beautiful reasons,” said saxophonist Grace Kelly. “He will be the first person to see a show and call someone up and be like, ‘Oh my God, this talent!’ “

Taylor discovered Kelly when she was just 13. She’s since gone on to become one of the biggest names in jazz.

“It’s not all about numbers,” Kelly said of Taylor. “It’s not about, ‘Oh, we didn’t sell this amount of tickets.’ The first thing is, ‘What was the music like?’ “

On Taylor’s 90th birthday this past spring, Kelly’s parents hosted a celebration at their home in Brookline. Taylor did what he called a “sit-down” comedy routine and impersonated some of his favorite comics.

At that same party, Taylor recalled advice once given by Duke Ellington: to stay focused on current projects, rather than the past.

“You gotta keep that forward momentum,” said Taylor. “I mean memories are good, but don’t get caught up and stay there.”

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Summoning the ghosts of Record Row | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Summoning the ghosts of Record Row | Music Feature | Chicago Reader


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Summoning the ghosts of Record Row

For two decades, a short stretch of Michigan Avenue hosted a concentration of creative entrepreneurship whose influence on Black popular music is still felt today.

By 

Phil and Leonard Chess in front of Chess Records at 320 E. 21st in March 1968. The building is now Chess Lofts. - ST-40001688; CHICAGO SUN-TIMES COLLECTION; CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM. © SUN-TIMES MEDIA; LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Phil and Leonard Chess in front of Chess Records at 320 E. 21st in March 1968. The building is now Chess Lofts.
  • ST-40001688; Chicago Sun-Times collection; Chicago History Museum. © Sun-Times Media; LLC. All rights reserved.

You can take a walk down Michigan Avenue from Roosevelt Road to Cermak on the sunniest afternoon of the summer, but no matter how bright the light, it won’t illuminate the full history of the street. New condos, bars, and restaurants abound, but only a couple signs remain to hint at this neighborhood’s lasting impact as an incubator of Black popular music from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.

Back in those years, a different kind of energy flowed down the stretch of Michigan just south of the Loop. Though the street was dingier, some of its buildings—as well as more than a few of its inhabitants—surely overawed the young hopefuls who roamed its sidewalks. Once known as Record Row, this neighborhood indelibly shaped a wide range of Chicago’s diverse musical idioms—soul music especially thrived in this neighborhood. But with the exception of the heralded former site of Chess Records, near Michigan and 21st, this story is largely invisible.

No doubt Chess did play a pivotal role in this history: its roster brought together youthful talent and virtuosic veterans in musical combinations that still command global audiences generations later. But a litany of other record labels lined these blocks, and some influenced soul music as much as Chess did. Record Row was also home to distributors that made Chicago a hub for the networks that carried these songs around the world. Some of the companies with outposts on the street, such as Cincinnati-based King Records, were established national operations; others were fly-by-night outfits. 



Record Row also offered the kind of community that makes music happen, nurtured by a mix of driven individuals and mutually supportive collectives. Colleagues could woodshed ideas and sculpt them into hits. Songwriters congregated in a workshop sponsored by singer Jerry Butler, while musicians, producers, radio personalities, and managers hung out together at beloved diners. Widespread success and acclaim may have always been long shots, but almost everyone on Record Row felt they had little to lose by aiming high. Ironically, when Ebony magazine decried the lack of Black entrepreneurs in 1961, this street lined with small-scale businessmen and -women was also home to the office of its publisher.

Sixty years ago, real estate south of the South Loop wasn’t in hot demand the way it is today, so music-industry upstarts without much capital or credit could find room there—it’d been home to a string of car dealerships, earning it the nickname Motor Row, and a couple maps posted curbside detail this history. But the location proved ideal. It was a short drive, bus ride, or walk from where many Black singers and musicians lived, and several key radio stations weren’t far either. In particular, Chess-owned Black-oriented WVON was about five miles from Record Row. 

  • To accompany his new book, Move On Up, Aaron Cohen compiled this soul-music playlist. Most of the artists represented worked with businesses on Record Row.
  •  

The situation turned out to be too good to last, though. Some businesses folded because of their own blunders, while a changing landscape felled others. Distributors moved to the suburbs, and toward the end of the 1970s major labels consolidated their operations more fully on the east and west coasts. Those big companies abandoned the midwest, where many of their top artists developed their ideas, but Chicagoans shouldn’t neglect that history too.

Of course, exciting soul and R&B were being made elsewhere in Chicago as well—a flood of eager singers, talented musicians, would-be entrepreneurs, and more than a few hucksters churned out 45s throughout the city in the 1960s and ’70s. Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records set up shop at 8543 S. Stony Island in 1968 and later moved northwest to 5915 N. Lincoln. (Both buildings’ exteriors look the same now, which can’t be said of most sites on Record Row.) Some of Chicago’s best recording studios, including Universal Recording (46 E. Walton), were north of the Loop. But that said, few streets in America, let alone in Chicago, played host to a concentration of artistic talent and entrepreneurship as dense as that on the ten blocks of Michigan Avenue between Roosevelt and Cermak. 

  • This map plots the eight Record Row locations described below.
  •  

More official City of Chicago plaques commemorating these sites would help elevate Record Row’s legacy, especially because there’s so little left to see of the buildings themselves. But for the time being, the Reader has put together a brief tour that will help you recognize the pieces of music history you may be passing by every day without knowing it. These eight locations deserve immediate attention:

The Chess Records offices at 2120 S. Michigan, immortalized in the title of a Rolling Stones song, are now home to the Blues Heaven Foundation. The label was based here from 1956 till 1965. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • The Chess Records offices at 2120 S. Michigan, immortalized in the title of a Rolling Stones song, are now home to the Blues Heaven Foundation. The label was based here from 1956 till 1965.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Chess Records

2120 S. Michigan

Currently the site of Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, this is perhaps the preeminent address on Record Row. Chess called it home from 1956 to 1965, recording such great soul artists as Jackie Ross, Mitty Collier, and Fontella Bass. The building provided more than a studio where they could put their songs on wax: Collier, now a pastor, recalls that Chess songwriters took an interest in her life because they wanted to learn about teenagers for their lyrics. Raynard Miner, who wrote Bass’s hit “Rescue Me,” remembers the encouragement he got from such in-house musicians as bassist Louis Satterfield. Though Chess wasn’t always equitable about how it ran its business side, the music conceived under its roof remains universally loved.


Chess Records' final location, at 320 E. 21st, is now Chess Lofts. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Chess Records’ final location, at 320 E. 21st, is now Chess Lofts.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader
The lobby of Chess Lofts at 320 E. 21st displays the covers of albums released by Chess Records, which occupied the building from 1966 till 1975. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • The lobby of Chess Lofts at 320 E. 21st displays the covers of albums released by Chess Records, which occupied the building from 1966 till 1975.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Chess Records

320 E. 21st

Chess moved here in 1966 and remained till its end in 1975. After General Recorded Tape bought the label in 1969, its business declined. This address hasn’t been exalted by a Rolling Stones song (“2120 South Michigan Avenue”), but Chess continued to release excellent records in the late 60s and early 70s, including albums from Terry Callier (Occasional Rain), the Dells (Freedom Means), and Rotary Connection (Peace). In-house arranger and producer Charles Stepney gave much of that music a sound far ahead of its time. The building has been converted to loft apartments, and Chess LP covers adorn the lobby walls.

Leonard Chess holds a single from Chess imprint Cadet Concept in March 1968. - ST-40001688; CHICAGO SUN-TIMES COLLECTION; CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM. © SUN-TIMES MEDIA; LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Leonard Chess holds a single from Chess imprint Cadet Concept in March 1968.
  • ST-40001688; Chicago Sun-Times collection; Chicago History Museum. © Sun-Times Media; LLC. All rights reserved.

Garmisa Distributing Company used to operate out of what's now an early learning center at 1455 S. Michigan. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Garmisa Distributing Company used to operate out of what’s now an early learning center at 1455 S. Michigan.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Garmisa Distributing Company

1455 S. Michigan

Once the records were cut and pressed, they needed to be sent to retailers near and far, and distribution companies were key to this process. Of the dozens of operations on Record Row, M.S. Distributing was the biggest, but Garmisa likely had the most long-term influence. In the early 1960s it provided an entree into the business for teenage Ron Alexenburg, who moved to New York in 1965 and later rose into the executive ranks at Columbia Records, where he signed such midwestern heroes as the Jacksons. He also fought against segregation in national media, which initially stymied Michael Jackson’s crossover dreams. “I used to have a statement: If you came from Chicago, you had an open door with me,” Alexenburg says. “This is my hometown.”


Vee-Jay Records and later Brunswick Records occupied 1449 S. Michigan, which is now a mixed-use building on the market for $1.65 million. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Vee-Jay Records and later Brunswick Records occupied 1449 S. Michigan, which is now a mixed-use building on the market for $1.65 million.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Vee-Jay Records and Brunswick Records

1449 S. Michigan

Vivian Carter and her husband, James Bracken, set up Vee-Jay in 1953. Over the next decade, this Black-owned label became one of the country’s premier record companies—even though segregation remained legal in most areas of American life. Its thriving roster included blues (Jimmy Reed), gospel (the Staple Singers, the Swan Silvertones), jazz (Wayne Shorter), and R&B (the Impressions, Betty Everett, Gene Chandler). In February 1963, Vee-Jay became the first U.S. label to release music by the Beatles.

Shirley Wahls recorded with Vee-Jay gospel group the Argo Singers as a young woman. “Black people didn’t own things, as I saw it at that age,” she recalls. “They had restaurants, maybe a few grocery stores and clothing stores, but these were two humble people who had gotten lucky and had a recording company. You saw some of everybody while you were recording.” A series of mistakes and financial problems ended that luck, though, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1966.

The demise of Vee-Jay didn’t mean that its former home at 1449 S. Michigan exited the history Chicago music making, however. Before the end of 1966, Brunswick Records had established an outpost here, and after influential producer Carl Davis rose to an executive position, a wave of classic soul records came out of these doors in the late 60s and early 70s. The Chi-Lites, Barbara Acklin, Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis, and many others released hits under the Brunswick banner or on Davis’s own Dakar imprint. The label also hired musicians and arrangers such as Willie Henderson, Thomas “Tom Tom” Washington, and Sonny Sanders to craft distinctive instrumental ensembles around these performers. 

In the mid-70s a federal payola investigation embroiled Brunswick’s New York office in years of costly legal battles, but though the company was ultimately cleared, in its weakened state it didn’t survive the music industry’s early-80s downturn. The Brunswick name was revived in the mid-90s, and the label now exists largely as a reissue operation.


Constellation Records was at 1421 S. Michigan, where nothing remains but a parking lot. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Constellation Records was at 1421 S. Michigan, where nothing remains but a parking lot.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Constellation Records

1421 S. Michigan

After Vee-Jay Records fired president Ewart Abner (partly because of his gambling addiction), he set up shop at Constellation in 1963. Though it lasted just three years, the company had a big impact on the people involved. Gene Chandler joined the label’s roster, and after a few failed singles, in 1964 he recorded the Curtis Mayfield number “Just Be True,” which hit number 19 on the pop charts. As Chandler remembers it, Abner had bet him a steak dinner that the song would also tank—one bet that Abner was undoubtedly happy to lose. Still, the company folded two years later. Constellation producer Carl Davis went on to considerable success at Brunswick, and Abner rehabilitated his reputation in Detroit, where he became an executive at Motown and managed Stevie Wonder.


Chicago soul artists Harold Burrage (left) and Otis Clay at One-derful Records in the mid-1960s. Both men recorded for the label, though Burrage appeared on its M-Pac! imprint. - COURTESY SECRET STASH RECORDS / FROM THE COLLECTION OF ROBERT PRUTER

  • Chicago soul artists Harold Burrage (left) and Otis Clay at One-derful Records in the mid-1960s. Both men recorded for the label, though Burrage appeared on its M-Pac! imprint.
  • Courtesy Secret Stash Records / From the collection of Robert Pruter

One-derful Records

1827 S. Michigan

Alongside Vee-Jay, One-derful was one of the key Black-owned record companies on the strip. George Leaner and his brother Ernie ran the label, whose imprints included Mar-V-Lus and the gospel-focused Halo. Great Chicagoans such as Alvin Cash and Otis Clay recorded here, and the Five Du-Tones made “Shake a Tail Feather” a national R&B hit (though Ray Charles’s version in The Blues Brothers is better known). As Jake Austen reported for the Reader in 2009, in 1967 One-derful became the first company to record the Jackson 5. The label folded in 1968.

“George Leaner was like a father to me,” Clay said in an interview for Move On Up in 2012 (he passed away in 2016). “These are the kinds of guys we’re talking about as real characters in this business. They’re sorely missed now. If you could use the term ‘movers and shakers’—they knew everybody and would bug everybody until they got something done.”

The former site of One-derful Records at 1827 S. Michigan is now home to a dental clinic. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • The former site of One-derful Records at 1827 S. Michigan is now home to a dental clinic.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader
The same building in the 1960s, when it was home to One-derful and United Record Distributors - COURTESY SECRET STASH RECORDS

  • The same building in the 1960s, when it was home to One-derful and United Record Distributors
  • Courtesy Secret Stash Records

Jerry Butler's Songwriters Workshop used to meet at 1402 S. Michigan, a spot now occupied by Chicago Waffles. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Jerry Butler’s Songwriters Workshop used to meet at 1402 S. Michigan, a spot now occupied by Chicago Waffles.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Jerry Butler’s Songwriters Workshop

1402 S. Michigan

Soul singer Jerry Butler began his songwriters workshop out of personal necessity, but it swiftly grew into a fountain of creativity that issued a string of brilliant songs for a host of artists. Butler signed to Mercury Records in 1966, where he was backed by the songwriting and production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but in 1970 they left the label to seek their own fortunes. Butler needed help, and fast, to fulfill his recording contract. Fortunately, Chicago had no shortage of talent, and songwriters gathered at 1402 S. Michigan to work on material not just for Butler but also for many others. The workshop provided the composers with the space and the salaries they needed to develop ideas, and also taught musicians about publishing and copyrights. Terry Callier and Larry Wade wrote songs for Callier’s own records as well as for the Dells, most famously 1971’s “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind).” Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy teamed up to form the Independents (“Leaving Me,” 1973) before becoming heavyweight producers themselves, especially for Yancy’s wife Natalie Cole. By 1976, the workshop had dissolved, but Butler believed it had more than served its purpose.

“Most of the participants in the workshop by that time had grown out of it and moved on,” Butler says. “Chicago had talent, and the workshop made it possible for those participants to go and set up their own production companies. And that’s what the workshop was designed to do—to develop producers and songwriters and to talk about the music behind the scenes.”


A condo building now stands at 112 E. Cermak, where Mama Batt's Restaurant used to take up part of the ground floor of the long-gone New Michigan Hotel. - PAT NABONG FOR CHICAGO READER

  • A condo building now stands at 112 E. Cermak, where Mama Batt’s Restaurant used to take up part of the ground floor of the long-gone New Michigan Hotel.
  • Pat Nabong for Chicago Reader

Mama Batt’s Restaurant

112 E. Cermak

Radio host Richard Steele has said that a defining characteristic of Chicago’s musical crews was that the artists and media personalities enjoyed hanging out together even if they weren’t exactly teammates. As he tells it, competition was more amiable than cutthroat, and Mama Batt’s Restaurant, in the long-gone New Michigan Hotel, was where they would eat and hatch their plans. Marshall Chess, who ran the Cadet Concept imprint of the label run by his father, Leonard Chess, agrees—and adds that this spot was the heart of an environment that seemed at odds with the city as a whole, where staff from Black-owned labels would hang out with staff from white-owned labels even when the city was wracked by racist violence.

“I’d see the Vee-Jay people all the time at Batt’s Restaurant,” he says. “Everybody ate lunch there: Vee-Jay people, Chess people. It was friendly, everybody knew each other. Someone would have a session at Vee-Jay, walk down and work at Chess—a very loose, friendly atmosphere. It was a tough, segregated city, but Record Row was its own domain.”  v

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Stephen Colbert’s band leader sees jazz, genius in Zelda, Mario soundtracks – The Washington Post

Stephen Colbert’s band leader sees jazz, genius in Zelda, Mario soundtracks – The Washington Post


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https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/24/thats-like-coltrane-jon-batiste-sees-jazz-genius-video-game-soundtracks/
 

‘That’s like Coltrane’: Jon Batiste sees jazz and genius in video game soundtracks

If jazz musician and Stephen Colbert sidekick Jon Batiste were one of the video game characters he so adores, it would have to be Sonic the Hedgehog. Batiste just keeps moving, fast. During the course of a recent week, the enthusiastic, eclectic musician led his Stay Human band for a TV audience of millions on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” Then he practiced for the Global Citizen Festival where he and the band played with French Montana, Carole King and Kelly Clarkson. Then Batiste moved on to Cafe Carlyle, where he had a week-long jazz residency.

“I played with 12 different bands that week, a different band at Cafe Carlyle every two nights,” said Batiste, 32. “That’s like 3 hours of sleep or less each night. You gotta soak your arm in Epsom salt because you’re playing all day.”

His recent “Hollywood Africans” album hit No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts and his “Anatomy of Angels — Live at the Village Vanguard,” was so popular, he’s preparing a second live recording called “Chronology of a Dream,” out November 1.

But amid the whirlwind, Batiste does make time to relax, often with video games, a medium that shaped both his childhood and career.

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Playing games is not just a distraction for Batiste. Games are of prime importance in his life, motivating him since his youth. His dressing room at “The Late Show” is packed with keyboards, tailored suits and matching watches, but also a Nintendo Classic Edition, an original PlayStation, an original Super Nintendo (with cartridges), a PlayStation 4 and a number of fighting games, like the most recent Dragon Ball Z. 

