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Birth of Western Swing, Death of Milton Brown: The Austin Chronicle

Birth of Western Swing, Death of Milton Brown: The Austin Chronicle


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https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2020-03-27/birth-of-western-swing-death-of-milton-brown/
 

Birth of Western Swing, Death of Milton Brown

Chapter excerpt from the new book by ATX music historians Michael Corcoran and Tim Kerr spotlights the debt that the kings of country swing, Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, owed to Texan Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies

By Michael CorcoranFri., March 27, 2020

 

Painting by Tim Kerr

[Ghost Notes] Pioneering Spirits of Texas Music (TCU Press) teams local music scholar Michael Corcoran with fellow Austinite, pioneering punk musician, illustrator, and music scholar Tim Kerr. The DIY pairing first collaborated on two murals in the Red River cultural district in 2018. The book is a continuation of Corcoran’s 2017 book All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music (UNT Press), lending greater context to the stories of the Twenties gospel singers Washington Phillips, Arizona Dranes, and Blind Willie Johnson; the Gant Family of Thirties folk singers; Forties R&B piano greats Charles Brown and Amos Milburn; Fifties Austin label Domino Records; and more. New subjects include Roky Erickson, Camilo Cantu, Sippie Wallace, Sonny Curtis, Jimmy Bowen, the D.O.C., Moon Mullican, Rupert Neve, and Don Robey. [Ghost Notes] contains 15 full-page color paintings from Kerr, as well as several B&W sketches throughout. – Raoul Hernandez


“It’s the same ol’ tune, fiddle and guitar, where do we take it from here?” sang an ol’ honky-tonk hero in the Seventies, but back in the early Thirties, Milton Brown and Bob Wills were thinking the same thing. The singer and the fiddler worked together less than two years in the Light Crust Doughboys, but what they started afterwards, when they kept adding instruments and improvisation, came to be called Western swing.

Although Wills earned the “King of Western Swing” tag with four decades of dance hall-filling dominance to make cowboy jazz a Texas tradition, the innovator was Brown, whose Musical Brownies were the prototype Western swing band in 1932. Four years later he’d be dead and his former partner would carry the torch with an “Ah-ha!” holler. 

Brown’s smooth vocals brought the city to the country and, with the addition of pianist Fred “Papa” Calhoun, the Brownies converted the string band into a dance outfit, mixing the previously disparate styles of jazz, country, blues, and pop to fill the floors. The 2/4 “Milton Brown Beat” revolved around the mighty strike hand of tenor banjoist Ocie Stoddard, who was followed closely by standup bassist Wanna Coffman and Milton’s little brother Derwood Brown on heavy rhythm guitar. Fiddler Jesse Ashlock handled the melody, while Calhoun brought such an air of improvisation that he was nicknamed “Papa” by Brown in reference to legendary jazz pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines.

The Musical Brownies would first record in April 1934, a year and a half before Wills & the Texas Playboys. And yet Wills was called “the first great amalgamator of American music” when he and the Playboys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Milton Brown is not even in the Country Music Hall of Fame!

Milton led the band for only four years, during the Depression, but he knew how to get the people to come out. The Musical Brownies were easily the most popular dance band in Texas in the early Thirties. But they almost never played out of state, except to record in Chicago and New Orleans.

In Cary Ginelli’s oral history Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing(University of Illinois Press 1994), Calhoun recalls being dragged out to Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion, four miles northwest of Fort Worth, on a snowy Thursday night in late ’32 and being impressed by the turnout of hundreds for Milton and the boys. Billed as “the Colonel from Kentucky” (though he was from Chico, TX), Calhoun played solo jazz piano on KTAT, so he was known to the Brownies, but nobody played keyboards with a string band back then. Milton removed the cover of the house piano and called Calhoun up to sit in on “Nobody’s Sweetheart,” and the pianist jammed for the entire set. During intermission he was asked to join the Brownies.

They had found something special, but Brown was not done assembling his dream lineup. He hired classically trained Cecil Brower to play twin fiddle – a new concept – with Ashlock at first, then Cliff Bruner. In late ’34 came steel guitar genius Bob Dunn, who started off as a Hawaiian-style player, then found greater satisfaction emulating the sliding trombone of Vernon’s Jack Teagarden. But how could Dunn’s guitar, a Martin acoustic laid flat and played with a steel bar, be heard over this hot band? With “Taking Off,” recorded in Chicago in January 1935, Dunn had the distinction of being the first to record an electric guitar, played through a magnetic mic in the soundhole. 

Brown developed the idea to play a jazz/pop repertoire with country music instrumentation, but Wills went bigger, adding drummer Smokey Dacus in 1935, then a horn section soon after. Wills and his 13-piece orchestra, with Brown’s replacement Tommy Duncan on vocals, did not see themselves as competing with the Musical Brownies as much as with national swing orchestras on tour. Filling every square of air in the enormous dance halls and ballrooms of Texas and Oklahoma, the Texas Playboys eventually outdrew Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. Like Milton, Bob could always get the top players, including slidemaster Leon McCauliffe, whose 1936 recording of “Steel Guitar Rag” was every bit as influential as Dunn’s ground-breaking work.

Wills is still the king because in April 1936, Milton Brown crashed his new Pontiac Silver Streak into a telephone pole on the Jacksboro Highway and was dead at 33. Band members surmised, because they’d seen him do it before, that Brown fell asleep at the wheel (which would make a good name for a modern Western swing outfit.) His passenger, 16-year-old aspiring singer Katy Prehoditch, was killed instantly in the 3am crash. The recently divorced Brown died six days later of pneumonia while still in the hospital. His ex-wife Mary Helen married Bob Wills in 1938. 