While entertaining, Batiste, who comes from a family of accomplished musicians and began playing in a band at age 8, looks at the games on another level. For him, the games’ scores and soundtracks served as early musical inspiration.

Stephen Colbert (left) and Jon Batiste perform at the Montclair Film 70s Mixtape Party in 2018. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Montclair Film)
Stephen Colbert (left) and Jon Batiste perform at the Montclair Film 70s Mixtape Party in 2018. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Montclair Film) 

He doesn’t just listen and regurgitate. Even as a child, he was fascinated by the hows and whys, the way music enhanced the game play experience and the way music cues told a story.

Before playing with artists as diverse as Prince, Roy Hargrove and Ed Sheerhan, Jon Batiste grew up in Kenner, Louisiana, in what he describes as a “normal,” “boring” suburb best known for its airport. A quiet child, he played music, indulged in martial arts, wrote books, drew anime and enjoyed video games. He and his cousin Travis “even started writing video games. So, we were nerds.” He was a prodigy driven to lead bands as well, as early as age 13 at Snug Harbor on New Orleans’s Frenchman Street.

In his 20s whether it was doing an impromptu concert (what he calls a “love riot”) for hundreds on the Lower East Side’s Ludlow Street or playing his signature melodica on Colbert, Batiste said he was always over-prepared. Maybe that has something to do with what he learned from games as well, because you just can’t go into Street Fighter, one of his favorites, and win without knowing moves — the blocks, the general rhythm of the match, all the ins and outs.

He uses his knowledge of games’ music to this day. For instance, he’s now writing the music, lyrics and part of the story for a musical by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which will premiere late next year in New York. As he creates the score, he said he’s pulling from his history with games, because “[games] subconsciously taught me about theme and development, how to create catchy themes that you want to hear over and over again. But at the same time, the theme can’t be annoying. It can’t be. After you’ve heard [an annoying] theme 100 times, you’re ready to put the game on mute.”

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With Batiste on the move again, the conversation about his game-fueled musical education continued on a walk from the Ed Sullivan Theater to the Universal Music Publishing building four blocks away. He said his favorite is Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII, and his love for the four-hour score was made apparent by his short shouts of appreciation as he recalled the music.

“There’s so much in it,” he said. “Life, love, death, adventure. Ooo, when you play against Sephiroth at the end! The graphics! The remake comes out next March. They better not screw it up!”

He mentioned that he’s looking forward to Hideo Kojima’s forthcoming PlayStation 4 game, “Death Stranding.” “I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like it’s going to be really good.”

Inside a posh studio at the Universal Music Group on Broadway, Batiste continued the discussion while seated at a grand piano. He played 10 classic video game songs as he explained their significance to him and to music as a whole. The performance included themes from Donkey Kong Country, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy VII and Mega Man.

“These songs are almost like Disney soundtracks,” Batiste said. “You see people light up. Stories come flooding into people’s minds when they hear these songs.”

As he played a ragtime version of a Street Fighter 2 song, he discussed the game’s diversity. “This was impressive,” he said. “That game has themes for every character and every character came from a different part of the world.” He talked about the backstories of Sagat and Ryu as if they were old friends.

Seated at the piano, Batiste was in the groove. He sang game melodies with an impassioned voice, occasionally scatting, and then a Harry Belafonte-style call-and-response that filled the large room in which he played.

“Whoa!” he shouted as he stopped playing the theme from The Legend of Zelda. “The harmonic concept feels like it’s optimistic, but there’s something else happening. It’s a journey that’s happening.” He called Ocarina of Time “mythic,” then took it deeper.

“That is like Coltrane,” he said, and segued from that game’s score right into the legendary musician’s hypnotic version of “My Favorite Things.”

In doing so, Batiste wove a cross-cultural thread from the best of jazz to the best of game music. It’s not the first time he’s merged music with gaming. This past summer Batiste mentored six young musicians in his role as co-artistic director at Harlem’s National Jazz Museum. They created a video game.

Later in the UMG building performance he took his assistant’s phone and placed it inside the piano. “Don’t worry,” he reassured. “I’ve done this before.” The phone made a banging, thrashing, percussive sound while it bounced on the piano’s strings during a version of the Mega Man X title theme. “There’s punk rock here!” he said, then jumped to the drum riser nearby and banged hard on the bass drum and cymbals with his hands. “I used to be in a punk band,” he explained.

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Later he appeared to astound himself as he played the Super Mario Bros. underground theme. “That’s crazy! That rhythm they had in there. That sounds like second line to me,” he said, referring to the entrancing brass band parades that constantly move through the French Quarter.

While playing the song that accompanies the first level of Super Mario Bros., he halted.

“That chord. That chord!” He laughed with sheer joy. “[Playing this game] was the first time I heard that chord. That chord wasn’t in modern music in the 90s. They didn’t have 9th chords. That’s like some Louis Armstrong.”

Within these game-based gems, Batiste hears something different and deeper than many do. Sure, there’s a tune he can riff upon and make new (like his version of “Green Hill Zone Level 1” from the 16-bit version of Sonic The Hedgehog). But it’s more. As connections to popular culture like jazz, he sees threads of fine art and that can bring together a community in reality, not just virtually on a screen or monitor. To expand upon Batiste’s “Late Show” theme, it’s a form of humanism.

“Oh, man. Oh, man. Oh, man. Game music! Gotta do an album. Got to,” he said after he finished his performance. “And I want to write music for a new game.”

Despite everything on his plate, his passion — for creating, for music, for games — is keeping him hungry and sends him speeding off again. So, off he goes, just like Sonic chasing those rings.

Harold Goldberg has written for the New York Times, Playboy, Vanity Fair and is the author of “All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of video games Conquered Pop Culture). He’s the founder of the New York Video Game Critics Circle and New York Game Awards. Follow him on Twitter @haroldgoldberg.

Her son is a pro gamer. Here’s what she wants you to know.

Overwatch League releases its 2020 schedule

This man just bought some of gaming’s ‘holy grails.’ It cost him $1 million.

New Call of Duty esports league will begin play in home markets in 2020, start with 12 teams

 
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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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A Daughter Documents a Giant of Salsa and Latin Jazz – The New York Times

A Daughter Documents a Giant of Salsa and Latin Jazz – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/lens/a-daughter-documents-a-giant-of-salsa-and-latin-jazz.html?action=click
 

A Daughter Documents a Giant of Salsa and Latin Jazz

By David Gonzalez

Oct. 30, 2018

Ray Santos walking through his neighborhood in the Bronx. 2016.
Ray Santos walking through his neighborhood in the Bronx. 2016.Rhynna M. Santos

Listening to Ray Santos recount his career in music is like spinning the dial on a very hip radio. Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente helped him cut his teeth as a young saxophonist. Later, his reputation as a composer and arranger led him to work with Eddie Palmieri as well as sharing a Grammy win with Linda Ronstadt.

He casually mentions fabled musicians in conversation, not even boasting of his friendships and collaborations with them. This is no surprise to anyone who knows Mr. Santos, a silver-haired man whose rich voice and courtly manner evoke another era. Many call him Maestro.

Rhynna Santos calls him Papi.

She grew up in his world, standing in the wings as her father played onstage, or even venturing into Celia Cruz’s dressing room and watching her prepare for a gig. More recently, as she moved back in with Mr. Santos to work as his manager and caretaker, she has been documenting the life of a man who is a living link to the history of salsa and Latin jazz, musical forms that flourished in the city’s cultural hothouse.

“For my father, music is the center of cultural life in New York for Puerto Ricans,” said Ms. Santos, whose exhibit “Papi, El Maestro” just opened at the Bronx Music Heritage Center. “Yet people don’t know how so many Latin musicians made huge contributions. Latin music desegregated the dance halls in New York City in the 1950s. The music exploded. It’s a disservice to these geniuses, and the music that defined our upbringing.”

Mr. Santos, 89, was born and raised in the heart of East Harlem, the son of a doorman and a doll maker. His musical epiphany came in junior high school, when a friend played a recording by Coleman Hawkins, the tenor sax player whose tone on “Body and Soul” hooked the young man. He soon persuaded his father to pay $40 for 20 lessons on a rented sax.

After playing with some “kid bands” in the Bronx — during an era when the architects of a new sound came of age — he applied to Juilliard, partly on a lark to satisfy his father’s demand that he do something productive after high school. He got in.

It was while he attended Juilliard that he also started performing at bigger, more popular sites, including the Palladium, the Manhattan club that was the pulsing heart of the mambo craze. Sharing the stage with the Big Three — Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez — was like a postgraduate education.

“The great thing was we alternated with Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez,” he said. “It was very influential. I could hear all their new arrangements every night.”

After graduating from Juilliard in 1952, Mr. Santos went on to play with some of those same trailblazing bands. He toured, moved to Puerto Rico for steady work in the hotels, then returned to New York in 1984, where his “big brother,” the piano virtuoso Charlie Palmieri, helped him land a job at City College, where he taught Latin band for 28 years, as well as continuing — to this day — to do arrangements for others.

Ms. Santos reconnected with her father’s world after returning from a three-year stay in Madrid, where she taught English. Back home in the Bronx, she started helping her father not just with daily tasks and errands, but also by serving as his manager. With her relatively new interest in photography — and spurred by the memory of the vintage photos she had of him as a young man — she set out to document his life on and offstage. Like Milt Hinton, the jazz bassist whose photographs of the scene influenced her, she had an insider’s perch.


“I had a certain level of privilege when it came to performers, since I grew up around these famous singers and musicians,” she said. “I can walk into a space and not be star-struck. I definitely respected them. But it is a different situation in that I feel I can really relate and feel comfortable in those spaces. I understand the music better. They are special people.”

And most special is El Maestro, Papi, whose example as a musician and father led her to follow her muse.

“I had the best role model in my dad,” Ms. Santos said. “He showed me you have to follow your passion regardless of financial gains. When I started to find out Dad was famous, I wondered why we weren’t rich, why was I cleaning the house. But he made particular choices to stay true to the music and to us as a family man. At his age, a lot of musicians don’t have successful relationships with their families. My father’s integrity with his music has been long-lasting in my life.”

 

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Ray Santos, a Pillar of Latin Jazz, Is Dead at 90 – The New York Times

Ray Santos, a Pillar of Latin Jazz, Is Dead at 90 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/23/arts/music/ray-santos-dead.html
 

Ray Santos, a Pillar of Latin Jazz, Is Dead at 90

By Daniel E. Slotnik

Oct. 23, 2019

After playing saxophone with Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez, he wrote arrangements for Linda Ronstadt and the movie “The Mambo Kings.” 

Raymond Santos in the Bronx in 2016. An arranger, conductor and teacher, he earned the nickname El Maestro.
Raymond Santos in the Bronx in 2016. An arranger, conductor and teacher, he earned the nickname El Maestro.Rhynna M. Santos

Ray Santos, who played saxophone with the biggest stars in Latin jazz and went on to write arrangements renowned for their economy and clarity, died on Oct. 17 at a hospital near his home in the Bronx. He was 90. 

His daughter Rhynna Santos said the cause was complications of congestive heart failure.

In the 1950s and ’60s, if you were at the Palladium or one of the other nightclubs in New York where Latin jazz was played and elegant dancers tried the newest Cuban-inspired steps, there’s a decent chance that you heard Mr. Santos. He was a mainstay in bands led by luminaries like Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez, often called mambo’s Big Three. 

In an interview with the blog Jazz Wax in 2009, Mr. Santos said that all three of those bandleaders “could go off the deep end” when they felt musicians were not playing their best. “Machito was low key when he was angry,” he said. “But Puente and Rodriguez would pull out the whip. The whole band would get it.” 

As an arranger, conductor and teacher — he earned the nickname El Maestro — Mr. Santos took a more measured approach. 

Wynton Marsalis, the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who invited Mr. Santos to conduct concerts there in the 1990s, described him in an interview as an “extremely astute musician” who was able to catch the smallest error in an ensemble, but who was “collegial” in his approach to musicians.

“He was a great conductor of improvised musicians,” Mr. Marsalis said. “He’s not strict; he wants to hear the freedom.” 

He added, “He just represented the quality, the insight and the dignity of a whole idiom, and by that idiom I don’t mean Afro-Latin music; I mean American music.”

Mr. Santos wrote arrangements for Chico O’Farrill, Mario Bauzá, Noro Morales, Celia Cruz and Eddie Palmieri. He played tenor saxophone on Machito’s seminal Afro-Cuban jazz album “Kenya” (1958), which featured Cannonball Adderley on alto. 

In 1992, he arranged many of the songs for the soundtrack of the film “The Mambo Kings” and arranged Linda Ronstadt’s album of Latin pop songs, “Frenesi” (1992), which won a Grammy Award for best tropical Latin album.

For nearly three decades Mr. Santos taught at the City College of New York, leading the Latin band there and imparting his long experience to new generations of musicians. 

One of them was Arturo O’Farrill, the pianist, composer and director of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Mr. O’Farrill, the son of Mr. Santos’s old colleague Chico O’Farrill, said in an interview that Mr. Santos had “never overplayed or overwrote” and that “his contribution to the body of work is this distinct clarity and singleness of purpose.”

“Playing his piano parts, for instance, didn’t require a degree in physics,” Mr. O’Farrill continued. “They played themselves. His music played itself; it was so well written, so clear that it couldn’t help but swing.” 

Raymond Santos was born in Manhattan on Dec. 28, 1928. His parents, Carmen and Ramon Santos, were from Puerto Rico. His mother was a doll maker and homemaker, his father a doorman. He grew up, in East Harlem and later the Bronx, immersed in Puerto Rican music and in big-band jazz, particularly as played by Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Count Basie. 

He began studying the saxophone as a teenager and graduated from Haaren High School in Manhattan before studying classical music at the Juilliard School. There his contemporaries included the saxophonist Teo Macero, who would become an acclaimed record producer, and the soprano Leontyne Price. He graduated in the early 1950s.

“I was exposed to classical music and became amazed at how much jazz harmony came from Stravinsky and Ravel,” Mr. Santos said in 2009. “We’d analyze the scores of classical works, which got me into arranging. Eventually I was devoting as much time to music theory and writing as I was to practicing the saxophone.”

Mr. Santos’s marriage to Maria Santos ended in divorce. 

In addition to his daughter Rhynna, he is survived by three other daughters, Virna Santos, Cynthia Santos-DeCure and Carmen Santos-Robson, a mezzo-soprano; a son, Raymond Jr.; and eight grandchildren.

In 2011, the Latin Recording Academy honored Mr. Santos with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement. In 2016, the Berklee College of Music in Boston granted him an honorary doctorate. 

He continued working almost until the end. His last published project was writing arrangements for Eddie Palmieri’s 2018 album, “Mi Luz Amor.” 

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 24, 2019, Section B, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Ray Santos, 90, Saxophonist and Pillar of Latin Jazz. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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‘Music’ Review: Posterity Without Pedestals – WSJ

‘Music’ Review: Posterity Without Pedestals – WSJ


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https://www.wsj.com/articles/music-review-posterity-without-pedestals-11570832179
 

‘Music’ Review: Posterity Without Pedestals

Even Bach was once a rule-breaker, whose bold music disturbed Leipzig’s austere Lutherans.

By 

Larry Blumenfeld 

Oct. 11, 2019 6:16 pm ET

Duke Ellington on piano surrounded by jazz musicians in New York, 1943. Photo: Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In 1999 the great pianist, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington would have been 100. As editor of a jazz magazine at the time, I marked the occasion with an essay by Don Byron, a clarinetist whose music to that point had included both his own bold original compositions and faithful readings of early Ellington works. Mr. Byron wrote of “reveling in” and “dreading” the Ellington centennial. The source of his dread? “A truckload of roasted corn heading for a concert hall near you,” as he put it; Ellington as “our own American Beethoven, ” proof of jazz’s legitimacy among great arts. Such canonization, he worried, would ensure that “the Ellington I know and love will probably never come to light.” His Ellington had a sense of “ugly beauty” and made a brilliant career of “sneaking in the outest stuff he could think of and, mysteriously, making people like it”—like the “skronked-out interlude that precedes Harry Carney’s baritone saxophone solo on ‘Jack the Bear.’ ” Mr. Byron wanted to remind readers that Ellington “was a true subversive. We need to hear him, not put him on a pedestal.”

Duke Ellington doesn’t show up until more than halfway through Ted Gioia’s “Music: A Subversive History”; Mr. Gioia has millennia to cover here, and besides, as the author of 11 books, including “The History of Jazz,” he has already written in illuminating depth about Ellington. But the author’s concise appreciation here aligns well with Mr. Byron’s. Ellington, Mr. Gioia writes, recognized early that “the peculiar path of jazz to respectability required it to maintain its own core values, holding onto the blues, syncopation, hot solos, and all the other calling cards of its craft.”

Music: A Subversive History

By Ted Gioia 
Basic, 514 pages, $35

Ellington is among the large cast of subversives in Mr. Gioia’s sweeping study, from Olympian figures such as J.S. Bach to “the least well-known innovators in the history of music,” the enslaved courtesan artists of the Medieval Islamic world known as qiyan. For Mr. Gioia, Bach—whose bold music disturbed austere Lutherans enough that the composer had to write a defense to Leipzig’s city council in 1730—is “a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity.” Likewise, Europe’s first acclaimed troubadour, William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, helped Western music throw off “the chains of clerical interference . . . to express the most intimate thoughts and feelings” through “secular song in the vernacular language.” Yet this was merely fulfilling aspirations first voiced centuries earlier by songs of the qiyan.

Mr. Gioia is fascinated by “outsiders and rebels” who too often “fall from view.” Above all, he’s focused on how “the institutions that preserve and propagate the inherited traditions of our musical culture” tended to “whitewash key elements of a four-thousand-year history of disruptors and insurgents creating musical revolutions.” The author aims to subvert our ideas about music history—essentially, Western classical tradition and its contemporary and popular offshoots—in part by removing its pedestals.

Though Mr. Gioia mostly adheres to common lineages—the links between the medieval period and the Renaissance, say, or the stream of African-American tradition from which flowed jazz, blues and rock—he challenges notions of progress based solely on aesthetic or stylistic innovation. “Infusions of energy” from the “disreputable songs” that “institutional power brokers” wish to exclude are, for Mr. Gioia, “the engine room of music history.” He characterizes music history as a cyclical power struggle with shifting battle lines. Some are obvious: between “highbrow and lowbrow sensibilities; between “the sacred and the vulgar”; between “the insider and the outsider.” Some reflect more complicated tensions: between a “feminine tradition” emphasizing “fertility, ecstasy, and magic” and a “masculine” one, celebrating “discipline, social order, powerful men, and group conformity”; between ideas about “music as a soothing lifestyle accessory” and “music as subversive force of change”; and between “music of order and discipline, aspiring to the perfection of mathematics and aligned with institutional prerogatives” and “music of intense feelings, frequently associated with magic or trance states, and resistant to control from above.”

Related to that last conflict, he identifies Pythagoras as “the most important person in the history of music,” whose innovation—a theory to “perhaps define and constrain musical sounds by the use of numbers and ratios”—has “done as much harm as good.” The harm was rendering “the pulse of music” little more than “a matter of counting,” and the forward motion of a performance mere calculation. “And that’s how matters remained until the African diaspora disrupted this complacent view in the twentieth century.” Mr. Gioia relates with sufficient emphasis how, in ragtime music, “the goal was to keep the rhythmic displacements coming, imparting a restless, off-kilter energy to music that no waltz or quadrille could match.” He even goes further, honoring the idea that such an approach represents a wholly different rhythmic conception, one of African descent. (Modern instructional books that impose bar lines on blues, he writes, distort “the very tradition they are trying to propagate.”) 

Mr. Gioia’s claim that “the main plot in the narrative of popular music” for more than a century now has been “the descendants of African slaves rewriting the rules of commercial songs in every decade” is hard to dispute. Yet that point is complicated by his repeated use of the term “underclass” in this context ( Miles Davis, for instance, did not grow up poor). His narrative is sometimes tone-deaf: “Even within the most racist communities,” he writes, “audiences gradually came to prefer the very population they oppressed as purveyors of musical entertainment.” 

Considering this book’s theme, it is curious that the author doesn’t mention the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization founded more than a half-century ago in Chicago whose stalwarts (including saxophonist, composer and Pulitzer Prize-winner Henry Threadgill ) embody Mr. Gioia’s own ideas about subversive ideas that overturn pedagogies and earn acceptance on their own terms. And given Mr. Gioia’s expertise in jazz, I was disappointed that his account of that art form effectively ends in the 1980s, with a “quest for respectability” that “got confused with mimicry of the past.” The jazz scene has moved on in notable ways since then. 

Yet in other important respects, Mr. Gioia stays current. He connects Pythagorean theory (Western music’s “very first algorithm”) to the algorithms beneath our current music business, which leads to timely discussions of the “darker truth” that in recent decades “music technology started evolving faster than the musical styles themselves,” so that by now “the most powerful forces in music . . . view songs as mere content.” The author quotes Spotify’s 2015 annual report to shareholders: “We don’t sell music.” (He doesn’t need to utter the word “data.”) Mr. Gioia frames the historical significance of this situation, and its disenfranchising effect on both musicians and audiences. 

I may not be as confident as Ted Gioia that “a new era of disruption” in music is around the corner, one that “robots and artificial intelligence will prove incapable of stopping.” Yet I share his belief that music’s strange magic can still reshape our world.

—Mr. Blumenfeld has written regularly about jazz for the Journal since 2004.

 
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Remembering Gene Jefferson, A Saxophonist, Clarinetist and Flutist Revered in Latin Jazz | WBGO

Remembering Gene Jefferson, A Saxophonist, Clarinetist and Flutist Revered in Latin Jazz | WBGO


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Remembering Gene Jefferson, A Saxophonist, Clarinetist and Flutist Revered in Latin Jazz

By  • Oct 18, 2019 

 

Saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Gene Jefferson — one of the finest human beings and greatest musicians I have ever known — died on Wednesday at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y, of complications from vascular dementia. He was 88.

“Lord” Walter “Gene” Jefferson hailed originally from Panama, and came to New York in the early 1960s along with his fellow saxophonist and flutist Mauricio Smith. Gene, as he became known by everyone, quickly found work due to his versatility in jazz, Afro-Cuban and other Latin American styles of music.

He could play authentic charanga Cuban flute, the blues and bop on saxophone with the best of them, and Dominican merengue like nobody’s business. He resided in Brooklyn, which had become home to many Panamanian musicians, including pianist, organist and Broadway conductor Frank Anderson; the aforementioned Mauricio Smith (who became the first saxophonist on Saturday Night Live); pianist Manuel Cobham (father of renowned drummer Billy Cobham); bassists Russell and Alex Blake; pianist Luis Russell (musical director of Louis Armstrong’s Big Band, and father to Catherine); and pianist Terry Pierce.

Gene played and toured on tenor sax with legendary vocalist Tito Rodriguez’s orchestra, and is heard on Carnaval De Las Americas, an album cherished by collectors the world over.

 

 

Besides Tito Rodriguez, he was a veteran of the Ray Charles Orchestra, the Marcelino Guerra Orchestra, Collective Black Artists, Orlando Marin’s Saxofonica and Benjamin Lapidus’ Kari B3. He played with Charlie Palmieri, Louis Ramirez, and the father of mambo and son montuno, Arsenio Rodríguez. 

Gene was also a member of the house band at the Apollo Theater in the 1960s and ‘70s, backing every major black performer of the day. In 1982 he was in the horn section featured on The Mighty Arrow’s original recording of “Hot, Hot, Hot” — a soca/calypso tune that became a worldwide megahit.

And for 39 years, Gene was a member of my band Bobby Sanabria’s Ascensión; he was featured on the group’s 1993 album ¡New York City Aché!He also appeared on my first Grammy-nominated big band album, Live & In Clave!!!, released in 2000.

 

 

Gene was a humble warrior whom many had forgotten, as often happens in the cruel world we call the music business. I learned so much from this man and cherished every moment I was able to perform with him — in particular with his own group, The International Combo, which featured his lovely wife, Enid Lowe, the Sarah Vaughan of Panama. His quiet demeanor, dignity, and devotion to his family reminded me every time of my own father, José.

Gene was among the last of a breed of musicians who knew every tune in every key. But I’m not just talking about the canon of “standards” we utilize in the jazz world. I’m talking about the incredible canon of music from all of Latin America — a body of songs even larger than that of the so-called American songbook. Every gig with him was a learning experience, as I was exposed to that canon in all its beauty, and in a visceral way.

These musicians lay waste to our generation. As my father made me aware of the importance of history, Gene made me aware of the importance of musical history and its connection to the music and dance of our mega-culture that is Latin America. It is our secret weapon as artists. It’s what we can draw upon in any musical situation for inspiration when we have those moments of perspiration, saying to ourselves, “What do I play now?”

In our current world, where history is often undervalued by a generation of younger players, an elder like Gene (and others like him) stood as a shining example of what one can achieve as a musician — the ability to be a master storyteller in the moment, a mentor by example, and a teacher through action.

I will always remember two moments where I had out of body experiences with him. One was when he soloed on an old merengue, “Con El Alma,” for over 10 minutes. The other was hearing him play over the ballad “What’s New.” Two completely different scenarios and audiences: one for dancers, the other for listeners. In both cases, the audiences were transformed and awestruck, as were we on the bandstand. You can’t do that unless you have a supreme knowledge of history.

My and Elena’s supreme condolences and love to his children, Gary and Gina, to his incredible wife Enid, and to the entire Jefferson family. And to the people of Panama: you have lost a native son who was proud of his homeland. Thank you for sharing him with us.

 
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Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69 – The New York Times

Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69 – The New York Times


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Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69

By Neil Genzlinger

Updated Oct. 21, 2019, 8:40 a.m. ET

He brought a brash style to coverage of the rock world in the late 1960s and ’70s, then applied similar skills to novels and books on Dean Martin and Sonny Liston. 

Nick Tosches was part of a group of music writers labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose. A critic once wrote, “Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”
Nick Tosches was part of a group of music writers labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose. A critic once wrote, “Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”Kate Simon

Nick Tosches, who started out in the late 1960s as a brash music writer with a taste for the fringes of rock and country, then bent his eclectic style to biographies of figures like Dean Martin and Sonny Liston and to hard-to-classify novels, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 69. 

The exact cause has not been determined, but he had been ill, a friend, James Marshall, said.

Mr. Tosches (TOSH-ez) and his fellow music writers Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs were labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose, a world away from fan magazines like Tiger Beat. Interviewing Debbie Harry of the band Blondie in 1979 for Creem magazine, he thought nothing of asking whether she shaved or waxed her legs. Neither, it turned out; she told him she plucked them, one hair at a time.

“We speak for many minutes of legs and their lore,” he wrote. “Each of us learns a great deal from the other. A mutual respect is born.”

In 1977 Mr. Tosches published his first book, “Country,” a well-researched look at some of country music’s lesser-known and often roguish figures. “Unsung Heroes of Rock ’n’ Roll” followed in 1984, with chapters on Ella Mae MorseSkeets McDonald and many more.

But by then Mr. Tosches had already begun to branch out. His first biography, “Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story,” came out in 1982, and in 1986 he ventured beyond music with “Power on Earth: Michele Sindona’s Explosive Story,” about an Italian financier who was involved in assorted scandals.

One of his most attention-getting biographies followed in 1992. It was “Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams,” about Dean Martin.

“Recordings, movies, radio, television: He would cast his presence over them all, a mob-culture Renaissance man,” he wrote of Martin. “And he would come to know, as few ever would, how dirty the business of dreams could be.”

For Mr. Tosches, Martin was a celebrity who beat the unrelenting fame machine, the one that often ground stars up and consigned them to early deaths. (Martin himself died in 1995 at 78.)

“I would describe Dean as a noble character in an ignoble racket in an ignoble age,” Mr. Tosches told The New York Times in 1992.

“Life is a racket,” he added. “Writing is a racket. Sincerity is a racket. Everything’s a racket.”

Mr. Tosches was born on Oct. 23, 1949, in Newark, to Nick and Muriel Ann (Wynn) Tosches.

“The things I wanted to be when I was a kid were an archaeologist, because of dinosaur bones; a garbage man, because they got to ride on the side of the trucks; and a writer,” he told The Times. “If I had become a garbage man, I could have retired by now.”

Mr. Tosches’ father owned a bar, and working there as a boy, as he often said later, provided him with the type of street-smart education that mattered. College was never a consideration; instead he held what he described to The Boston Globe in 2000 as “a bunch of strange jobs, both legitimate and illegitimate.”

He liked to tell of the few weeks he spent as a snake hunter for the Miami Serpentarium, which collected venom for research, even though he was afraid of snakes.

“You’d smoke out rattlesnakes by pouring gasoline down their holes and the fumes would drive them out,” he told Salon in 1999. “I did not make it too far in that job. Part of the con was anyone who brought in a rattlesnake over six feet would get a thousand bucks, and the thing is, there’s never been a rattlesnake over six feet. It’s a myth.” (Some experts, however, contend that six-foot rattlesnakes, though rare, do exist.)

At 19 he was living in New York and, as he often related, working for an underwear company on Madison Avenue.

“I was doing back then, in the days before computers, what they called paste-ups and mechanicals,” he told Vanity Fair in 2011. “You have a glue pot, a T-square, a razor blade, and you physically put together advertisements.”

Ed Sanders, who was a member of the underground rock band the Fugs and operated the Peace Eye Bookstore in the East Village in Manhattan, a counterculture hangout, befriended Mr. Tosches and gave him encouraging words about some poetry he had written, nudging along his budding interest in becoming a writer. In 1969 he sold his first article, to Fusion, a Boston magazine.

Through the 1970s and into the ’80s he wrote for that magazine as well as for Rolling Stone, Creem and other publications, practicing a free-ranging brand of journalism that fell under the label “gonzo.” Although his music-related books were obsessively researched, he didn’t always take his magazine writing so seriously, especially early on, when he was known to do things like review nonexistent albums.

“I was just using it as a rubric to get away with things in print, things that probably would be impossible to get away with now,” he told The Times. “Like making records up, which I’ve done. Reviewing records without even opening the shrink wrap.”

In 1988 Mr. Tosches published his first novel, “Cut Numbers,” about a small-time loan shark. Another, “Trinities,” about the international heroin trade, appeared in 1994.

In 1996 Mr. Tosches became a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and an article he wrote for the magazine on the boxer Sonny Liston became the 2000 biography “The Devil and Sonny Liston.” That same year, he published “The Nick Tosches Reader,” a collection drawn from his three decades’ worth of work. 

His most acclaimed and most audacious work of fiction, “In the Hand of Dante,” was published in 2002. The story centered on a previously unknown manuscript of Dante’s masterwork, “The Divine Comedy,” and a more or less fictional character named Nick Tosches who is called upon to authenticate it.

“‘In the Hand of Dante’ weaves together the life of Dante with the life of a character named Nick Tosches,’” Will Blythe wrote in a review in The Times. “Fortunately, it’s not quite as postmodern as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of a mess, but a splendid, passionate mess, with a moral fervor far exceeding most novels of better grooming.”

In his review in The Edmonton Journal of Alberta, Dennis Chute delivered a considerably more backhanded compliment.

“I think Tosches is a puffed-up buffoon whose bio is a pile of horse manure,” he wrote. “Let me tell you that he also has a prose style made up of pretty phrases that mean nothing, a fixation with the word dark, and a love for obscure words he doesn’t understand how to use. So why do I think this is a must-read book? Because Tosches is one of the few writers you can experience on a visceral level. Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”

 

"Me and the Devil” featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author. “Me and the Devil” featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author.

“Me and the Devil” (2012) also featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author, though one hopes not too many. This Nick enjoyed vampiric sex with young women. The book was not well received. In The Denver Post, John Broening called it “a series of self-aggrandizing pornographic daydreams intended to prop up the sagging legend of its author as an icon of below-14th Street duende.”

If his writing fell somewhat out of fashion, in late midlife Mr. Tosches cut a distinctive figure in that below-14th Street world, his natty dress inevitably commented upon by interviewers. One focused on his leopard-skin loafers, another on his silk homburg. 

“I always felt that that was one of the rewards of being 50,” he said. “You could wear a homburg.”

An early marriage, in 1972, was brief. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available. 

In 2006 the British publication Observer Music Monthly named the 50 greatest music books ever written. Mr. Tosches’ Jerry Lee Lewis biography, “Hellfire,” was No. 1. He sat for a question-and-answer session in conjunction with the honor.

“At the end of the book, you leave him very much alive, still roaming the earth, but pretty much facing the abyss,” the interviewer said of “Hellfire.”

“It’s the way we all live,” Mr. Tosches replied. “Shallow life, shallow ditch. Big life, big abyss.”

Neil Genzlinger is a writer for the Obituaries Desk. Previously he was a television, film and theater critic. @genznyt • Facebook

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 21, 2019, Section A, Page 22 of the New York edition with the headline: Nick Tosches, Fiery Writer Of Music’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ And Biographer, Dies at 69. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud

Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud


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Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud

Cannonball Adderley playing the alto saxophone (Photo: Special to the Democrat)

In Tallahassee, in the early 1940s, one might have heard Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” or Frank Sinatra crooning a love ballad on the radio. But, if you were in the right place you might have heard Julian Adderley and his brother Nat playing the saxophone and cornet live.  

Julian Adderley Jr., or “Cannonball” as he was professionally known, was one of our most famous jazz musicians. He got there by having great parents, a solid education, and checking all the boxes along the way such as a stint in the Army and as a high school teacher. 

Early Tallahassee 

While he was born in Tampa in 1928, Julian’s family moved to Tallahassee when he was young. His father, Dr. Julian Adderley Sr., and his mother, Jessie, were educators and had obtained teaching positions at Florida A&M University. As a cornetist himself, Dr. Adderley instilled a love of music in his sons Julian Jr., and Nat.

By the time Julian was 14, he was playing with his own band at local venues in the historic Frenchtown section. By one account, he played with the great Ray Charles here before either were known. 

After graduating from FAMU in 1948, Julian became a high school band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Uncle Sam called in 1950 and he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he became the leader of the 36th Army Dance Band.  

The Big Apple 

With his military service over, he moved to New York City in 1955 planning to pursue graduate studies in Manhattan. However, one night his destiny changed after finding his way into the famous Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village accompanied by his brother Nat, a cornet player like their father, and was asked to sit in for the band’s regular saxophonist.

The Cafe Bohemia was considered the mecca for finger-snapping jazz and progressive music conception. At the end of the evening, the manager called out to Nat “Who is that guy?” Nat shouted back, “Cannibal!” which was a nickname he had been given because of his ferocious appetite. The manager misunderstood and introduced him as “Cannonball” to the jazz patrons. The name stuck.

The Adderley brothers prepare for a performances (Photo: FAMU Black Archives (Phil Sears))

Shortly thereafter, he began to be referred to as the next Charlie Parker, who died earlier the same year, and was later immortalized in the movie “Bird” directed by Clint Eastwood. 

Not unlike most musicians, Cannonball was involved with different bands performing with other fledgling performers such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan for the next few years.  Along the way, he made his coast-to-coast television debut on NBC’s the Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen, in July, 1956.  