Milton and the Musical Brownies left a rich recorded legacy: 16 sides for Bluebird in 1934, and over 100 for Decca, recorded in the 15 months before Brown’s death. But live is where they really took off, with the dancers spurring them on. It’s lucky for fans of Texas string band dance music that Wills and the Playboys were there to “take it away.” There was an abundance of overshadowing, but if the Texas Playboys weren’t so thrilling for so long, Brown’s vision wouldn’t have gone as far.

Everybody wanted that swing, pioneered by the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra of the Twenties, with Louis Armstrong’s trumpet peppering the beat. In the Thirties, Georgia-born Henderson sold arrangements to Benny Goodman, who took swing to new heights of popularity. Jazz-minded rural musicians wanted to play “that hokum,” too, and the Musical Brownies showed that Texas audiences also wanted to dance to it, just like the Yankee swells did at Roseland Ballroom.

The old Texas dance halls, built by Czech and German immigrants in the years between the Civil War and World War I, were ready-made for this new exciting string band swing. The venues were so cavernous that bands had to use more instrumentation, because if there’s a word to describe what makes Texas music special, it’s “dancing.” The beat had to break through the chatter to give a template of movement to those out on the floor. It was a formula later followed by Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers (featuring Moon Mullican on piano and Leo Raley on electric mandolin) and the Leon “Pappy” Selph’s Blue Ridge Playboys (Floyd Tillman, Ted Daffan), both from Houston, and San Antonio’s Adolph Hofner & the Pearl Wranglers. “Although I never had the pleasure of knowing Milton Brown, he and his band were my big inspiration,” Hofner told an interviewer. “They played jazz then, the same as New Orleans jazz, but without the horns. They did it with strings.” Even with his unfortunate first name, Hofner had the distinction of being the longest-tenured Western swing bandleader, mixing cowboy jazz with polka music from the late Thirties until the early Nineties. 

Brown and Wills met at a house party in Fort Worth in 1930 and joined forces, each bringing their own guitar player (Herman Arnspiger and Derwood Brown) to play Eagles Hall in Fort Worth as the Wills Fiddle Band. The quartet added Sleepy Johnson on banjo, and became the Aladdin Laddies when the Aladdin Lamp Company sponsored their WBAP radio show in the summer of 1930. After that deal expired, they shilled for Burrus’ Light Crust Dough, first on KFJZ, then the more powerful WBAP. In the early years of radio, record labels thought airplay would actually hurt sales and forbade most of their ’78s to be played, so almost all of the music on radio was from live performances.

Brown and Wills recorded only one ’78 together, as the Fort Worth Doughboys, for Victor in Dallas on Feb. 9, 1932. But Brown original “Sunbonnet Sue” and a cover of “Nancy Jane” by the Famous Hokum Boys (featuring Big Bill Broonzy and Georgia Tom Dorsey) didn’t further their career. Seven months later, Milton was no longer working with Bob, who left the Doughboys 11 months after that. Wills initially moved to Waco, where he called his band the Playboys, but the jilted Burrus Mills general manager W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, who would go on to become Texas governor in 1939 and U.S. Senator in 1941 (defeating Lyndon Baines Johnson), did everything in his power to drive Wills out of the state. O’Daniel sued Wills in Oct. 1933 for billing his band “formerly of the Light Crust Doughboys” and lost, but kept appealing the decision. While based first in Oklahoma City and then Tulsa, the Playboys added “Texas” to their name and became the swingingest country band in the land over the next 30 plus years.

Sometimes what you go out and accomplish on your own surpasses the benefits of collaboration. Even if everyone has forgotten. Milton Brown was the Edison of Western swing and yet, perhaps because he was a singer, not an instrumentalist, he’s not suitably honored today for his mammoth musical innovations. He fell asleep at the wheel and has been unjustifiably slept on ever since, rating just a passing mention in the Ken Burns Country doc on PBS. But Bob Wills went to his grave in 1975 knowing that, at least in the beginning, his Texas Playboys followed what the Musical Brownies were laying down.


Order Ghost Notes: Pioneering Spirits of Texas Music directly from the distributor by calling 1-800-826-8911 or from Amazon.

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Much-admired Chicago trumpter-composer Bob Ojeda has died at age 78 – Chicago Tribune

Much-admired Chicago trumpter-composer Bob Ojeda has died at age 78 – Chicago Tribune


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Chicago trumpeter Bob Ojeda dies at 78. He was a renaissance man of jazz

Howard Reich

Chicago Tribune |

Mar 29, 2020 | 9:23 AM 

There wasn’t much in jazz that Bob Ojeda couldn’t do.

A masterful trumpeter, inventive arranger, creative composer and mentor to uncounted musicians, the Chicago artist was revered by peers and sought out by some of the greatest names in the art form.

Singers Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee and Lena Horne – among many others – turned to him to write arrangements and orchestrations. Bandleaders Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Lionel Hampton and Benny Carter featured him in their trumpet sections. And after Count Basie died in 1984, Ojeda toured and recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1985 to 2001, writing arrangements for that propulsive swing machine. 

Ojeda, 78, died March 26 at Elmhurst Hospital of pulmonary problems as a result of multiple surgeries, said Gil Ojeda, his brother. 

“He was just a wonderfully thoughtful and melodic improviser,” said Chicago trombonist Russ Phillips, a longtime colleague and friend. 

“He wasn’t a high-note player, but he could read anything. He was a complete player.

“I’ve played a lot of his charts over the years – they’re uniquely his, and they’re quite typically challenging but very rewarding.

“The things that make him a unique and wonderful improviser also make his arrangements unique. He brings that quirky quality to his arrangements – like maybe a hip little countermelody that’s some other tune.”

Stylistically, “He was the quintessential bop and post-bop guy,” said Chicago saxophonist Eric Schneider, referring to bebop, a virtuosic, mid-20th century idiom conceived by Charlie Parker and Gillespie. 

“Bob was a very serious player,” added Schneider. “To him, the music was serious – it could be solemn, but it wasn’t somber. Whenever he’d play, I’d hear a twinkle in his eye.”

Born Sept. 1, 1941 in Austin, Texas, Ojeda moved with his family a couple months later to Chicago, where he grew up. As a teenager he was consumed with music.

“He would go around to the (jazz) clubs when he was underage,” said Gil Ojeda. “He and a friend organized a band in the neighborhood when he was 15. He was already doing orchestration and arranging at that time.”

Bob Ojeda attended Farragut High School, but “when he was 16, he just said he wasn’t learning anything there,” said Gil Ojeda. 

As the emerging musician approached 18, Kenton – whose orchestra was one of the most ambitious, idiosyncratic and famous in jazz – recruited him.

“Stan was in town and said: ‘Bob, we’re down a horn player – are you interested in coming with us?’” said Gil Ojeda.

“They called my dad at around midnight: ‘Mr. Ojeda, we want your son to go with us tomorrow morning,’” Kenton told the elder Ojeda.

Thus began Ojeda’s whirlwind career. “By the age of 21, he had traveled almost all over the world,” said Gil Ojeda.

In the 1970s, as youth-oriented rock music overwhelmed jazz in the marketplace, Ojeda moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote arrangements for singers and composed for jingles, TV and film. He played trumpet in the rock musical “Hair” in the early 1970s and performed with the Rolling Stones in 1975, according to his website. In the 1980s, he was a staff arranger for Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.” 

And though much earlier he’d had it with living out of a suitcase, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to join the Basie Orchestra in 1985, touring more than 40 weeks a year with the band and accompanying stars such as Frank Sinatra. 

For the past couple decades, Ojeda again was a significant presence in Chicago jazz.

Chicago singer-bandleader Petra van Nuis remembered first hearing him at the since-shuttered Chambers in Niles, around 2004 or 2005. 

“I was so taken with him the first night I heard him, I went up and asked how/what he practiced,” said van Nuis in an email.

“He said he liked to play along with the TV as it provided quickly changing tunes in different keys/styles/time signatures.”

Van Nuis invited Ojeda to join her Recession Seven band in 2013, the authority and musicality of his work evident to anyone lucky enough to have heard him in this setting.

“It was still Bob, but it was more filtered through Roy Eldridge than through Clifford (Brown),” said Recession Seven bandmate Schneider, meaning that Ojeda was slightly retooling his sound and style to reflect the band’s earlier period repertoire.

Ojeda’s work as orchestrator reached thousands of listeners when Chicago singer Joan Curto hired him to write scores for three massive Auditorium Theatre shows she organized: “Cole Porter 125 – A Birthday Celebration” (2016), “Ella & Lena: The Ladies and Their Music” (2017) and “Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!” (2019).

“I asked several musicians I respected a lot: Who did the best charts and orchestrations in the city of Chicago?” said Curto. “And unanimously, it was Bob Ojeda.

“He was invaluable to us. He could tell us how a song would work: How many horns, how many strings, did we need percussion? He was the leader in those decisions.”

Ojeda also was deeply involved in nurturing new generations of musicians, partly through his work with the jazz competition of the Luminarts Cultural Foundation at the Union League Club of Chicago. 

“That was one thing he really appreciated – the idea of reaching out to young players,” said Gil Ojeda.

Said trombonist Phillips, “We’re all just brokenhearted.”

In addition to Gil Ojeda, Bob Ojeda’s survivors include siblings Liz, Ron and David Ojeda, and sister Gloria Koller. 

A public memorial service will be planned after the coronavirus restrictions end, said Gil Ojeda.

Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeMTHaXUc8A

Bob Ojeda documentary

Howard Reich

Howard Reich is the Tribune’s Emmy-winning arts critic; author of six books, including “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel”; and writer-producer of three documentaries. He holds two honorary doctoral degrees and served on the Pulitzer music jury four times, including for the first jazz winner, “Blood on the Fields.”

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Influential composer Krzysztof Penderecki dies aged 86 | Music | The Guardian

Influential composer Krzysztof Penderecki dies aged 86 | Music | The Guardian


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https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/29/composer-krzysztof-penderecki-dies-aged-86?mc_cid=1e7e8f7865
 

Influential composer Krzysztof Penderecki dies aged 86

Polish musician won numerous awards, scored The Exorcist, and was admired by rock stars

Last modified on Mon 30 Mar 2020 03.57 EDT

 

Krzysztof Penderecki at the Kraków opera house in 2008. Krzysztof Penderecki at the Kraków opera house in 2008. Photograph: Jacek Bednarczyk/EPA

Leading composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki has died at the age of 86 after a long illness, his family announced this morning.

The Polish-born Penderecki was a major figure in contemporary music whose compositions reached millions through celebrated film scores, which included for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

Penderecki’s stated aim as an avant-gardist in the early 1960s was to “liberate sound beyond all tradition”, and his emotionally charged experimental 1960 work Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, for 52 strings, brought him to international attention and acclaim when he was only 26. Over a long career he has also written operas, choral works and concertos, and won multiple awards, including four Grammys, most recently for best choral performance in 2016.

 

 

One of his best known fans is Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who collaborated with the composer in 2012. “His pieces make such wonderful sounds,” said Greenwood. “I think a lot of people might think his work is stridently dissonant or painful on the ears. But because of the complexity of what’s happening – particularly in pieces such as Threnody and Polymorphia, and how the sounds are bouncing around the concert hall, it becomes a very beautiful experience when you’re there. It’s not like listening to feedback, and it’s not dissonant. It’s something else. It’s a celebration of so many people making music together and it’s like – wow, you’re watching that happen.”