Julian Adderley or “Cannonball” is buried at Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee. (Photo: David Brand)

Performing with Nat 

In September 1959, Cannonball reunited with Nat and formed the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. The quintet recorded live one month later at the San Francisco Jazz Workshop and became an immediate success.  For the next 16 years the quintet performed in venues all over the country.

Cannonball’s personality also played a role in making the band popular. He loved to interact with the audience with commentary that explained the music. According to the New York Times, he once said, “I prefer nightclubs to concert dates because I dig the sound of laughter, the murmur of the crowds and that cash register – there’s something Freudian about the ringing of a cash register. I feel that when people pay to hear music, I owe them something.”  

John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis performing together. (Photo: FAMU Black Archives (Phil Sears))

One of Cannonball’s most famous record albums was “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the Club” recorded in 1966 and received the Grammy Award for the best instrumental jazz performance in 1967.

Cannonball recorded 55 hits as the band leader, seven with his brother Nat, and 25 with other greats such as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Miles Davis. 

Back home 

Even after becoming nationally known, he took time to return to Tallahassee to perform at FAMU’s Lee Auditorium in February, 1957 at a benefit for a fraternity scholarship fund.  Tallahassee was his home. Though widely traveled, he visited his family often. First at their home on West Pensacola Street, where the FSU law school is now, and later on Young Street near FAMU campus.

Sadly, Cannonball passed away after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while performing in Gary, Indiana on Aug. 8, 1975 at the age of 46. He is buried in Tallahassee at the Southside Cemetery. 

At the beginning of my senior year at Leon High School we had a new guidance counselor, Dr. Julian Adderley. I was a saxophone player, albeit a bad one, so he was like a god.

On the few times I interacted with him I was completely in awe and could barely speak. He was an experienced educator, used to dealing with kids, so instead of just staring at me like I had two heads he gently coaxed the responses he needed. 

Cannonball, you are remembered and missed. You did us proud!

David Brand (Photo: David Brand)

David Brand is a retired police officer who works for a nonprofit that represents the interests of law enforcement. He lives in St. Teresa Beach, Florida.

 
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The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray – The New York Times

The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray – The New York Times


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The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray

By Roberta Smith

Oct. 10, 2019

Roy DeCarava famously turned Harlem into his canvas, but there is much more to see — and feel — in his new retrospective. 

Roy DeCarava’s “Progressive Labor,” from 1964.
Roy DeCarava’s “Progressive Labor,” from 1964.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

One of the best exhibitions of the season is devoted to the work of the great postwar photographer Roy DeCarava. Split between the uptown and downtown galleries of David Zwirner, it was organized on the centennial of the artist’s birth by his widow, Sherry Turner DeCarava, an art historian. 

At Zwirner on the Upper East Side, “The Sound I Saw” concentrates on DeCarava’s photographs of musical subjects. At Zwirner in Chelsea, the much larger “Light Break” treats the full range of his interests, from the civil rights movement to images of urban workers, landscapes and parks. Totaling nearly 150 photographs, this is a museum-worthy undertaking seen in the more accessible, intimate spaces of the commercial gallery — the best of both worlds.

DeCarava’s work is itself the best of both worlds: visually rigorous yet incalculably sensitive to the human predicament and the psychology of everyday life, especially concerning but not limited to African-Americans. He studied painting and printmaking, before committing to the camera, which may have helped him enrich his new medium in terms of both appearance and meaning. DeCarava’s reputation began to grow in the early 1950s, based on his sympathetic portrayals of the residents of Harlem, where he was born in 1919 and raised by a single mother, and of the numerous musical luminaries pursuing blues or jazz, this country’s first modern art. These included Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who figure in the uptown show. 

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DeCarava, who died in 2009, tilted black and white photography away from social documentary toward aesthetic and personal expression. But he also intended to battle the problem, as he described it, of black people “not being portrayed in a serious and artistic way.” He did this with elegant vengeance favoring formal power over narrative while stinting neither on his subjects’ dignity, nor on the harsh realities that many faced. Looking at many of his images we cannot help being aware of what is today called systemic racism, but there is so much more to see, and feel.

 

Roy DeCarava’s “Four Bassists,” from 1965. Roy DeCarava’s “Four Bassists,” from 1965.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

 

“Graduation”(1949), one of DeCarava’s most famous images. “Graduation”(1949), one of DeCarava’s most famous images.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

 

DeCarava’s “Pepsi,” from 1964. DeCarava’s “Pepsi,” from 1964.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

Sometimes his subjects seem simply to rise above these hardships, like the young woman in “Graduation,” one of his best known images; wearing a white gown, she seems to float majestically along a sidewalk flanked by an empty lot and a pile of trash. Sometimes obstacles are reflected, as in the grave determination on the face of a young freedom marcher in Washington in 1963. And at times they are described with throat-catching beauty and disturbing ambiguity, as in the man in “Pepsi,” who extends his arms and upper torso to lift a case of the soft drink. 

Blackness was the overarching theme of DeCarava’s art — his form, his content and the subject matter (the stories his images tell) all in one. His images constantly emphasize the beauty of black people, artists and culture. But first there is the striking darkness of his photographs as objects, regardless of subject, which he achieved by using innovative printing techniques. 

DeCarava’s work encompasses an extraordinary range of shadowy tonalities, from deep charcoal to pale haze. Illuminated by exquisitely spare uses of light or contrasting blocks of relative brightness, his photographs are at once alluring, mysterious and challenging. At close range, they reveal layered meanings that are variously psychological, social, cultural, even structural. The richness and diversity of dark tones enact the deep content of DeCarava’s art; they constantly flip between visual fact and a metaphor for difference of all kinds. 

The first image of the downtown show, “Wall Street, Morning” of 1960 demonstrates a tonal complexity commensurate with DeCarava’s exceptional printing skills. A narrow wedge of sky driven between seemingly opaque buildings casts the fernlike curl of a streetlight in stark silhouette. Below, an astounding panoply of deep soft grays emerges from the shadows: building facades, sidewalks, pavement. It is a tour de force in all senses. 

Sometimes it took many failures in the darkroom before DeCarava developed an acceptable print. This was the case with “Light and Shade,” an aerial view of a playground featuring two boys clutching toy pistols in a game of cowboys, although it may take a moment to make out the second child barely visible in the shadows. 

In “Progressive Labor” (1964) DeCarava acknowledges racial violence, but indirectly. Next to the drastically truncated sign for the Progressive Labor Party’s offices at the left of the image (it reads “ressive/BOR”) is a poster whose cartoonish vitality depicts several policemen, each attacking a child with a billy club. On the sidewalk below, another drama unfolds. A white man who wears some kind of badge glares as people walk past a storefront whose iron gate is viciously bent. 

Sometimes the differences captured by DeCarava concern class more than race. In “Man Lying on Park Bench, Bangkok” (1987), which could be from any place in the world, DeCarava shot across a narrow body of water. He captures a summery scene bathed in light: a lavish white dwelling perched over the water and the matching silhouettes of a man and a woman in a boat idling nearby. But this vignette is framed and enhanced by a darker one on the nearer bank, where DeCarava stood. Its shadowy silhouettes include the ground, a tree and a man who seems to be sleeping on a stony bench. He is outside the summer idyll, yet his presence and its odalisque-like grace is essential to the ambiguous beauty that distinguishes DeCarava’s art. 


Roy DeCarava: The Sound I Saw

Through Oct. 26 at David Zwirner, 34 East 69th Street, Manhattan; davidzwirner.com.

Roy DeCarava: Light Break

Through Oct. 26 at David Zwirner, 533 West 19th Street, Manhattan; davidzwirner.com.

Roberta Smith, the co-chief art critic, regularly reviews museum exhibitions, art fairs and gallery shows in New York, North America and abroad. Her special areas of interest include ceramics textiles, folk and outsider art, design and video art. @robertasmithnyt

 

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Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last – The New York Times

Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last – The New York Times


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Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last

By John Lingan

Oct. 17, 2019

In a new memoir, “Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note,” the Stax studio wizard and acclaimed producer tells his own story and finds his voice.

Booker T. Jones was an architect of the Stax Records sound. But his time in Memphis is only part of his story.
Booker T. Jones was an architect of the Stax Records sound. But his time in Memphis is only part of his story.Erik Carter for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — Blocks from the ocean-misted mountain views of Venice Beach, Booker T. Jones was hard at work on a late-summer afternoon. The 74-year-old musician, dressed in a black baseball hat and a bright-blue athletic pullover, sat behind his customary Hammond B-3 organ with his chin angled up slightly, like an emperor, as his current road group, which includes his son Ted on lead guitar and the longtime Tom Petty drummer Steve Ferrone, helped rerecord the various classics that provide the names for each chapter in his new memoir. 

“Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note,” out Oct. 29, is named for one of Jones’s hits as the leader and musical mastermind of Booker T. & the M.G.s, but despite the soul group’s fame in the ’60s and ’70s, this is the first time the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee has truly spoken in his own voice. His creative statements have more typically come as an accompanist: first as an arranger and house musician for Stax during the label’s golden age, then as a producer, musical director and keyboardist for generations of American musicians. His body of work spreads across whole branches in the family tree of 20th-century and 21st-century pop — you can hear him underneath Sam & Dave, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Big Daddy Kane and Valerie June.

But about a decade ago, with eight children and stepchildren from his three marriages, Jones became reflective. His friends and collaborators, from Neil Young to Robbie Robertson, had found willing readerships for their life stories, but Jones, ever the sideman, didn’t think in terms of a hero’s journey.

 

Jones wrote his memoir himself, without a ghostwriter. Jones wrote his memoir himself, without a ghostwriter.

“I just started writing these little scenes,” he explained in his slow, deliberate manner. “Little memories of how I grew up, all the things I’ve seen.” The book’s structure isn’t chronological — Jones connects old stories to new ones, famous friends to unknown childhood ones. He wrote it himself, no ghostwriter, with the same unhurried process that he approaches all communication, from an interview to a horn chart.

The result emphasizes not only his Memphis roots and role in Stax’s reinvention of R&B but his second act here in Los Angeles — as a wide-ranging session man and producer who remains, in his eighth decade, a sought-after sonic guru.

“It’s really weird hearing my voice say those words,” he said. “But the words I use, the way I use English — I finally found my voice on the page.”

In the Venice studio, Jones showed off his more well-known facility with the language of music, working through “B-A-B-Y,” a perfect bit of Stax bubble gum by Carla Thomas from 1966. It’s filled with the sound of the B-3, a churchy keyboard that plays through a rotating speaker called a Leslie, granting it an emotive vibrato that, largely thanks to him, is synonymous with soul music. 

But even the master can’t just summon one of these songs. Jones listened to the old recording on YouTube, identifying all the underlying parts of the arrangement that make it click. It’s not a complicated song, but it’s airtight. The band had to find the tempo and the swing that would allow it to slink just right.

It was the same way 50-odd years ago, Jones later explained. The song as delivered by Isaac Hayes and David Porter was well-written, but the band couldn’t bring it to life.

“It was the same lyrics, the same melody, but the feel of it was wrong,” Jones said. On break from college, he pulled an all-nighter to whip up a finger-snapping beat and circular bass melody straight from Motown. He played the chiming piano part himself. A few months later: No. 3 R&B, No. 14 Pop. This was his side job. He was 20.

In Venice, Jones’s left hand played in unison with his bassist as always. With his right hand, he hit a series of quick stabbing chords that, on the recording, add a sense of dramatic rise-and-fall behind the repeating bass motif. Ferrone, a big, gentle Englishman known for his stability and power in the Heartbreakers, was having a little trouble finding the groove. Jones didn’t acknowledge it, he just kept nodding and pushing the two-chord verse vamp until finally, there, it snapped into place, and the song sounded like itself. 

No living musician is more closely associated than Booker T. Jones with Memphis, the Mississippi River city that fostered a world-changing generation of blues, gospel and soul music five decades ago. He spent 10 years as a house arranger, multi-instrumentalist and charting band leader for Stax Records during this period, and told me with little hesitation that this era’s music will be his legacy. 

Jones grew up in the Tennessee city, the only child of two teachers who both loved to play music. In “Time Is Tight,” his musical memories connect back to childhood, to the church, to funerals and kitchen hymns sung by elderly neighbors. 

“Memphis defined my life,” he said, “but I was always so busy.” He began “throwing the Memphis World” — working a paper route — when he was only 8. He left the city for the first time to attend Indiana University’s renowned conservatory program, already an active session player at Stax. One day he fell into a groove while playing with his beloved friend Al Jackson Jr. on the drums. The result, “Green Onions,” is one of the best-known and most-covered songs of its era.

“Green Onions” feels like a snarling 12-bar blues, but its structure is more complex, a result of Jones’s theory lessons at the time. “What if the bottom bass note went up while the top note of the triad went down, like in the Bach fugues and cantatas?” he remembers wondering in “Time Is Tight.” It was a fine demonstration of what he brought to Stax’s urban country-soul: compositional sophistication. 

“For years and years I have said that Booker T. & the M.G.s were the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time,” John Fogerty wrote in his own recent memoir. “I’m talking about soulfulness, deep feeling, the space in between the beats. How to say a lot with a little.”

Every garage band in the United States, including Fogerty’s, knew “Green Onions” in the mid-1960s. Booker T. & the M.G.s were equally revered by the Summer of Love crowd that watched them back Otis Redding for his star-making set at the Monterey Pop Festival.

But the respect of their peers and left-leaning Californians didn’t protect the M.G.s from racism, especially at home. The Stax offices in Memphis were a regular target of threats; they were located around the corner from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968. As the first charting interracial pop group of the era, the M.G.s were also expected to act out a vision of racial harmony.

“The M.G.s did love each other,” he writes in the book. But “As we were held up more and more as an example to the world of how integration could work, it became more and more a veneer.”

In the late 1960s, the stresses of working for Stax were beginning to wear on Jones, who had begun to see a different kind of community — more welcoming and supportive — among musicians in Los Angeles.

In California, Jones said he was struck by “the immediate diversity” of the population: “It’s just amazing, the kind of people you can find here.” His first friend in the city’s creative world was Leon Russell, the prolific psychedelic ringleader behind a rising wave of roots music at the time, including Delaney & Bonnie and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

“I had a little phone book when I came out here and started adding to it, and that phone book was just unbelievable,” he recalled, naming Roger McGuinn, Elton John and the Beach Boys.

Given the opportunity to work with artists across genres and styles, Jones thrived. He found the perfect quiet, unmannered funk for Bill Withers’s debut, “Just As I Am,” and reinvented both the Great American Songbook and Willie Nelson’s career as the producer and arranger of “Stardust,” a shock hit record of big band-era standards released in 1978. By simplifying the arrangements and recording in an ultra-laid-back home studio in Laurel Canyon over 10 days, Jones made a Texan singing Tin Pan Alley sound like the quintessence of contemporary L.A. sophistication.

“When I was growing up, my dad only had about five records,” said the National’s Matt Berninger, who hired Jones to produce his upcoming solo record. “I remember Judy Collins, Roberta Flack, Waylon Jennings, and I remember ‘Stardust.’” Berninger wanted someone who could corral nearly 20 guest musicians, and someone who could provide the late-night, timeless atmosphere that “Stardust” conjures. He immediately thought of Jones, whom he had met during a collaboration with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings in 2013, even though he didn’t realize that Jones was the co-visionary on Nelson’s album at first. It seemed impossible that the same person who created a new genre of Memphis soul in 1962 could also reinvigorate the standard 15 years later, then stay relevant into the 21st century as an elder statesman.

Jones has stayed active producing, recording and playing with younger musicians for decades now, many of whom aren’t obvious fits for his sound. In the early 1980s, Melissa Etheridge was “just a singer in a lesbian bar,” she said, before a Capitol Records executive set her up with a studio session to make a demo. She showed up and found Jones behind the board.

“This was back when you still had guitar solos in songs,” Etheridge said in a phone interview, “but our guitar player didn’t show up. So the engineer grabs a B-3, and Booker adds the most burning, scorching Booker T. organ solo over this rinky-dink demo.”

Patterson Hood, the co-leader of the Drive-By Truckers, heard M.G.s songs in hip-hop as a teenager — they’ve been sampled by Cypress Hill and Heavy D & the Boyz, among many others. About 10 years ago, Jones invited the Truckers to join him for a rare solo album, all instrumental, with Neil Young on third guitar just for good measure. Hood’s heavy-twang rock isn’t a natural fit for the kind of subtle groove-building that Jones specializes in, and after a few unsatisfying takes, Hood and his band mates gathered at the B-3, expecting to be fired. Instead, Jones told them a story about Thanksgiving.

“He described the food, what his auntie was wearing, even the tablecloth and how the food smelled,” Hood said. “It was beautiful, then when he was finished, he said, ‘Play that.’”

Jones believed the band played best based off lyrical content, and that the instrumentals were throwing them off, “So if he could give us something to visualize, we’d play better,” Hood said. He called the moment “literally life-changing.”

Jones has a simpler explanation for his approach. “I’m on cruise control,” he said. “I started on cruise control, being curious about drums and piano, and it’s the same exact force that moved me then, when I was 4 or 5, that’s moving me now.”

It’s an ethos he captures well in “Time Is Tight,” a book that reaches for that ineffable quality of music making. “It’s just a force that requires no effort at all,” Jones added. “I don’t put any effort into trying to make music my thing, it just happens.”

 

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Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81 | The Sofia Globe

Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81 | The Sofia Globe


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Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81

Milcho Leviev, award-winning Bulgarian jazz maestro, died on October 12 at the age of 81.

Leviev was born into a Bulgarian Jewish family in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv on December 19 1937, the son of Izak Leviev and brother of renowned Plovdiv artist Yoan Leviev.

Milcho Leviev graduated from the State Conservatory in 1960, the pupil of Pancho Vladigerov and Andrey Stoyanov.

He was appointed conductor of the Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio from 1962 to 1966. From 1963 to 1968 he worked as a soloist and conductor of the Plovdiv and Sofia Philharmonic.

In 1970, Milcho Leviev, quit Bulgaria, then under communist rule, settling eventually in Los Angeles and working with famed jazz greats such as Don Ellis.

Leviev worked as a composer, arranger, and pianist for Don Ellis (1970–1975) Orchestra and the Billy Cobham Band (1971–77).

He toured the US and Europe; he was music director for Lainie Kazan (1977-80). He gave concerts and recorded with John Klemmer, Art Pepper, and Roy Haynes.

He toured Europe with Pepper (1980–82) and was one of the founders of the Free Flight fusion band.

In 1983, Leviev became Music Director of the Jazz Sessions at the Comeback Inn in Venice, California.

He gave concerts in Japan with bassist Dave Holland (1983–86) and organized solo jazz recitals in Europe (1985–86). He taught jazz composition at the University of Southern California and led master classes at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

Milcho Leviev composed symphony and chamber works, big band, and jazz orchestra music. In the 1960s he wrote film music. He was awarded the honorary Doctor Honoris Causa by the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv (1995) by New Bulgarian University.

Milcho Leviev’s only child, his daughter, artist Yana Levieva, died in December 2018 at the age of 51.

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How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement | www.ozy.com

How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement | www.ozy.com


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How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement

Kristina GaddyOctober 13, 2019

Mrs. Richter’s cookbook isn’t just about food. For Beauty Salad I, she recommends tender asparagus tips with mint sauce, not because it tastes good but because it will “induce light perspiration, aiding circulation and clearing the complexion.” In fact, all of Vera Richter’s recipes were about a way of life. “Food is the answer to our problem to have a sound mind in a sound body,” she wrote in the cookbook’s opening. She was one of the essential figures of the Los Angeles healthy living scene, opening a chain of famous raw vegan restaurants alongside her husband, John T. Richter.

They might have fit the perfect hippie image, only this was 50 years before the word entered the lexicon. But even the earliest hippies would be influenced by the Richters and their desire to promote the tenants of the German Lebensreform movement.

Richters
John and Vera Richter

Vera was born Verna May Weitzel to German parents in Pennsylvania. In 1903, at age 18, she graduated from the Butler Business College and accepted a job as a stenographer in Pittsburgh. By 1910, she’d moved to Los Angeles, where she met John. John had arrived in LA after working as a doctor of chiropractic and naturopathic medicine in the Midwest. They married, and perhaps it was Vera’s business acumen that got their restaurant, Eutropheon, started. However, it was John’s commitment to the ideas of Lebensreform, or life reform, that inspired the raw vegan cuisine they served.

John’s father, a German immigrant and pharmacist, had wanted him to be a doctor, but while studying at Rush Medical College in Chicago, John became more interested in natural methods of healing, including movement cures and the Battle Creek diet, a cooked vegetarian regime developed by John Harvey Kellogg to promote energy and general well-being. John saw great results with patients and even followed the diet himself, but he still felt a “general lack of energy.” That was when he learned about Dr. Benedict Lust and his uncooked food diet in a naturopathic magazine.

John Richter became a convert to a raw, vegan diet as a way to cure his ailments, which included dizziness, kidney problems and a habit of falling asleep while trying to give medical advice.

Lust created the cohesive concept of natural healing he called naturopathic medicine. “His natural healing methods used water, homeopathy, light, chiropractic adjustments, dietetic advice, exercise, baths and massage for health restoration and preservation,” writes Susan Cayleff in Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America. Lust opened a health food store in New York and founded health resorts.

In Germany, where Lust first encountered natural healing, the Lebensreform movement had been popular since the mid-1800s as a way of countering industrialization. Those who followed the life reform principles subscribed to a meat-free, alcohol-free diet, usually combined with nudism, which allowed the body to get more sun and air. “The promises of the life reform movement were a way to offset the ‘degeneration’ and the degradation that comes along with modern life, big cities, industrialization,” says Peter Staudenmaier, associate professor of history at Marquette University.

Eutropheon ad 1926
Eutropheon ad from 1926

John Richter became a convert to a raw, vegan diet as a way to cure his ailments, which included dizziness, kidney problems and a habit of falling asleep while trying to give medical advice. In 1917, John and Vera opened a restaurant in LA that served only “live foods,” promising to “cure the diseases that come from cooked foods.” The name Eutropheon came from George Drews, a friend of John’s and a raw food advocate, who made up the word to mean a raw food restaurant.

Soon, the Richters had multiple locations in LA. Vera managed the restaurants and probably developed many of the recipes for dishes served, which she then compiled into her cookbook, Mrs. Richter’s Cook-Less Cookbook. One writer in the Los Angeles Times commented on the “scores of tasty salad combinations … dozens of fruit concoctions, nut mixtures, grain mixtures, raw soups, raw pies, raw cakes, raw confections …” at the restaurant. 

John would give lectures at the restaurant too, not only on diet but also general wellness, exercise and illnesses, topics that often touched on proper bowel movements. The restaurants and lifestyle they promoted became so well-known that LA Times columnist Lee Shippey lampooned restaurant-goers with the name “Trophers” and wrote, “They are so eager to spread their gospel that they don’t even charge admission” for John’s lectures.

They created a cultlike following. At their restaurants, the Richters hired others who believed in and would proselytize the natural-living message. This included the Nature Boys, a group of young men who lived outside in Los Angeles in caves and canyons. They grew their hair long and basked naked in the California sun. Some worked or played music at the Richters’ restaurants, and Vera’s food and John’s lectures influenced their diets and lifestyle. One of them, Eden Ahbez, would go on to write the famous song “Nature Boy” and sell it to Nat King Cole. Another, California hippie Robert Bootzin, who went by Gypsy Boots, opened a health food store in 1958 and was one of the early proponents of the smoothie.

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Au naturel: The Nature Boys.

While the Nature Boys and other Californians used the ideals of back-to-the-land ethos to pave the way for hippies, in Germany the Lebensreform movement continued as well, but the idea that it was “specifically German” led to a connection between the holistic movement and nationalism, says Staudenmaier. “They didn’t just see it metaphorically,” he says — they believed this holistic health approach should be part of the German nationalist ideology. Early members of the Nazi Party like Hanns Georg Müller were part of the Lebensreform movement and brought these ideals into the Third Reich. Müller played a role in the Nazi Party’s department of public health, while the Reich Committee for a New German Art of Healing focused on alternative healing methods and included doctors of homeopathic and naturopathic medicine. 

The Eutropheons lasted until the 1940s, not quite long enough to see the hippie era, but people still recognize their role as trailblazing vegans. Vera’s 1926 cookbook was recently republished as Vintage Vegan: Recipes From Inside the World’s First Vegan Restaurant, as the Eutropheon claims to be the world’s first vegan restaurant — something LA likes to add to its bona fides as the health food capital of the world.

 
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George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies | Best Classic Bands

George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies | Best Classic Bands


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George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies

George “Pops” Chambers, the oldest of the musical family that together formed the American soul-rock band the Chambers Brothers, and earned their biggest success with the 1968 single “Time Has Come Today,” died today (October 12). The news was announced on the band’s Facebook page.

A brief post, presumably by George Chambers’ brother, Lester, stated, “To all our fans, friends and loved ones, I was informed this morning at about 5:00 am, that my brother George, known as ‘Pops’ Chambers, has passed. We thank you for all your years of Love Peace and Happiness.” It was accompanied by a clip of the band’s song, “Heaven.”

George Chambers, the oldest, was born Sept. 26, 1931, who sang and played the bass; Willie, one of the two guitarists, followed in 1938; Lester, who sang, played harmonica and tick-tocked the cowbell, arrived next, in 1940; Joe, the other guitarist, was the youngest, born in 1942.

For most rock fans, the Chambers Brothers were a new group when they scrambled up the charts with their breakout single and album in 1968, but they were already veteran performers. Originally from Carthage, Miss., the brothers had started out harmonizing in their church choir. By the early ’60s they’d migrated to Los Angeles, where they turned pro. They built a reputation as a formidable gospel quartet and managed to get decent gigs on the budding folk circuit, playing all of the popular festivals and coffeehouses. The king of folk music himself, Pete Seeger, got the brothers booked at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and they were soon on their way.

Listen to the Chambers Brothers’ “Heaven”

 

 

With a drummer, Brian Keenan, on board—making the Chambers Brothers one of the first interracial bands in popular music—they discovered a niche that was equal parts contemporary soul and the new rock, exemplified to impressive effect on their debut album, People Get Ready, recorded live at the Ash Grove in L.A. and the Unicorn in Boston, and released on Vault Records in 1965.

They got the encouragement they needed from their new label, Columbia Records—they’d sung backup there on an unreleased version of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”—which assigned the hot producer David Rubinson to the group. Rubinson latched onto a song composed by Willie and Joe, “Time Has Come Today,” and went immediately about the business of transforming the Chambers Brothers.

The first version, recorded in August 1966 and released as a single, failed to chart, and the Chambers Brothers couldn’t seem to catch a break for the next several months, although their live shows were quickly becoming legend for the spirit and intensity the singer-musicians brought to their brand of soul-rock. By the summer of 1967, psychedelia had become all the rage, with the arrival of Sgt. Pepper, Jimi Hendrix and the San Francisco bands. The Chambers Brothers had anticipated the music’s growth with their original “Time” single (which included the line “my soul has been psychedelicized”) and Rubinson decided to give the tune a second chance. That August he let the band loose in the studio to recreate the wild, elongated version they’d developed during their nonstop touring. This time, the brothers went all out. An extended jam was inserted into the recording: wailing electric guitars; spacey, acid-infused effects; tons of reverb; maniacal shouting. It slowed down, speeded up again, went off into the stratosphere. Even the cowbell was put through the studio’s battery of gizmos, echoing until it barely resembled a cowbell anymore. It was acid-rock at its most lysergic.

Listen to the full 11-minute version of “Time Has Come Today”

 

 

Rubinson placed the 11-minute reboot of “Time Has Come Today” at the tail end of the band’s debut Columbia album, similarly titled The Time Has Come. The LP overall offered a cross-section of the brothers’ strengths, including original material plus a few well-chosen covers—a replay of “People Get Ready,” Bacharach-David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”—but it was the over-the-top long version of “Time Has Come Today” that intrigued disc jockeys at the newly emerging FM rock stations, where the motto was the more psychedelic the better. Listeners started to catch on.

Columbia didn’t see “Time…” as a single at first. Although the Doors had hit #1 with a stripped-down version of their own supersized “Light My Fire,” Columbia went instead with “Uptown,” an uptempo gospel-fueled raver that landed the Chambers Brothers their first Billboard single in the fall of ’67, although it topped out at #126.

Finally, in December 1967, more than a year after the first version was recorded, an edited version of “Time Has Come Today” was released as a single. This time, the radio stations that couldn’t play an 11-minute version took the reins. The single finally charted in September 1968, taking an enormous leap on Sept. 21 from #61 to #20. It ultimately rose to #11, giving the Chambers Brothers the biggest hit of their career.

Related: Our feature on “Time Has Come Today”

The Chambers Brothers remained a top live and recording act into the mid-’70s, placing another eight singles on the Billboard chart (including a bang-up cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”). The album The Time Has Come began its ascent to #4 in early 1968 and was followed by A New Time—A New Day ((1968, #16), Love, Peace and Happiness (1969-70, #58), a greatest hits collection in 1970 and New Generation (1971, #145), before the Chambers Brothers left the world of the charts for good.

Eventually, Columbia dropped the band and although they signed with other labels and added/subtracted additional personnel to augment the siblings, they never regained their commercial hold. Today Lester Chambers performs on his own with his band the Mudstompers, while Joe and Willie still perform as the Chambers Brothers. George returned to singing gospel again in his later years. Original drummer Brian Keenan died in 1985.

 
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WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning. – The New York Times

WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning. – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/11/arts/music/wnyc-new-sounds-schaefer.html
 

WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning.

By Michael Cooper

Oct. 11, 2019

The eclectic radio program that has influenced New York’s music scene since 1982 is going off the air. 

John Schaefer, the longtime host of “New Sounds” on WNYC-FM, at Lincoln Center in 2011. The station said the show would go off the air at the end of the year.
John Schaefer, the longtime host of “New Sounds” on WNYC-FM, at Lincoln Center in 2011. The station said the show would go off the air at the end of the year.Chad Batka for The New York Times

For your expanding “New York isn’t as cool as it used to be” file: WNYC-FM told its staff this week that it would end “New Sounds,” a genre-defying radio program that has played an outsize role in the city’s new music scene for nearly four decades.

“Why would they do that?” Laurie Anderson, the avant-garde composer and musician who was the first artist interviewed on the show when it began back in 1982, said by telephone.

The station said in an email sent to its staff on Thursday that it planned to close the program by the end of the year, along with most of its remaining music programming, as it shifts to more news and talk.

“This is a continuation of the momentum that began when we replaced daytime music on WNYC-FM with news/talk format programs in 2002,” the station said in the email to its staff.

Stay on top of the latest in pop and jazz with reviews, interviews, podcasts and more from The New York Times music critics.

“New Sounds,” which has been hosted since its beginning by John Schaefer,eked out a distinctive place on the dial with programming that was truly eclectic.

It was one of the first, if not the very first, radio program to play Philip Glass’s 1984 opera “Akhnaten,” which is coming to the Metropolitan Opera this season. It featured the Bang on a Can collective in its early days. (“They were barbarians at the gate, and now two are Pulitzer Prize winners,” Mr. Schaefer said in a telephone interview.) It drew Brian Eno and the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to its studio, and on any given night might feature Balinese gamelan music, country, avant-garde jazz or all of the above.

“What I set out to do was to give a home on the radio to music that was, I guess, homeless — that didn’t fit into any of the neatly defined categories back in the days of the record store,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I thought there were lots of people out there like me, who are just curious — and would like something if you just gave them the chance to hear it.”

The show’s disappearance comes as radio is changing dramatically, both nationally — where stations that play classical music and noncommercial genres are being eliminated in many markets — and locally, where public radio stations have been going through significant upheaval.

WNYC has become a powerhouse in recent decades, but in recent years it has been buffeted by the dismissal of some of its biggest stars, the long-serving hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz, amid unspecified allegations of inappropriate behavior, which they have denied. This summer New York Public Radio, WNYC’s parent organization, announced a new leader: Goli Sheikholeslami, who previously led Chicago Public Media, took over from Laura R. Walker, who had led the organization for nearly 24 years.

The station said in its email to staff that it would “sunset the New Sounds brand (the radio program and digital stream)” as well as Soundcheck, another of Mr. Schaefer’s shows, which mixed live performances, artist interviews and talk, and which was moved online in 2014. It said that it would also end its Gig Alerts, its weekly music previews, and its Sunday afternoon show devoted to American standards by the end of the year. Its last remaining program featuring what it calls “playlist music” will be The Saturday Show, the American-songbook successor to Mr. Schwartz’s program, which plays on Saturday nights.

When “New Sounds” started, radio was still one of the few ways to hear new and offbeat music — a monopoly it has lost in recent years to the internet, and to streaming services. The station did not disclose its ratings, but said that other factors also played a role in the decision to end the program.

“The decision to sunset New Sounds wasn’t fueled solely by ratings,” Jennifer Houlihan Roussel, a spokeswoman for New York Public Radio, said in an email. “The WNYC audience is overwhelmingly a news/talk audience, and we are consolidating music to Saturday nights to better serve that listenership.”

Still, some artists were aghast. Julia Wolfe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, said that a “New Sounds” program about the early days of Bang on a Can, which she helped found, helped them find new listeners at a key moment. 

“It was huge, because we were just kids, and we did this crazy thing, and there it was, on the radio,” she recalled in an interview.

“It’s like razing the house you live in — it’s a terrible thing,” she said of the decision. “John’s been the travel guide, and he’s taken us on all these incredible journeys.”

The station said it would work with Mr. Schaefer, who also presents live concert series around the city, to find “a new home for the New Sounds brand,” but it was not clear would that would look like. WQXR, New York Public Radio’s music station, remains committed to classical music, the station said in its email.

On Friday, Mr. Schaefer asked Ms. Anderson, his first guest, if she would also be his last. She agreed.

“I’m a little bit worried about the whole New York arts scene,” Ms. Anderson said. “I remember when John started, his studio was down on Chambers Street, and a lot of artists and musicians lived around there. Now very few do. It’s a lot of empty condos.”

But she was not ready to give up yet. “How about a ‘less news, more music’ campaign?” she wrote in a follow-up email a few minutes after hanging up. “I’d be happy to spearhead it.”

Michael Cooper covers classical music and dance. He was previously a national correspondent; a political reporter covering presidential campaigns; and a metro reporter covering the police, City Hall and Albany. @coopnytimes •Facebook

 

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Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2019/10/10/MCG-Jazz-book-Spirit-to-Spirit-Pittsburgh-history/stories/201910020205
 

Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures

Jazz fans know that Pittsburgh’s well of musical and vocal talent runs deeper and stronger than the mighty Ohio River.

Now everyone can read about gifted veterans and emerging performers who make this town swing in a new book, “Spirit to Spirit: A Portrait of Pittsburgh Jazz in the New Century.”

With appropriately rhythmic prose from author Abby Mendelson and stunning photographs by David Aschkenas, the elegant volume designed by David Wachter is a hymn to jazz and an homage to the cool cats and chanteuses whose memorable performances stir our souls.

The book was six years in the making, and — remarkably — each member of this high-flying trio gave his time and talents for free. MCG Jazz, a venue for recording, preserving and showcasing jazz, paid for the book’s publication.

“SPIRIT TO SPIRIT: A PORTRAIT OF PITTSBURGH JAZZ IN THE NEW CENTURY”
By Abby Mendelson
MCG Jazz ($39.95).