Penderecki had been tested for coronavirus after his carer was diagnosed with the illness, but the composer’s result was negative, his daughter Beata Penderecka said.

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Swamp Dogg – Please Let Me Go Round Again (feat. John Prine) (Official Audio) – YouTube

Swamp Dogg – Please Let Me Go Round Again (feat. John Prine) (Official Audio) – YouTube


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https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/john-prine-covid-19-symptoms-974909/

John Prine Hospitalized With COVID-19 Symptoms: ‘His Situation Is Critical’

“John was hospitalized on Thursday,” family says in statement. “He was intubated Saturday evening, and continues to receive care”


 

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Mike Longo, Jazz Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Mike Longo, Jazz Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 83 – The New York Times


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Mike Longo, Jazz Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 83

By Steve Smith

March 28, 2020

Best known for his long association with Dizzy Gillespie, Mr. Longo, who died of the coronavirus, also led a big band and promoted the work of other musicians.

 

Mike Longo performing with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen in 1968. Mr. Longo’s association with Gillespie began in 1966 and endured until shortly before Gillespie’s death in 1993. Mike Longo performing with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen in 1968. Mr. Longo’s association with Gillespie began in 1966 and endured until shortly before Gillespie’s death in 1993.Jan Persson/Getty Images

Mike Longo, a jazz pianist, composer and educator best known for his long association with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, died on March 22 in Manhattan. He was 83.

The cause was from the coronavirus, Dorothy Longo, his wife of 32 years, said.

As a musician and a composer, said Matthew Snyder, who had studied composition with Mr. Longo and played baritone saxophone with the big band he led, the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble, Mr. Longo “was simultaneously very earthy and also had the highest possible level of harmony and melodicism and complexity in his musical conception.”

As an educator, Mr. Longo wrote 10 books and produced four DVDs, espousing concepts he had refined while working with Mr. Gillespie. He also advocated tirelessly for other artists, engaging them for concerts and releasing their recordings on CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions), which he had established as a publishing company in 1970 and a record label in 1981.

“He took on other artists because he wanted them to have a forum to produce their own music and express their creativity,” Ms. Longo said in an email. “CAP is an umbrella organization whereby musicians produced and owned their own product, but if Mike chose to take them on, because of his reputation, he was able to get airplay and distribution.”

Born into a musical household, Mr. Longo played his first nightclub date, with the alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, while still in high school. After arriving in New York in 1960, he found work supporting musicians like the trumpeter Red Allen and the tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins at the Metropole, a Manhattan nightclub. A year later, he moved to Toronto to study with the pianist Oscar Peterson.

Returning to New York in 1962, Mr. Longo became an in-demand accompanist for singers including Nancy Wilson, Gloria Lynne and Joe Williams. In 1965 he led a house band at the New York nightclub Embers West, where he performed with a wide range of luminaries. A year later, Mr. Gillespie engaged him as his musical director and arranger, an association that would endure until 1975, and informally until shortly before Mr. Gillespie’s death in 1993.

Mr. Longo went on to perform and record solo, in duos and trios, and with the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble, which he founded in 1998.

“Mike’s book was roughly split between his arrangements of other tunes and his original tunes,” Mr. Snyder said of Mr. Longo’s repertoire, “and it was obvious it was all the same thing for him; even his arrangements were recompositions.”

 

Mr. Longo was still with Mr. Gillespie when he released the album “Matrix” in 1972. He would continue to perform and would record prolifically as a bandleader, arranger and composer after leaving Mr. Gillespie’s band in 1975. Mr. Longo was still with Mr. Gillespie when he released the album “Matrix” in 1972. He would continue to perform and would record prolifically as a bandleader, arranger and composer after leaving Mr. Gillespie’s band in 1975.

Michael Joseph Longo was born on March 19, 1937, in Cincinnati, to Michael Anthony Longo and Elvira Margaret (Vitello) Longo. He began to study piano with his mother, a homemaker who sang and played the piano and the organ, at age 3, starting formal lessons a year later. The family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mr. Longo’s father established a successful business supplying produce to stores and to restaurants while also leading bands in which he played bass.

Mr. Longo’s father hired Mr. Adderley, who was black, to play in his band at a time when racial mixing was uncommon and potentially perilous. Mr. Adderley in turn took young Mr. Longo under his wing, engaging him for church performances and, on one occasion, an engagement at Porky’s Hideaway, a Fort Lauderdale jazz club.

Mr. Longo studied classical piano at Western Kentucky University, graduating in 1959 with a B.A. in music. Offered a scholarship by the jazz magazine DownBeat, he opted instead to pursue his education on the road with a small combo, the Salt City Six, and then in New York. His studies with Mr. Peterson in Toronto, Mr. Longo recalled in a 2006 interview with the website All About Jazz, taught him “how to play piano and how to be a jazz pianist — textures, voicings, touch, time, conception, tone on the instrument.”

Mr. Longo studied composition privately with Hall Overton from 1970 to 1972 and worked prolifically as a bandleader, arranger and composer after leaving Mr. Gillespie’s employ. But his association with Mr. Gillespie would dominate much of his professional career, even offering him the opportunity to compose an orchestral work, “A World of Gillespie” (1980), which Mr. Gillespie performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Longo is survived by a sister, Ellen.

Like Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Longo embraced the Baha’i faith, a religion that espouses the unity of all people and finds truth in multiple faith traditions. In 2004, he began leading weekly concerts at the New York City Baha’i Center in Greenwich Village. The last concert was on March 10.