Mr. Mendelson’s prose puts you in the rooms where the soloists soar and the band plays the notes hard and right. Here is how he describes trumpeter Ron Horton:

“Modest and moderate, calm and clear, firm against all comers, there stands Horton like a stone wall. In this maelstrom of music, in the rattle and hum of Roger Humphries’ rolling thunder drums, Max Leake’s impossible arpeggios on keyboard, Dwayne Dolphin’s thundering bass, Lou Stellute’s wall-shaking sax, Horton is the rajah of restraint.”     

From Agnes Katz Plaza to the Backstage Bar in Downtown’s Cabaret at Theater Square, from City of Asylum’s Alphabet City to Andys in The Fairmont, Mr. Mendelson and Mr. Aschkenas visit the venues, soaking up the sound and the stories. 

The book’s pictures show why jazz is so integral to Pittsburgh’s past, present and future. Music lovers as well as aspiring musicians, singers and teachers may come to consider it a kind of grail.

Why did Pittsburgh produce so many jazz legends? 

“My high school music teacher told me that jazz is indigenous to African American people,” Dolphin says in the book. “To tell that to a 15-year-old kid is completely empowering.”  

In the first half of 20th century, students took free music lessons at the Hill District’s Irene Kaufmann Settlement. Many families owned pianos, and public high schools such as Westinghouse, Schenley and Peabody emphasized music education. Back then, at least 30 night spots dotted the Hill District, notably the Hurricane, the Harlem Casino and the Crawford Grill Nos. 1 and 2.

Pittsburgh virtuosos who set a high bar for excellence include Ray Brown, Errol Garner, Mary Lou Williams and George Benson. A guitarist who started playing in clubs at age 7, Benson is still alive. The rest are gone but can be heard on recordings or seen on the internet. 

Today’s local jazz incubators include Homewood’s Afro American Music Institute, Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, university music programs, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and that harder than hard knocks school called the road.   

In the book, trumpeter Sean Jones offers this argument for Pittsburgh’s place in jazz history: “Pittsburgh, as the center of the Industrial Revolution, produced an enormous working class. And with it a great work ethic. That was the anvil. You worked. You worked hard. You won.” 

For African Americans, “jazz served the twin goals of self-expression and a better life,” Mr. Mendelson writes.  

Some readers will wonder about artists who are missing from the book, including vocalist Maureen Budway and Geri Allen, an arranger, musician and educator who influenced many young people. Both women died before interviews could be scheduled, Budway in 2015 and Allen in 2017. The same is true for keyboard player Donna Davis, who is pictured in the center of the book. She died in 2015.

The book will be released Thursday night at MCG Jazz when five musicians are inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Legends class of 2019. The inductees are percussionist George Jones, pianist Max Leake, drummer Chuck Spatafore, saxophonist Lou Stellute and guitarist Mark Strickland. 

The doors at MCG Jazz, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side, open at 6:30 p.m., followed by an induction ceremony at 7 p.m. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m, the Ralph Peterson Messenger Legacy Band plays a tribute to Art Blakey. The drummer and bandleader of the Jazz Messengers was born in Pittsburgh a century ago on Oct. 11, 1919. A reception follows the concert.

For more information, visit mcgjazz.org

Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter:@mpitzpg.

 
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Make Your Own Vinyl Records With the $1,100 Phonocut | WIRED

Make Your Own Vinyl Records With the $1,100 Phonocut | WIRED


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https://www.wired.com/story/phonocut/
 

Cut Your Own Vinyl Records With This $1,100 Machine

The Phonocut is an at-home vinyl lathe, allowing anyone with a digital audio file and a dream to make a 10-inch record.

Boone Ashworth
10.10.2019 09:00 AM

 

vinyl recorder Photograph: Phonocut

Better clear out several shelves of storage space, vinylheads, because your record collection is about to expand into infinity. Soon, you’ll be able to get absolutely anything on vinyl. Even better—you’ll be able to make it.

The Phonocut is an analog vinyl lathe, the first consumer device capable of making custom records immediately, right there in your home (assuming you’re willing to pay $1,100 for the privilege).

The device cuts 10-inch vinyl records, which can hold about 10 to 15 minutes of audio on each side. It’s a connected device; a companion app helps with formatting and song arrangement to better fit your music onto the two sides. But at its core, the Phonocut was designed for simplicity. All you have to do is plug in an audio cable, like from a headphone jack, and press Play.

“It has to be idiot-proof,” says Florian “Doc” Kaps, an Austrian analog enthusiast and Phonocut cofounder. “Even I myself should be in a position to cut the records.”

The machine works in real time. As the music plays, a diamond stylus etches the sound wave straight into the surface of the vinyl. Theoretically, you could put any audio you want on there—a custom playlist, your own embarrassing electronica experiments, whale sounds—whatever. After a half hour of playback, you have a physical saucer of sound ready to pick up, hold, and toss on a turntable.

Kaps, who has a fascination with the ways that analog technologies engage the senses, dreamed up the machine with his business partners.

“Digital has a big problem, you know—it’s not real,” Kaps says. “You can very easily access it, but you only can see it, or you can hear it. You never can lick it, you cannot smell it, and you can’t touch it. We human beings do have these five senses. And at the end of the day, we need all these five senses to fall in love, to feel happy, to build trust.”

The resurgence of vinyl records in the past decade has once again made the sonic frisbees a viable medium of music. Third Man Records, Jack White’s label, has been cutting live studio performances to acetate for years. Other small presses are popping up to fuel the demand for vinyl product from independent artists. But if the Phonocut can live up to the great expectations it’s setting for itself, it could usher in a whole new era of the vinyl experience.

“People love records, but they don’t know anything about how they are produced,” Kaps says. “We have to inspire them to think about it and raise their awareness for the possibilities of what they can do with it.”

top down photo of a record player
Courtesy of Phonocut

The Phonocut unit itself is about the size of regular home turntable. It’s housed in a sturdy metal box that measures about a foot wide by a foot and a half long. It weighs around 18 pounds. (They’re still sorting out all the internals, so the specs could fluctuate a bit before final release.) The mechanics were created in partnership with a team of inventors and technicians, including Swiss lathe aficionado Flo Kaufman and audio engineer (and analog resurrection veteran) KamranV.

“When people are making these records, it’s about the meaning of them, the emotional process,” KamranV says. He compares cutting a custom record to assembling a mixtape: “It was the idea of making it and then taping it in real time and giving it to someone. That’s the same emotion that we dream of this machine bringing for others.”

In 2008, Kaps cofounded the Impossible Project, an ultimately successful effort to revive Polaroid film after the legacy US company discontinued its film production. That same love for analog technology has steered the creation of the Phonocut. For Kaps, there’s an undeniable appeal to a physical product.

“It’s not an art project,” Kaps says. “We really want to change the world of the music industry and offer a new option. It will never replace streaming or anything, but it will inspire people to create real beautiful, tangible pieces of music again.”

The Phonocut is available for preorder today, though it will still be some time before it is released. The company says it plans to ship the first run of units in December 2020. It might be a long delay, but Kaps isn’t worried about it. He says that the appeal will always be there.

“Even in a digital world, this hasn’t lost the magic,” Kaps says. “When you put a record on the turntable and you hear the noise—kshht—and then suddenly you dive into this beautiful sound of a record.”


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The gospel according to Mama Lou | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

The gospel according to Mama Lou | Music Feature | Chicago Reader


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https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/gospel-fellowship-lou-della-evans-reid-clay-church/Content?oid=74474043
 

The gospel according to Mama Lou

Lou Della Evans-Reid spent nearly 40 years as minister of music for Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, but even at age 89 this trailblazer isn’t done spreading the good news.

By  @writefelissa

Lou Della Evans-Reid takes the stage at First Church of Deliverance. When she directs a choir, she says, her chronic back pain falls away: "I feel like God is guiding my hands." - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid takes the stage at First Church of Deliverance. When she directs a choir, she says, her chronic back pain falls away: “I feel like God is guiding my hands.”
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

This past Easter Sunday, Lou Della Evans-Reid walked across the stage at First Church of Deliverance, where the 89-year-old serves as a music adviser. Though she’s not quite four foot 11, when she leads that choir she transforms into a monumental presence. Dressed in a white robe, she stood underneath an illuminated cross and opened her arms wide like Moses parting the Red Sea, summoning a hundred singers to follow her.

Evans-Reid is known for directing not just the choir but the congregation as well. As she yelled out the next line, she spun around to bring the audience in, then turned back to herd her vocalists, shepherding a call-and-response exchange. The choir and congregation met in unison at the chorus, with piano and drums marching behind, ready to deliver God’s message. The harmonies of the crowd and the choir’s four sections collided, swallowing Evans-Reid whole—until that moment, you might not have realized that the microphones onstage were live, but the PA speakers suddenly seemed to blare with overwhelming massed voices. Evans-Reid raised her right hand, tossed her head, and let out one last roar to close the song. 

To watch Evans-Reid perform is to witness Black history. “I just ask the Lord to direct me,” she says. “You direct me, Lord, and I’ll direct the choir. Some days, I don’t know what I’m going to do until the spirit hits me.” 

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid and her choir released this live album in 2015.
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In Chicago’s gospel scene, she’s a living legend, responsible for inspiring a fleet of musicians, producers, and choir directors across the city, the state, the nation, and even the world. A flock of fans—most of them loyal churchgoers from multigenerational families—often crowds around Evans-Reid after a Sunday service.

In 1950 Evans-Reid was one of five charter members of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, led by her older brother, the Reverend Clay Evans. “The Ship,” as it’s often called, has become a beloved south-side institution and a powerhouse in the world of gospel music, and it’s well remembered for its support of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Evans-Reid served as its music director from 1963 till her retirement in 2000. 

Mama Lou catches up with church members before the 10 AM service at Fellowship Missionary Baptist. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou catches up with church members before the 10 AM service at Fellowship Missionary Baptist.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Retiring hasn’t taken Evans-Reid out of the church, though. She still works with three choirs: she’s a music adviser for the one at First Deliverance, of course; she’s an executive board member and music coordinator for the advocacy group Gospel Music According to Chicago (GMAC), for which she also directs a choir; and she leads a traditional community choir of her own, which rehearses at Fellowship.

“She’s gospel. She’s good news,” says Pam Morris-Walton, 69, formerly an event coordinator for the city of Chicago and lead producer for the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. Now host of a gospel radio program on iconic Black news and talk station WVON 1690 AM, Morris-Walton says Evans-Reid’s rendition of the hymn “A New Name in Glory” is still a favorite on her weekend broadcast.

In this community, Evans-Reid—in fact the whole Evans family—is a household name. Lou Della, her brother Clay, and Fellowship Missionary Baptist are usually mentioned in the same breath. 

Chicago is the birthplace of gospel music, and in the 1950s Fellowship became the epicenter for traveling gospel singers, musicians, and preachers. Bishop Walter Hawkins, a 1981 Grammy winner from the Oakland-based Love Center Choir, passed through the church, and in the 1950s so did the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his young daughter Aretha, who later became the Queen of Soul. Frequent visitors from the city itself included Sam Cooke and James Cleveland.

In fact, before Evans heard his calling to the ministry, he was a bright-eyed young singer from Brownsville, Tennessee, who’d come to Chicago in search of a better life and landed a chance to perform alongside Cleveland in famed gospel group the Lux Singers. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has been a member of Fellowship Missionary Baptist for more than five decades. Evans ordained him as an associate minister in the summer of 1965 and cofounded Jackson’s Operation PUSH in 1971. And last month Kanye West helped celebrate Fellowship’s 69th anniversary by performing at the church, following his morning gospel service on Northerly Island.

Like gospel music itself, the Evanses’ legacy is rooted in oral tradition. People love to tell stories about how Clay became a momentous figure during the civil rights movement, how Lou Della used to run up and down the church aisles, how a thousand people would gather for a live broadcast at Fellowship at 11 PM on a Sunday. This is history that’s not often spoken outside of the Black community, and it can easily be lost as soon as the song ends, the service comes to a close, and Evans-Reid picks up her purse and walks out the door.

Even the story of the construction of Fellowship’s current home (at 4543 S. Princeton) sounds like a parable from the Bible. In 1966 Evans defied Mayor Richard J. Daley to welcome Martin Luther King Jr. to the city. His decision to stand with Dr. King jeopardized his plans to give his church, then located in a converted garage on South State Street, a new building.

Jesse Jackson had cosigned the mortgage loan to finance the new church’s construction, but Evans-Reid says the city of Chicago put a stop to the project by interfering with building permits. For seven years—until it was finally completed in 1973—what’s now Fellowship was just a steel skeleton waiting for its body. While the city and the nation remained divided, Fellowship’s bare bones became a beacon of hope.

Mama Lou checks herself in the mirror before taking the stage at First Church of Deliverance on Easter Sunday. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou checks herself in the mirror before taking the stage at First Church of Deliverance on Easter Sunday.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

“Reverend wasn’t afraid,” Evans-Reid says. “He wasn’t afraid. He says, ‘You can’t! You have to be courageous! You can’t be afraid as a leader. I stand for my folks.'”

“I found myself praying so much for him,” she says. “I prayed for the Lord to keep him on a straight and narrow path, and that he would be able to go head-on and become the pastor and the preacher, the man of God that God wanted him to be.”

Pastor DeAndre Patterson, 53, who serves at Destiny Worship Center on the west side and Miracle Revival Cathedral in Maywood, remembers those trials. “God be to glory that none of that steel rotted during that time, that the church is still standing here years later,” he says. He grew up in Christian Tabernacle Church at Prairie and 47th, a mile from Fellowship.

“I was a kid, but I do remember, because we had family on 53rd and Morgan, and we would drive past and I’d say, ‘Mom! Grandma! What is going on with the building?'” he says. “And they would tell us stories about the mayor, because Reverend Evans stood with Reverend King.”

During that time, Evans advised his followers to fast and pray, just as Jesus, his apostles, and countless other biblical figures had done as a way to seek God’s comfort, guidance, and protection. “When we fast and pray, we fast and pray to God,” Evans-Reid says. “We asked him to answer our prayers, if it’s his will and his way.”

Hundreds of Black Chicagoans sought refuge at Fellowship in those years, swelling its congregation. With their freedom and future at stake, they turned to Clay and Lou Della for strength. She believed that singing together could bring salvation. Gospel music had descended from African African spirituals, grown from slavery and carved out of struggle. Backed by her traditional choir, Evans-Reid used the power of praise to uplift.

“Sometimes, it’s just the words of the song,” she says, and recites the first hymn that comes to her mind. “What a friend we have in Jesus / All our sins and our griefs to bear / What a privilege, a privilege it is to carry.'”

“It just gives them hope,” she says. “It’s hope for you. That’s it. The church is hope. The songs are hope for the people.”

A stylized painting of Mama Lou hangs above the fireplace in her living room in southwest-side Wrightwood. Her niece bought it at a garage sale while on vacation in New Orleans 25 years ago. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • A stylized painting of Mama Lou hangs above the fireplace in her living room in southwest-side Wrightwood. Her niece bought it at a garage sale while on vacation in New Orleans 25 years ago.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

In the family room of Evans-Reid’s home in southwest-side Wrightwood, a large portrait of her hangs above the fireplace. The gold frame forms a halo around her angelic figure, and she appears to be singing in a long, white robe before a congregation. It’s like a scene from the transfiguration: she basks in the light of the Lord.

Evans-Reid has a story that goes along with that painting. She laughs as she explains that her niece found it at a garage sale in Louisiana. Her niece paid $40 for it—Evans-Reid kept the receipt as proof.

Dozens of awards honoring her work as Fellowship’s most beloved music director hang on the walls, cover the tables in the living room, and rest on the lid of her piano near the front door. In her dining room, she’s hung a letter from former Illinois governor George Ryan congratulating her upon her retirement from Fellowship almost 20 years ago. And though she’s never met Barack and Michelle Obama, she got a letter from them in 2010 wishing her a happy 80th birthday.

Mama Lou laughs in embarrassment during her 89th birthday party this past July at the Greater Cathedral Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Her birthday celebration brings together churches and choirs from around the city. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou laughs in embarrassment during her 89th birthday party this past July at the Greater Cathedral Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Her birthday celebration brings together churches and choirs from around the city.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Evans-Reid loves to talk about her birthdays, because she believes that’s where her story starts. She was born on the seventh day of July, the seventh month, and she’s the seventh of ten children. In the Book of Genesis, God created the world in seven days. The number seven symbolizes completeness.

“This has been an enjoyable life,” she says. “I’m so glad that God decided—he decided this before I was born, that this is the way that he wanted me to go. I didn’t know about it, but I haven’t rebelled against it. Not at all.”

Although 14 years have passed since her 75th birthday, Evans-Reid likes to revisit it. She still has extra copies of the booklet and DVDs made for the party Fellowship threw for her in 2005. It’s not about bragging rights with Evans-Reid. It’s that she’s still overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who packed the church that night to be with “little old me.”

Mama Lou rests in her living room to give her aching back a break. "These last few days have been hard," she says. Despite her age, she stays active, going out for Chinese food with choir friends and taking daily walks on a treadmill. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou rests in her living room to give her aching back a break. “These last few days have been hard,” she says. Despite her age, she stays active, going out for Chinese food with choir friends and taking daily walks on a treadmill.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
Mama Lou belts out the hymn "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" on the piano in her home. "These old fingers don't play so well anymore," she says. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou belts out the hymn “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” on the piano in her home. “These old fingers don’t play so well anymore,” she says.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

In the eyes of many of those people, Evans-Reid is a trailblazer: she’s a Black woman who’s held leadership roles in the church. Of the five charter members of Fellowship, two of whom were Evans-Reid’s brothers Pharis and Joseph, she was the only woman. 