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Media Funhouse

Media Funhouse


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Media Funhouse

The blog for the cult Manhattan cable-access TV show that offers viewers the best in “everything from high art to low trash… and back again!” Find links to rare footage, original reviews, and reflections on pop culture and arthouse cinema.

The Milligan in his prime.

When I interviewed Unkle Ken Russell (his chosen social media handle) in 2008, I asked him a question that couldn’t be “illustrated” by the film in question, because it was under lock and key at that time on the BFI website. That film, the 1959 TV short “Portrait of a Goon” with Spike Milligan, is now available in various places online, and so I can return to the discussion about Unkle Ken, “the Richard Lester style,” and the one and only Spike Milligan.

 

Let me preface this discussion by noting my deep admiration for Lester — the two Beatles films, The Knack…The Bed Sitting Room (a dazzlingly, wonderfully weird end-of-the-world comedy based on a Milligan play), and Petulia are all seminal films of the Sixties. Although his visual/editing style, which is credited as being the “beginning of the modern music video” (since Soundies were probably the first Golden Age music videos), was not as original as it seemed in 1964. Tracing influences is something I love to do on the Funhouse TV show and on this blog, so I once again want to “follow the trail” of a style back to its inception.

 

The Goons: Sellers, Milligan, Secombe

The “Richard Lester style” seemed to appear on the scene full-blown in the Beatles’ big-screen debut, the comedy A Hard Day’s Night (1964). Lester was not unfamiliar with madcap anarchy— his first big-screen comedy was the 1959 short “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film,” starring two of the three stars of the milestone radio comedy show, “The Goon Show,” Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. The film was scripted by Milligan, Sellers, Mario Fabrizi, and “Dick” Lester, and is now credited as being directed by Lester and Sellers, along with the performance artist-inventor Bruce Lacey (who was profiled in a short made in 1962 called “The Preservation Man” by none other than… Unkle Ken!).

 

John Lennon was reportedly very happy Lester got the assignment to direct the Fabs’ first feature, because of his love of the Goons and his familiarity with Lester’s short. One other, sorta important figure in the Beatles’ career had an intersection with the Goons — their 1962 LP “Bridge on the River Wye” was produced by some guy named George Martin. (The cast on the LP included two younger Goon fans, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook.)

 

 

Lester’s approach in Hard Day’s Night was what was later called “an inventory of effects” (in another context, by Marshall McLuhan). Jumpcuts, oblique angles, sped-up and slowed-down action, breaking the axis (and the fourth wall). He certainly would’ve been familiar with silent comedy (the wellspring for visual invention), avant-garde shorts, Golden Age cartoons (esp. the Looney Tunes ones), and chaotic features like Hellzapoppin’ (1941).

 

“… Standing Still Film” has a much simpler approach. All the bits take place in a field and are filmed in long shot. The only two disjunctive techniques used are speeding up the film (from silent comedy; often confused with the way the films look when shown at sound speed) and a soundtrack that clashed with what is happening onscreen (loud bird chirping noises especially seem to have come out of the avant-garde playbook). The paucity of means — the film was made for just 75 pounds — surely led to the simple, anarchic (yet simplistic on a visual level) style of the short.

 

 

 

There is one element that connects this rather “flatly” shot short to the full-blown flowerings of the Lester style with the Beatles, namely the wild imagination (and surprisingly tight scripting) of Spike Milligan, who was cited by all the important U.K. comedians of the Sixties (and many of the Seventies) as a key influence. And yes, Spike was admired and loved by hoards of British musicians as well. 

The setting of moments like the “Can’t Buy Me Love” scene —an open field — retains the “foolish behavior in open spaces” concept of “Standing Still.” This concept was openly stolen by “Laugh-In,” which, in its earliest episodes, actually had recreations of “Standing Still” gags, including a character being summoned to the camera, whereupon he is punched in the face by a hand in a boxing glove.

 

Milligan was one of two comedians who suffered for his brilliance by being “put away” for a time (the other being Jonathan Winters). At its best, his humor was absurd, non-linear and, most important, it was fast — to the extent that, even if it was scripted, it seemed ad-libbed. It’s no wonder that any filmmaker who tried to adapt his work for film and television felt they had to work in a similar groove.

 

To provide some background for the Lester/Goon connection, here is one of the surviving episodes of the TV series “A Show Called Fred” from 1956, which starred Sellers and Milligan among others (for whatever reason, the third Goon, Harry Secombe, was not included in any of the non-Goon-titled endeavors by Spike and Peter; contracts reportedly held him back, since he was a professional singer when not Goon-ing). The show is directed by one “Dick” Lester. (Born in Philly in 1932, he moved to England in 1953.)
 

 

“Fred” isn’t as miraculously weird as “The Goon Show,” but it does show Spike and company crafting a program that plays with the medium. The camera pulls back to reveal the studio during certain sketches, with other BBC cameras in view and crew members standing around. At one point (starting at 14:25) a sketch called “The Count of Monte Carlo” explodes into a weird journey one character takes off the set and around the studio, ending up in a BBC cafeteria (or a set intended to be a cafeteria).

 

To provide some context for this weirdness, we should note that other experimental humor was being presented at this time, but it was independent of Spike and he was independent of it. In America, Ernie Kovacs had been playing with the medium for several years by ’56 (but none of his work was seen in the U.K.). A closer (geographically) connection was that the Theater of the Absurd (which “A Show Named Fred” is very close to, in terms of its constant commenting on itself) had begun in earnest in 1950 France (with Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano).

 

Waiting for Godot premiered in England in 1955, but Spike’s cousin in surreal absurdity, Eugene Ionesco, didn’t have a breakthrough on the British stage until 1960, when Orson Welles staged Rhinoceros with Olivier in the lead.

 

Here is Spike’s Cathode Ray of the Absurd:

 

 

 

 

Back to Lester and the Goons: “Running Jumping…” was first shown in the U.S. in November 1959. A month later, on Dec. 6, another Milligan movie appeared, Unkle Ken’s promotional short “Portrait of a Goon,” produced for the culture program “Monitor.” The proximity of the projects makes it unlikely that either director saw the other’s work, and yet both films have an identical pace and rhythm (that of the Milligan).

 

 

The most interesting thing about comparing the Russell short and Hard Day’s Night is that they both contain jumpcuts, a technical “mistake” that became de rigueur in modernist cinema after Godard’s Breathless (1960) hit cinemas. Russell couldn’t have seen the film when he made his short. (Godard’s debut feature was released in December of 1960 in the U.K.) Certainly Ken had seen the “trick films” that grew out of Melies’ work, though, where magical images were achieved via jarring edits that severed the rules of continuity in time and space. (For his part, Lester used some of Godard’s techniques in his 1965 comedy The Knack and How to Get It.)

 

When I interviewed Unkle Ken, he was directing the off-off-Broadway show Mindgame by Anthony Horowitz at the SoHo Playhouse. At one point the Playhouse had been the Thalia Soho, which had screened a program of Russell shorts, including “Portrait of a Goon.” I was thus inspired to ask him about the short and “the Richard Lester style.”

 

 

 

 

I am very happy that the BFI finally took the short out from under lock and key and put it on their social media accounts, which led to a fan posting it on YouTube.

 

 

 

 

So, on the list of things comedic that Spike had a hand in originating, let us now add the “Richard Lester style.”

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

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When TV’s Gomer Pyle Sang ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ | Best Classic Bands

When TV’s Gomer Pyle Sang ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ | Best Classic Bands


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In the final season of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in an episode called “Flower Power,” which ran on March 28, 1969, the Marine appeared in a scene with several hippies, including Rob Reiner, just 21 years-old when he filmed it, and actress Leigh French.

During a key period of the Vietnam War era, the military man and the young people find common ground in Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ4–fWQDtw&feature=emb_logo

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Jazz and Copyright Law – The Syncopated Times

Jazz and Copyright Law – The Syncopated Times


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Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, Christian McBride Slated for Virtual Jazz Fest

All-star lineup of performers will livestream sets as part of Live From Our Living Rooms, with proceeds going to New York musicians who have lost work due to the pandemic

March 27, 2020 11:42AM ET

The first jazz festival of the quarantine era will take place next week.

An impressive lineup of A-list names in the genre will come together virtually for Live From Our Living Rooms, an online music festival and fundraiser. Guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Chick Corea, bassist Christian McBride, vocalist Becca Stevens and many others will livestream performances from their homes, raising money for New York musicians facing canceled shows due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Running from April 1st through April 7th, the festival will feature two nightly performances, as well as a master class and child-friendly show each day. Others scheduled to participate are the husband-and-wife duos of Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano, Linda May Han Oh and Fabian Almazan, and Antonio Sanchez and Thana Alexa, as well as saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist Julian Lage and many more.

The festival is the brainchild of Alexa, fellow vocalist Sirintip (who performs under her first name only), and saxophonist Owen Broder, all of whom will perform as part of Live From Our Living Rooms. Their partner in the event is MusicTalks, a nonprofit that presents chamber music in salon-style settings.

Top articles2/5READ MOREPrimavera Sound 2020 Postponed to August Due to Coronavirus Concerns

“Our inspiration to organize the Live From Our Living Rooms Festival and Fundraiser was to enable artists to collaborate from a distance with the purpose of collectively generating support for the NYC music community we deeply care about,” Alexa, Sirintip and Broder said in an email. “During a crisis that has affected us all globally, it is more important than ever to have a platform that fosters creative exchange and a way to stay connected and inspired through music.”

Popular on Rolling Stone

 

Next Up

Trent Harmon Advice On How A Performance Blunder Turned Into A Learning Moment

01:19

 

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the New York City Musicians COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Musicians who have lost work due to the pandemic can apply for emergency relief via Living From Our Living Rooms, and grants will be distributed in April.

Various participants have weighed in about the importance of the festival’s cause.

“We are so proud to be a part of Live From Our Living Rooms Festival and Fundraiser to elevate the spirits and raise some well-needed funds for the inspired amazing musicians, within the Jazz Community we live in,” write Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano.

Other musicians emphasized the importance of supporting musicians in New York, a city that’s been the epicenter of the jazz world for roughly a century. “It’s paramount to keep the vibrant fabric of the NYC music community as inspired and connected as possible during these extremely challenging times,” Antonio Sanchez says.

“A main function of our music scene and us as musicians during these days is to encourage creativity and keep spirits up,” Chick Corea adds. “I cut my teeth in music in New York City from 1959 through 1975. New York City is still the hub of music and art for the planet. I’m happy to donate toward this fundraiser for currently New York-based musicians. We must keep the music fires burning brightly!”

Pianist Fabian Almazan stresses how vital it is for musicians to stay connected with their audience during the coronavirus crisis. “The world is collectively facing an indescribably daunting challenge and we need the emotional outlet that music provides to guide us,” he says. “The economic stability of artists is challenging in the best of times and now that we cannot travel to audiences around the world, it only feels right to be part of this online festival.”