Evans-Reid served as the church’s first pianist, and when she became its minister of music in 1963 (a more formal way to say “music director”), she oversaw the senior, young adult, and youth choirs, which performed together on Sundays. By 1980, total membership in those groups had swelled to 200.

“A lot of people, especially the younger generation, don’t really know her,” says Fred Nelson III, 59, a family friend who’s musical director at New Faith Baptist Church International in Matteson. He’s also spent many years as a music executive, and served as conductor and musical director for Aretha Franklin from 2011 until her passing in 2018. “What’s more important probably at the end of the day is not Mama Lou, but what she brought to the platform, whether people ever know who she really was,” Nelson says. “What she brought to the movement is bigger than her little four-foot self. I mean, really, it’s what she brought, and they may never know.”

Evans-Reid was 20 years old when she followed in Clay’s footsteps and moved to Chicago from Brownsville, a small town an hour away from Memphis. With Pharis by her side, she arrived here on Labor Day weekend in 1950. She was newly divorced with a baby and in search of a new beginning. Her mother had encouraged her to leave Brownsville and their cotton farm behind and to make something of herself. Evans-Reid even changed her name: born Ludella Evans, she chose to split her first name in two. “I changed it to a capital L-o-u,” she says, laughing. “That’s a man’s name, but I didn’t know no different.” 

To this day, Evans-Reid looks up to her mother, who taught her strength and the value of hard work. While her father managed the cotton farm, her mother grew an acre of vegetables to sell. Evans-Reid likes to tell a story that illustrates her mother’s independence: she traded in her horse and buggy for a car, so she could get to the city faster with those vegetables.

“I’m like my mom,” Evans-Reid says. They both had that “go-getter” attitude, she explains. 

Between Lou Della and Clay, he was recognized as the great orator, towering over his podium, delivering sermons so powerful that Jesse Jackson still repeats the tale of the first time he heard Clay on the radio. It was July 5, 1965, and he was driving to church when he heard the reverend say “I must tell Jesus” in what he describes as the most “profound and spiritual way.” Jackson turned his car right around and headed for Fellowship. Lou Della, on the other hand, became known as an animated choir director with a knack for composing, handpicking talent, and putting on a show.

“Lou Della is an icon,” says Pastor DeAndre Patterson. “People went to see her. They didn’t only go to see her brother. They went to see her. They wanted to hear the music.”

A congregant lies on the floor after feeling the spirit during a Mama Lou choir performance at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • A congregant lies on the floor after feeling the spirit during a Mama Lou choir performance at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
At Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Mama Lou jokes with her protege Malcolm Williams, who directs a choir for Gospel Music According to Chicago. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • At Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Mama Lou jokes with her protege Malcolm Williams, who directs a choir for Gospel Music According to Chicago.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Patterson, Nelson, and Malcolm Williams, a 12-year choir director for the Gospel Music According to Chicago, all remember a time when Fellowship’s weekly radio broadcast and one-hour TV special dominated gospel media. The church took to the radio in 1952 and stayed there for five decades; its first TV series, What a Fellowship Hour, launched in 1977 and ran till 1991. Both programs laid important groundwork for how gospel music should sound, look, and feel.

“Every Saturday night, my grandparents would watch Fellowship,” says Williams, 49. “I used to watch her as a choir director on the church broadcast, and as she would direct at church, as she ran across the stage, I used to run across the living room trying to be her.”

Williams says Evans-Reid’s “natural spirit” caught his attention. “She had such a way of just commanding the choir, and at the time they had a humongous choir, probably the biggest choir I ain’t ever seen. To be able to lift your hands and you have 200 people who will do exactly what you want them to do at the same time, it was just amazing to me.”

There’s something else about Evans-Reid that Patterson, Williams, and many others have found endearing: She clearly cared about her choir. If she found out that one of her own was sick, she’d pray for them, call to check up on them, send cards with donations, and visit them in the hospital—and she encouraged other members of the choir to do the same. 

Mama Lou is famous in the church community not just for her talent as a music director but also for her sweet potato pie. "I don't measure," she says, scooping sugar in her kitchen. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou is famous in the church community not just for her talent as a music director but also for her sweet potato pie. “I don’t measure,” she says, scooping sugar in her kitchen.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Evans-Reid also has a silly side, which tends to show up during the quietest moments of a church service. “You could be sitting there, and she’ll lean over and say stuff that take you,” Williams says. “And it’s so bad! I’ll be laughing and tears are rolling down my face, and she’ll be sitting there with a straight face like she didn’t say anything.” 

And it’d be an oversight not to mention her homemade sweet potato pie. The simple southern comfort dish is a coveted dessert at church gatherings. 

“That’s why they call her ‘Mama Lou,'” Nelson says. “Everywhere she goes, she makes you feel like you in her family.”

That nickname, “Mama Lou,” didn’t come from her choristers but instead from her coworkers outside the church. Evans-Reid was a surgical nurse for almost 50 years, securing her license in 1960 and retiring in 2007. Among the places she worked were Saint Anne’s Hospital on the west side and Saint Luke’s Hospital downtown, both now closed. She was used to being on call and on her feet for long shifts, and she loved taking care of people. She had a gift for healing. 

“You live for other people,” Evans-Reid says. “That’s what our lives was about. What can I do to help somebody to get to where they’re trying to go? We got a song that we sing, ‘If I can help somebody, then my living shall not be in vain.’ And that’s true.”

Mama Lou visits her 94-year-old brother, the Reverend Clay Evans, at his home in Roseland. "Half of him is me, and half of me is him," she says. "I know we're grown, but I still look up to him as my big brother. I can talk to him about my problems and ask for advice." - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou visits her 94-year-old brother, the Reverend Clay Evans, at his home in Roseland. “Half of him is me, and half of me is him,” she says. “I know we’re grown, but I still look up to him as my big brother. I can talk to him about my problems and ask for advice.”
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
Behind Clay's head is a photo of him with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Behind Clay’s head is a photo of him with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

On Wednesdays, Lou Della visits Clay at his home in Roseland. She’s usually heading to or coming from a noon prayer meeting at Fellowship when she stops by. These days Clay, 94, can often be found resting in his shaded bedroom, tucked under burgundy sheets with his companion dog, Angel, napping beside him.

During these visits, the two often talk about family, friends, or people from their past, some of whom might have celebrated new milestones or have moved on to the next life. Other times, they just talk about their days.

“How did you sleep last night?” Lou Della asks, reaching for his hand.
”Pretty good,” says Clay.
”I prayed. I said, ‘Lord! Let him sleep like a baby,'” she says. 

For the most part, Lou Della says, she and Clay have been blessed with good health in their old age. Though they’ve both had serious scares since retirement (Clay in 2000 with pancreatic cancer, Lou Della in 2007 with thyroid cancer), they were both fortunate to catch the disease early. They had surgery and have been cancer free ever since.

But at their age, Lou Della says, they don’t move or even speak the same way they used to. There’s a softness in Clay’s voice now; he follows every word he utters with a pause. His caregiver is on standby to offer help with everyday tasks. As for Lou Della, she relies on hearing aids and sometimes a walker.

For them, these weekly visits are sacred. “We are so close. We look alike,” Lou Della says. “Tell you the truth, he and I have been together longer than anybody in the world that’s living.”

“My brothers in between us and above me, they all gone,” she continues. “He and I are now closer to each other. We five years apart, but we’ve been together all these years.”

Even when Clay and Lou Della retired from Fellowship, they did it together. The running joke is that Lou Della did it reluctantly—or that she didn’t really retire at all. “Didn’t happen,” Patterson says bluntly. “He’s retired, living life. She’s still taking care of a choir.”

Nelson offers a story to illustrate what separates Clay and Lou Della. A few years ago, he invited them to a gathering at his church in Matteson. “He sat up there,” Nelson says, pointing to the first pew at New Faith Baptist. “He didn’t even want to talk. He was just here in his white suit. They brought him in his Rolls Royce, and he was this grandpapa. She directed a song with the choir, ‘It Is Well,’ and lit up the place. And they came here to do what they did, and they just left.”

Mama Lou was recently invited to Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, to direct the choir and teach its members new songs. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou was recently invited to Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, to direct the choir and teach its members new songs.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

“Keep-a-livin'” is Evans-Reid’s motto. Her mornings are split between walking on the treadmill in her basement and reading devotional books. Some nights, she might be over at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, where her GMAC choir rehearses, or working with the choir at First Church of Deliverance. Other days are reserved for Bible class, faith workshops, Sunday school, or church hopping with close friends. Recently Evans-Reid spent a weekend at Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, answering the call of a pastor who’d asked for her help. She worked with the church’s small choir and taught them a couple songs. 

At choir practice or on Sundays, Evans-Reid still makes it a point to sit in the first seat in the front row. When a song starts, she tilts her head and lifts her right hand on cue, following the movement of the melody; she sings a verse or two before turning around to see if everyone else has joined in.

“Every night, it’s in my prayer,” she says. “I say, ‘Lord, I want to be pleasing and acceptable in your sight.’ That’s my prayer every night. . . . This has been a life. I’m always grateful to God and the people that helped me, that influenced me.”

For all her accomplishments, Evans-Reid hasn’t been canonized the way her most famous brother has. Photographs on shelves behind Clay’s bed tell the story of his decades of service. A black-and-white print directly above him looks like a page ripped from a history book: he’s joined by a young Reverend Jesse Jackson and by Muhammad Ali, a poignant reminder of Fellowship’s influence and the roles all three men played as political leaders.

This iconic image is woven into Fellowship’s history, but Lou Della’s contributions are mentioned in marginal notes if at all. Her story remains alive through song and praise on any given Sunday.

Lou Della can always tell when her visits with Clay have come to an end. She can see it in the way he nestles his head against his pillow. Before she leaves, she asks him if there’s anything else she can do. With a nod and a simple gesture, he gives her leave to move around his room quietly. She adjusts his pillow once more and straightens out his blanket. 

Drawing the curtain to close the day, Lou Della lets Clay sleep. She picks up her things and walks out the door, ready to tend to her work still left undone.  v

Lou Della Evans-Reid in her home - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid in her home
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
 
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Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78 – The New York Times

Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78 – The New York Times


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Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78

By Ben Sisario

Oct. 10, 2019

After acquiring a series of businesses, including the “21” Club, he turned the obscure licensing organization Sesac into a force in the music industry. 

 
Stephen C. Swid in his office in 1988. He made his name as an aggressive young investor in the 1970s before entering the music business .Peter Freed

Stephen C. Swid, an investor and businessman whose varied career included deals for furniture and carpeting companies, an independent film distributor and the “21” Club, but who became best known for transforming Sesac, once an obscure licensing organization, into an influential force in the music industry, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 78.

His family said the cause was complications of frontotemporal degeneration.

After starting his career as a Wall Street analyst and money manager in the 1960s, Mr. Swid teamed with a partner, Marshall Cogan, to take over a series of businesses that put them on the map as aggressive young investors.

First, in 1974, was General Felt Industries, a major producer of carpet padding — an unglamorous but lucrative business that served as their springboard. Three years later, the two men took over Knoll International, the designer furniture firm (now known as Knoll Inc.), and in 1985 they paid $21 million for the “21” Club, a watering hole for the city’s power-broker elite. Along the way, they also made unsuccessful runs at the Boston Red Sox and Sotheby’s.

By 1986, Mr. Swid had split with Mr. Cogan and was looking for new deals when he learned that CBS Inc. was selling its music publishing division, CBS Songs, which controlled the copyrights to about 250,000 songs, including classics like “Over the Rainbow” and “New York, New York.”

Joining with two music executives, Charles Koppelman and Martin Bandier, Mr. Swid led the purchase of CBS Songs for $125 million. The three formed a new company, SBK Entertainment World, and in early 1989, a little more than two years after the CBS deal closed, sold it to the conglomerate Thorn-EMI for $337 million.

It was the highest price that had ever been paid for a music publisher, and the sale raised eyebrows both in the music world and on Wall Street. But to Mr. Swid, it was simply a matter of finding the right price for an undervalued asset.

“It’s obvious now, in retrospect, that the $125 million price was lower than the true value of the company at that time,” he told The New York Times when the Thorn-EMI deal was announced.

In 1992, Mr. Swid led an ambitious deal to acquire Sesac for $15 million, and ended up turning it into a billion-dollar business that has had lasting effects on the music industry.

Sesac, founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, had long been a marginal player in performing rights, the business of collecting licensing payments from radio and other outlets and funneling that money back to songwriters and publishers as royalties. By 1992, the industry giants Ascap and BMI were estimated to control 99 percent of the market between them.

But as part of a plan conceived by Freddie Gershon, a music executive, and joined by Mr. Swid and another partner, Ira Smith, a revamped Sesac would find ways to pay songwriters more than they were getting from Ascap and BMI.

“We were little Davids against these Goliaths,” Mr. Gershon said in an interview. In addition to the three partners, the investment bank Allen & Company contributed money to the deal.

To make Sesac more competitive, the new partners pursued genres like Spanish-language pop — they offered contracts in Spanish, a novel step at the time — and embraced new technologies to identify more accurately when their songs were being played on the radio.

But Sesac’s biggest coup came in 1995 when the company lured Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond from Ascap by offering them large advance payments. The size of those payments has not been disclosed, but was estimated at the time by Billboard, the music trade publication, to be about $5 million combined.

The presence of those two writers, whose songs are essential to radio programmers, instantly made Sesac a power in the industry, helping to attract more writers and giving the company leverage to demand higher license fees.

“We’re going to become a major player,” Mr. Swid told Billboard, “and Ascap and BMI will do everything they can to stop us.”

Sesac’s move did lead to increased competition among the performing rights societies to sign and retain top songwriters, a process that continues today.

Sesac now has more than 400,000 songs in its catalog, by songwriters and composers including Kurt Cobain, Adele, Randy Newman, Paul Shaffer, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and the members of R.E.M.

Stephen Claar Swid was born on Oct. 26, 1940, in the Bronx, to Dave and Selma (Claar) Swid. His father was a trucking executive who also helped build the New England Thruway. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1962, with many of his summers spent working as a parking attendant at the Astor Hotel in Times Square, his son, Scott, said. 

Mr. Swid is also survived by his wife, Nan, a founder of Swid Powell Designs, which focuses on housewares; two daughters, Robin Swid and Jill Rosen; eight grandchildren; and a sister, Carole Eisner.

In addition to his investments in Sesac and SBK, Mr. Swid held ownership stakes in Spin magazine and Cinecom Entertainment Group, an independent film producer and distributor, whose catalog included the 1990 version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

An art collector, he served as the chairman of the Municipal Arts Society and was on the board of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for more than 30 years.

But the company he remained closest to, and where he had his greatestsuccess, was Sesac, which he ran as chairman and chief executive from 1992 until his retirement in 2013. Sesac, which is privately held, has always remained closely guarded about its finances. But according to Moody’s Investors Service, which has rated its debt offerings, its annual revenue grew from just $9 million in 1994 to $167 million by 2013, or about 8 percent of the American performing rights market.

In 2017, Sesac, which Mr. Swid and his partners had bought for just $15 million 25 years earlier, was sold to the Blackstone Group, the investment giant, for $1.2 billion.

Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He joined The Times in 1998, and has contributed to Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Press and WFUV. He also wrote “Doolittle,” a book about the Pixies. @sisario

 

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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times


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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

FOLWELL, William Sheldon “Bill” passed away October 2, 2019. He was born May 1, 1939 in Rochester, NY, to John H. and Margaret Folwell. He earned a degree in music at the Manhattan School of Music, served in the 79th Army band 1963 to 1965, played music with the Uni Trio, Ars Nova, The Insect Trust, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, toured Europe with Albert Ayler, and was an original member of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He moved to Pinellas County, FL, in the 1980s and married Dorris Young Nave. He worked for Pinellas County Schools and was a member of Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clearwater for over thirty years. He was a devoted husband to Dorris, a proud father of Carla, Charlie, and Lillian, and a musician ahead of his time. He brought joy, humor, and love to everyone he encountered.

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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times


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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

FOLWELL, William Sheldon “Bill” passed away October 2, 2019. He was born May 1, 1939 in Rochester, NY, to John H. and Margaret Folwell. He earned a degree in music at the Manhattan School of Music, served in the 79th Army band 1963 to 1965, played music with the Uni Trio, Ars Nova, The Insect Trust, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, toured Europe with Albert Ayler, and was an original member of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He moved to Pinellas County, FL, in the 1980s and married Dorris Young Nave. He worked for Pinellas County Schools and was a member of Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clearwater for over thirty years. He was a devoted husband to Dorris, a proud father of Carla, Charlie, and Lillian, and a musician ahead of his time. He brought joy, humor, and love to everyone he encountered.

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Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80 – The New York Times

Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/arts/music/ginger-baker-dead.html
 

Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80

By Peter Keepnews

Updated 10:22 a.m. ET

Ginger Baker, center, with Jack Bruce, left, and Eric Clapton in 1967 when their band, Cream, was leaving London for a trip to Los Angeles. Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, said Mr. Baker’s playing was “extrovert, primal and inventive.”
Ginger Baker, center, with Jack Bruce, left, and Eric Clapton in 1967 when their band, Cream, was leaving London for a trip to Los Angeles. Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, said Mr. Baker’s playing was “extrovert, primal and inventive.”George Stroud/Express, via Getty Images

Ginger Baker, who helped redefine the role of the drums in rock and became a superstar in the process, died on Sunday in a hospital in southeastern England. He was 80.

His family confirmed his death in a post on his official Twitter account.

Mr. Baker drew worldwide attention for his approach to the drums, as sophisticated as it was forceful, when he teamed with the guitarist Eric Clapton and the bassist Jack Bruce in the hugely successful British band Cream in 1966.

[Listen to 15 of Ginger Baker’s essential songs.]