For more information on the fest, visit the Live From Our Living Rooms website.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, and More to Appear at Virtual Jazz Fest – Rolling Stone

Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, and More to Appear at Virtual Jazz Fest – Rolling Stone


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Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, Christian McBride Slated for Virtual Jazz Fest

All-star lineup of performers will livestream sets as part of Live From Our Living Rooms, with proceeds going to New York musicians who have lost work due to the pandemic

March 27, 2020 11:42AM ET

The first jazz festival of the quarantine era will take place next week.

An impressive lineup of A-list names in the genre will come together virtually for Live From Our Living Rooms, an online music festival and fundraiser. Guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Chick Corea, bassist Christian McBride, vocalist Becca Stevens and many others will livestream performances from their homes, raising money for New York musicians facing canceled shows due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Running from April 1st through April 7th, the festival will feature two nightly performances, as well as a master class and child-friendly show each day. Others scheduled to participate are the husband-and-wife duos of Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano, Linda May Han Oh and Fabian Almazan, and Antonio Sanchez and Thana Alexa, as well as saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist Julian Lage and many more.

The festival is the brainchild of Alexa, fellow vocalist Sirintip (who performs under her first name only), and saxophonist Owen Broder, all of whom will perform as part of Live From Our Living Rooms. Their partner in the event is MusicTalks, a nonprofit that presents chamber music in salon-style settings.

Top articles2/5READ MOREPrimavera Sound 2020 Postponed to August Due to Coronavirus Concerns

“Our inspiration to organize the Live From Our Living Rooms Festival and Fundraiser was to enable artists to collaborate from a distance with the purpose of collectively generating support for the NYC music community we deeply care about,” Alexa, Sirintip and Broder said in an email. “During a crisis that has affected us all globally, it is more important than ever to have a platform that fosters creative exchange and a way to stay connected and inspired through music.”

Popular on Rolling Stone

 

Next Up

Trent Harmon Advice On How A Performance Blunder Turned Into A Learning Moment

01:19

 

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the New York City Musicians COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Musicians who have lost work due to the pandemic can apply for emergency relief via Living From Our Living Rooms, and grants will be distributed in April.

Various participants have weighed in about the importance of the festival’s cause.

“We are so proud to be a part of Live From Our Living Rooms Festival and Fundraiser to elevate the spirits and raise some well-needed funds for the inspired amazing musicians, within the Jazz Community we live in,” write Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano.

Other musicians emphasized the importance of supporting musicians in New York, a city that’s been the epicenter of the jazz world for roughly a century. “It’s paramount to keep the vibrant fabric of the NYC music community as inspired and connected as possible during these extremely challenging times,” Antonio Sanchez says.

“A main function of our music scene and us as musicians during these days is to encourage creativity and keep spirits up,” Chick Corea adds. “I cut my teeth in music in New York City from 1959 through 1975. New York City is still the hub of music and art for the planet. I’m happy to donate toward this fundraiser for currently New York-based musicians. We must keep the music fires burning brightly!”

Pianist Fabian Almazan stresses how vital it is for musicians to stay connected with their audience during the coronavirus crisis. “The world is collectively facing an indescribably daunting challenge and we need the emotional outlet that music provides to guide us,” he says. “The economic stability of artists is challenging in the best of times and now that we cannot travel to audiences around the world, it only feels right to be part of this online festival.”

For more information on the fest, visit the Live From Our Living Rooms website.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


Unsubscribe | Update your profile | Forward to a friend

PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

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Jazz Meets Rock in an Intoxicating Potion – WSJ

Jazz Meets Rock in an Intoxicating Potion – WSJ


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Jazz Meets Rock in an Intoxicating Potion

Miles Davis’s ‘Bitches Brew’ pioneered jazz fusion.

By 

John Edward Hasse 

March 27, 2020 2:36 pm ET

Miles Davis performing live onstage c. 1961/62

Photo: Redferns

Fifty years ago this month, Columbia Records issued Miles Davis’s churning “Bitches Brew,” confronting two genres of music and crystallizing a third, jazz-rock fusion. It was a potent cauldron: a quicksilver leader and 12 younger musicians improvising over rock and funk rhythms, semi-jams as long as 27 minutes, cutting-edge editing techniques, and a dreamlike Afro-futurist cover. Bold, transformative and bestselling, this double record marked a milestone for Davis and American music. 

Most innovative artists make their breakthroughs in their 20s and spend the rest of their careers exploring and burnishing their new approach. Like Picasso, Stravinsky and Frank Lloyd Wright, Davis—subject of a recent PBS/BBC documentary—repeatedly shed his style to create a new paradigm. “Isn’t it great that you can experience surprise through music?” the influential trumpeter mused to writer Kiyoshi Koyama for a set of abandoned liner notes…to what album, it’s not clear.

Davis started his career in the 1940s playing bebop, innovated a counter-bop style known as cool jazz, then became a mainstay of earthy hard bop. In the late 1950s he pioneered a modal approach in jazz, and in the 1960s he stretched further away from jazz’s conventional approach to harmony. 

In 1969, two decades after making his innovative “Birth of the Cool” recordings, and one decade after his landmark “Kind of Blue” album, the ever-restless Davis was experimenting with such electronic instruments as electric piano and electric bass and adopting groove—the rhythmic architecture or “feel” of a tune—instead of harmony, as an organizing principle.

The young audience for jazz had been shrinking as both rock and soul music drew listeners in droves. With big ears and eyes, the 43-year-old Davis was digging such acts as Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix, intrigued by their electronics, rhythms, fashion, youth appeal and popular success.

In August 1969—just after the Woodstock Festival—Davis assembled his band for three daily sessions in which there were no separate takes, just a continuous run of the tape recorder. The players, each tightly miked, sat around Davis, who pointed at a player to start or stop. “I told the musicians that they could do anything they wanted, play anything they heard…,” said Davis to writer Quincy Troupe, “so that’s what they did.” 