Keith Moon of the Who was more uninhibited; John Bonham of Led Zeppelin — a band formed in 1968, the year Cream broke up — was slicker. But Mr. Baker brought a new level of artistry to his instrument, and he was the first rock drummer to be prominently featured as a soloist and to become a star in his own right. Mr. Clapton praised him as “a fully formed musician” whose “musical capabilities are the full spectrum.”

Both as a member of the ensemble and as a soloist, Mr. Baker captivated audiences and earned the respect of his fellow percussionists with playing that was, as Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, once said, “extrovert, primal and inventive.” Mr. Baker, Mr. Peart added, “set the bar for what rock drumming could be.”

But Mr. Baker, who got his start in jazz combos and cited the likes of Max Roach and Elvin Jones as influences, bristled when the word “rock” was applied to his playing. “I’m a jazz drummer,” he told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013. “You have to swing. There are hardly any rock drummers I know who can do that.”

Mr. Baker’s appearance behind the drum kit — flaming red hair, flailing arms, eyes bulging with enthusiasm or shut tight in concentration — made an indelible impression. So, unfortunately, did his well-publicized drug problems and his volatile personality.

Mr. Baker, who by his own count quit heroin 29 times, was candid about his drug and alcohol abuse in his autobiography, “Hellraiser,” published in Britain in 2009.

He recalled driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco while on tour with the band Blind Faith in 1969 and being more amused than surprised when he heard a report on the radio that he had died from a heroin overdose.

Of a later tour, he wrote, “In 1983-84, I formed the Ginger Baker Trio with guitarist John Simms and bassist Ian Macdonald and we did a tour that included Malta, Spain and Germany; but I can’t remember anything about it due to the fact that I was drinking so heavily.”

He was also, by all accounts, not a very likable man. Journalists who interviewed him tended to find him uncooperative at best, confrontational at worst. The hostility between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce, which sometimes led to onstage altercations, was the stuff of rock legend. The 2012 documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” — the title is taken from a sign outside the house in South Africa where he was living at the time — begins with footage of Mr. Baker physically attacking the film’s director, Jay Bulger.

“If they’ve got a problem with me, come and see me and punch me on the nose,”Mr. Baker says in that film. “I ain’t going to sue you; I’m going to hit you back.”

But if he was difficult to deal with, his talent was impossible to ignore. As A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted in his review of “Beware of Mr. Baker,” Mr. Baker’s music was ultimately “the only reason anyone should take an interest in him.”

Peter Edward Baker — he became known as Ginger during childhood because of his red hair — was born on Aug. 19, 1939, in the Lewisham area of southeast London, to Frederick and Ruby (Bayldon) Baker. His father, a bricklayer, was killed in action during World War II.

Drawn to the drums at an early age, Mr. Baker talked his way into a job with a traditional-jazz combo when he was 16 despite his lack of professional experience. Before long, he was well established on the London jazz scene. He also had a heroin habit that would dog him for decades.

In 1962 Mr. Baker joined Blues Incorporated, one of the earliest British rhythm-and-blues bands, beginning his contentious but musically rewarding association with Mr. Bruce. When the organist and saxophonist Graham Bond left that band in 1964 to form his own group, the Graham Bond Organisation, Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce went with him.

Two years later they teamed with Mr. Clapton, whose work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers had made him one of Britain’s most celebrated guitarists, to form Cream.

Performing a repertoire that mixed original compositions with radical reinterpretations of old blues songs, Cream was an instant sensation. Within two years, the band went from nightclubs to stadiums and released four albums, whose total sales were estimated at 35 million. But in 1968, at the height of its success, Cream disbanded.

One reason for the breakup was the continuing animosity between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce. Another, Mr. Baker later said, was the extreme volume at which Mr. Clapton and Mr. Bruce played.

“For the first 18 months it was great,” he said in 2013. “But things got too bloody big and too bloody loud. They kept piling these huge Marshall speakers one on top of another. That’s why my hearing’s wrecked.”

Mr. Baker’s next band was, on paper, even bigger than Cream: Blind Faith, in which he and Mr. Clapton joined forces with the singer, keyboardist and guitarist Steve Winwood, known for his work with the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. (The less famous Ric Grech was the bassist.) Hopes were high, but Blind Faith imploded after one album and one tour, the victim of excessive hype and conflicting egos.

Following the similarly brief life of his next band, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a jazz-rock outfit with a saxophone section, Mr. Baker led a peripatetic life and stayed largely out of the spotlight.

He spent much of the 1970s in Lagos, Nigeria, where he built a recording studio and became immersed in African music, performing and recording with the singer, songwriter and political activist Fela Kuti. He also developed a love for polo that over the years would prove almost as costly as his drug habit: He drove himself into debt more than once buying and importing polo ponies.

In the ensuing decades he was in and out of various bands, ranging from the hard-rock group Masters of Reality to a jazz trio in which his high-profile sidemen were the guitarist Bill Frisell and the bassist Charlie Haden. He was also in and out of financial trouble and moved frequently, living in England, Italy, Los Angeles and South Africa, where he settled in 1999 and stayed until returning to England in 2012.

Mr. Baker and the other members of Cream were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. The band reunited for concerts in London and New York in 2005 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2006.

Whatever hope there might have been for another reunion ended when Jack Bruce died in 2014.

Mr. Baker was married four times. He is survived by his wife, Kudzai Baker, a nurse from Zimbabwe with whom he lived in Kent, England, and three children: Nettie Baker, who has written several books about her relationship with him; Leda Baker, a business analyst; and Kofi Baker, a drummer. All were born in the 1960s during Mr. Baker’s first marriage, to the artist Liz Finch.

In 2013, although he had serious health problems, Mr. Baker toured and recorded with a quartet whimsically named the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion. Interviewed that year on the BBC television program “Newsnight,” he claimed to have “lost everything six or seven times in my life” and suggested that the motivation for his return to music was more financial than artistic.

“I thought I’d retired,” he said. “Managed to sort of outlive my pension, as it were, so I had to go back to work.”

Asked in that same interview how he would like to be remembered, he paused for a moment and then gave a one-word answer:

“Drummer.”

Alex Marshall contributed reporting.

 

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Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76 – The New York Times

Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/03/arts/music/larry-willis-dead.html?action=click
 

Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76

By Giovanni Russonello

Oct. 3, 2019

In a career that began in the early 1960s, he worked with a long and varied list of musicians and groups including Hugh Masekela, Carla Bley and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Larry Willis performing in London in 2015.
Larry Willis performing in London in 2015. Robin Little/Redferns, via Getty Images

Larry Willis, a prolific pianist who nimbly traversed genres over a five-decade career, died on Sunday in Baltimore. He was 76.

The bassist Blake Meister, who played with him often, said the cause was a pulmonary hemorrhage. 

Mr. Willis became a trusted accompanist for figures like the bebop-and-beyond saxophonist Jackie McLean, the South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela and the eclectic composer and arranger Carla Bley. He played in the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears, and later in Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band, a pioneering Latin-jazz ensemble.

He ultimately took part in sessions for hundreds of albums, including nearly two dozen of his own.

Raised in Harlem, Mr. Willis didn’t start playing piano until his late teens, but once he did, he soared. Immersed in a thriving New York music scene, he worked with some of jazz’s most prominent figures before branching out into Latin music, fusion and occasionally free jazz. The breadth of his career, he later said, reflected the world in which he’d been raised.

“Harlem was a melting pot of a lot of different ethnic people,” he said in a 2010 interview for the website All About Jazz. “There are so many valid schools of thought under the umbrella of this music that we call jazz.”

Stay on top of the latest in pop and jazz with reviews, interviews, podcasts and more from The New York Times music critics.

“Every time I sit down at the piano, the more I learn about it, the more I don’t know,” he added. “That keeps my interest in this music, in all forms. I’m trying to be not just a better pianist, but the best complete musician that I can be.”

Lawrence Elliott Willis was born in Harlem on Dec. 20, 1942, the youngest of Maggie and Peter Willis’s three sons. His brother Victor was a classically trained pianist, but Larry mostly ignored the family piano, focusing instead on his studies as a classical voice student at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan.

It was only in his senior year of high school, when a friend started coming over to play Miles Davis albums on the Willises’ record player, that Larry became transfixed by the jazz piano. First it was Red Garland on “Milestones,” then Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on “Kind of Blue.” 

“That was it,” Mr. Willis later said. He was determined to teach himself piano.

By the end of the school year he had done just that, and was working professionally in a trio with two classmates, the bassist Eddie Gomez and the drummer Al Foster.

Mr. Willis grew up playing basketball alongside his friend Lew Alcindor (who would soon become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and he was offered basketball scholarships to multiple universities. But he chose instead to study theory at the Manhattan School of Music. 

Mr. Willis was married and divorced several times. Both his brothers died before him. Information on survivors was not immediately available. 

At 19, Mr. Willis caught Mr. McLean’s ear. He joined Mr. McLean’s touring band and recorded with him throughout the 1960s, including on the now-classic album “Right Now!,” Mr. Willis’s debut on record. 

He composed two of the album’s four tracks, the minor-key ballad “Poor Eric— dedicated to the saxophonist Eric Dolphy, who had recently died — and “Christel’s Time,” an up-tempo number with a spiraling melody. Even on the other tunes, Mr. Willis’s bright, dancing accompaniment and perfervid playing in the middle-high register announced a personal style, although he was just 22 years old when it was recorded. 

He also began working frequently with Hugh Masekela, who had been his classmate at the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Willis would appear on a handful of Mr. Masekela’s albums, including the standout “Home Is Where the Music Is” (1972); their musical partnership would continue until Mr. Masekela’s death in 2018.

In 1970 Mr. Willis made his first recording as a leader, “A New Kind of Soul,” for the small LLP label, incorporating elements of funk, Latin jazz and South African music. He followed it in 1973 with “Inner Crisis,” a similarly eclectic record, for Groove Merchant.

He joined Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1972 and stayed for five years. His jazz career continued apace, with work alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Art Blakey and Nat Adderley.

It would be 15 years before Mr. Willis released a third album of his own. But starting with “My Funny Valentine” in 1988, he recorded prolifically for the SteepleChase, Mapleshade and HighNote labels, often leading all-star bands. 

After moving to a Maryland suburb, he became a frequent presence on stages in Washington and Baltimore, and joined Mapleshade as its music director. On several releases he arranged music for orchestras, a challenge he found particularly rewarding.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Mr. Willis was a member of the young trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s quintet, playing twin roles as accompanist and mentor.

After a house fire in 2007, he moved to Baltimore, where he remained a figure of broad renown among fellow musicians. He gave his final performance on Aug. 1 at the city’s newest jazz club, the Keystone Korner.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 5, 2019, Section B, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Larry Willis, 76, Pianist, Who Criss-Crossed Genres. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music | The New Yorker

How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music | The New Yorker


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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/how-isaac-hayes-changed-soul-music
 

How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music

Isaac Hayes’s legacy remains elusive. Even now, over a decade after the singer’s death, there is still no biography of him. Younger fans might remember him chiefly as the voice of Chef on “South Park,” while older ones might picture Hayes in his prime: as the voice of the hypermasculine Shaft, or the sultry Casanova who seduced fans with songs about heartache and fathered fourteen children.

But there was more to Hayes than humor and sex. Fifty years ago last summer, he released one of the most extravagantly beautiful musical manifestos of the modern era, “Hot Buttered Soul.” The forty-five-minute album, consisting of just four extended psychedelic-orchestral tracks, changed not only the sound of soul but also its scale. Hayes, by presenting himself with all the bravado of other soul men, but at half the volume, traded the big-voiced charisma that had defined soul in the nineteen-sixties for a more conceptual, introspective approach. Fittingly, the cover of “Hot Buttered Soul” featured the dome of Hayes’s shaved, bowed head.

“Isaac was just cool as shit,” said the drummer Willie Hall, who worked with Hayes at Stax Records, in Memphis. “He would look up in the top of his head, the third eye, trying to come up with an idea—boom, it would come—perfect.” Hayes is seldom remembered as an enigmatic, restless creative, and even less so as a political leader. But he was, in some ways, a race man cut from conventional cloth. He had been born into desperate poverty, and moved around to various parts of Tennessee, where his family nearly froze in the winters and starved all year long, and the experience radicalized rather than defeated him: he helped to register black voters in the South, pushed for greater black representation at Stax, and co-founded a group called the Black Knights, to protest police brutality and housing discrimination in Memphis. On “Hot Buttered Soul,” he expressed his belief in black power in more experimental terms: through ostentatious claims to musical space.

The album was both a product of and a departure from Hayes’s earlier work at Stax, where he had honed his skills as a pianist—he filled in for Booker T. Jones while Jones was away at college—and where he proved to be an especially gifted songwriter. Along with David Porter, Hayes wrote some of the label’s most iconic hits, including Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Hayes wanted his own star turn, but, as he later explained, the Stax co-founder Jim Stewart thought his voice was “too pretty.” “At that time we were living in a James Brown era,” Hayes noted. “Rough singing . . . [but] I was a soft singer.” Sales of his 1968 solo début, “Presenting Isaac Hayes,” were unimpressive.

But then Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, in Memphis. Hayes, who had considered King a friend, “flipped,” as he put it, and became more “rebellious” and “militant.” For a time, he also went quiet. “I could not create properly,” he said. “I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can’t do a thing about it, so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I . . . started writing again.” Hayes released “Hot Buttered Soul” in the summer of 1969, as part of Stax’s “Soul Explosion,” a release of twenty-seven albums designed to help the company recover from a disastrous distribution deal with Atlantic and the death of the label’s star, Otis Redding. But Hayes’s ambitions were less commercial than creative: “I didn’t give a damn if ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ didn’t sell,” he said, “because there were twenty-six other LPs to carry the load. I just wanted to do something artistic, with total freedom.”

The album contains no rage or protest in the conventional sense. Hayes mentions race only once, in a mystifying lyric on the track “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic”: “A slave’s on a horse every time she explores / Just heard a discussion about, uh, racial relations.” But the album’s very largesse was political: Hayes had internalized King’s death, one of the era’s preëminent signs of black vulnerability, and reëmerged as a giant.

Three quick drumbeats and the album opens, operatically, with the string arrangement of “Walk On By”: a velvet curtain pulled back to reveal a production that combines the opulence of chamber music with that of funk. The mounting orchestra is intercut with Harold Beane’s fuzz-heavy guitar. While the song, composed by Burt Bacharach, had been a 1964 crossover hit for Dionne Warwick, Hayes wanted his cover, he said, to target “the black listening audience.” That focus comes through in his ad-libs: he doesn’t just accuse his lover of “saying goodbye”; instead, he tells her, “You put the hurt on me! You socked it to me!” There is a delicious irony in Hayes’s decision to remake a song about wanting to go unnoticed into an epic tour de force. Don’t mind me, the lyrics say; I am inescapable, the music says.

“Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic,” while it takes the concept of going big to an imaginative extreme, is another serious exercise in the refusal of fear and containment. Listen closely to Marvell Thomas’s piano solo, and you can hear the shaking of chains. When Hayes covers Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which had been a hit for the country singer Glen Campbell, he prefaces the song with a nearly nine-minute monologue about a man who leaves his wife after he catches her cheating on him eight times. The monologue not only epitomizes Hayes’s insistence on taking his time, it also changes the song’s narrative by making the man’s departure a response to continued betrayal. The theme of infidelity shapes Hayes’s cover of “One Woman,” as well: “One woman’s making my home / while the other woman’s making me do wrong.” To situate the album in the wake of King’s death is to hear its obsession with betrayal as not only personal but also social—as suggestive of the ways that black people have been consistently betrayed by the state and yet still rise, refuse, preen.

Hayes’s sartorial experiments were the visual counterparts to his sonic largesse. Whereas the cover of his début album pictured the singer in a top hat and a tuxedo, with “Hot Buttered Soul,” Hayes exchanged old-fashioned masculine glamour for flamboyant camp. The Jet writer Chester Higgins compared him to a “strutting, virile peacock” onstage, with luscious furs, colored tights, and his trend-setting bald head. Hayes’s most iconic outfit in this era was a gold-chained “suit,” which he variously described in pragmatic, political, and sexual terms—calling it a form of air-conditioning that helped him stay cool in the spotlight, as well as a symbol of the end of black bondage and “a sex thing.”

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The meaning of Hayes’s music was similarly complex. But his seizure of musical space—literalized in the LP jacket for “Black Moses,” which unfolded to reveal a full-length portrait of Hayes in a robe, his arms outstretched—made a political statement at a time when black people were being made to feel acutely unwelcome in the public sphere: patrolled by police in their own neighborhoods, maimed and killed for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Hayes took up time and space as if it were owed him, and listeners responded. “Hot Buttered Soul,” despite being what the critic Phyl Garland called “probably the strangest record hit of the year,” became the first Stax LP to go gold. It sold a million records to black consumers alone.

How exactly Hayes emerged from poverty and trauma to fashion himself so deeply at home in the world is one of the miracles of soul music. But, if the source of his confidence is mysterious, its destination is clear: Hayes’s audacious claims to space and selfhood are everywhere in hip-hop. Countless tracks, perhaps most notably Wu-Tang Clan’s “I Can’t Go to Sleep,” sample “Walk On By.” We also see Hayes’s legacy in hip-hop fashion trends that explode and exploit America’s rags-to-riches mythos. We can even hear Hayes in the quieter aesthetic of conceptual artists like Solange and Sampha. These singers seem to have internalized one of Hayes’s key lessons, which was on display when, in the summer of 1972, he headlined the Wattstax Festival, in Los Angeles. What the scene of the velvet-voiced Hayes playing there, before a hundred thousand black fans, meant was that you don’t have to raise your voice to call an army. Sometimes you just have to stretch out your arms.

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