The recording doubled most instruments: two players each on keyboards, reeds, bass, drums and percussion. As well as one guitar and, on two tracks, a third keyboard. His stunningly gifted sidemen included electric pianists Chick Corea, Larry Young and Joe Zawinul, soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin, bassist Dave Holland, drummers Jack DeJohnette and Lenny White, and guitarist John McLaughlin.

The album takes you on a trip to unexpected, even mysterious places. With its layers of rhythm, collective improvisation and hard-to-detect song structures, it is always unpredictable. And it rewards relistening. 

The title track—with echoing trumpet, thrashing drums and dense rhythms—is dark, multilayered and abstract. “Spanish Key” has some of Davis’s and Mr. McLaughlin’s best playing on the album. Wayne Shorter’s “Sanctuary” is as close as the album gets to a ballad, the lonely, pensive sound of Davis’s trumpet hovering over the rhythm section, alternately quiet, busy and loud. The least outré cut, “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” has Davis soloing dramatically over a one-chord vamp and a James-Brown-like funky bass-and-drums dance groove. 

Whether in a studio, nightclub or concert hall, jazz’s ethos was real-time recording. This album made a radical departure from that norm. With Davis’s approval, producer Teo Macero added echo and delay and—like tape loops and cinematic jump cuts—cut and reordered passages to produce a remarkable instance of studio art. “I had carte blanche to work with the material,” Macero told Wire magazine writer Joel Lewis. Credited only as producer, Macero was also a kind of co-composer. Without the undersung Macero, there would be no “Bitches Brew.” 

The album sparked an uproar, much as another Columbia Records artist, Bob Dylan, had when he went electric in 1965. Davis’s turn to electronics, distortion and rock beats scandalized his old-guard fan base.

But “Bitches Brew” vaulted him into the youth market and such rock venues as the Fillmore, which paid handsomely. The players on the project—a wag called them “sons of ‘Bitches Brew’”—went on to power such fusion bands as Weather Report, Return to Forever, the Headhunters and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

If you come to this album anew from such acoustic Davis recordings as “Porgy and Bess,” you may have to listen with a radically different sensibility. If you approach via rock or soul music, you’ll have to suspend any expectation of lyrics, brevity or true lead guitar. Whatever your listening experience, you’ll find “Bitches Brew” bracing. 

A half century on, “Bitches Brew” continues to fizz and fascinate.

—Mr. Hasse is curator emeritus of American music at the Smithsonian Institution. His books include “Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington” (Da Capo) and “Discover Jazz” (Pearson).

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

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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The ‘Blurred Lines’ Case Scared Songwriters. But Its Time May Be Up. – The New York Times

The ‘Blurred Lines’ Case Scared Songwriters. But Its Time May Be Up. – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/arts/music/blurred-lines-led-zeppelin-copyright.html?campaign_id=53
 

The ‘Blurred Lines’ Case Scared Songwriters. But Its Time May Be Up.

By Ben Sisario

March 24, 2020

Decisions in copyright cases involving Led Zeppelin and Katy Perry suggest the open season on lawsuits could be coming to a close.

 

The Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant last year. A court of appeals upheld a jury’s verdict that Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” didn’t copy Spirit’s “Taurus.” The case has big implications for music copyright lawsuits. The Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant last year. A court of appeals upheld a jury’s verdict that Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” didn’t copy Spirit’s “Taurus.” The case has big implications for music copyright lawsuits.Helle Arensbak/EPA, via Shutterstock

In the five years since a federal jury decided that Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines” had copied Marvin Gaye’s disco-era standard “Got to Give It Up,” the music industry has been in an anxious state about copyright.

That case and others raised serious questions about the legal protections available for music: When does homage become plagiarism? When does a common chord progression become one songwriter’s property? Songwriters and producers worried that their next hit could make them the target of a lawsuit.

But the tide may be changing, after two court decisions this month addressed important aspects of how copyright applies to music — and, in many cases, may make it more difficult to prove that one song copied another.

As Christine Lepera, a lawyer for Katy Perry in a recent copyright suit, put it: “The ‘Blurred Lines’ curse — its chilling effect — has been lifted.”

The catalyst is Led Zeppelin, which was accused of borrowing the pastoral opening to its 1971 classic-rock odyssey “Stairway to Heaven” from a lesser-known song, “Taurus” by the band Spirit; the two songs share a similar chord sequence and a bass line that descends along a chromatic scale. Led Zeppelin prevailed at trial, and this month the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the jury’s verdict.

 

In a surprise decision, a judge threw out a jury’s verdict that Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” borrowed from a Christian rap song. In a surprise decision, a judge threw out a jury’s verdict that Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” borrowed from a Christian rap song.Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

In a footnote to its 73-page decision, the Ninth Circuit — which heard the appeal “en banc,” or as a full panel of 11 judges — also explained what constitutes illegal copying when it comes to works that involve generic or commonplace elements. In those cases, the judges said, only a minimal, or “thin,” level of copyright applies, and a plaintiff must show that a work is “virtually identical” to a defendant’s.

The author of the panel’s majority opinion, Judge M. Margaret McKeown, gave no specifics about what kinds of works may apply, just that they must be virtually identical “if the range of protectable expression is narrow.” But lawyers, and at least one judge, seized on that statement as applying to brief musical passages that may recycle common chords or melodies — exactly the situation with Perry’s hit “Dark Horse,” which a jury last summer found had infringed on an eight-note instrumental pattern in a Christian rap song.

Just a week after the Led Zeppelin decision, the judge in Perry’s case, Christina A. Snyder of Federal District Court in Los Angeles, cited the Ninth Circuit’s footnote in a ruling that threw out the “Dark Horse” jury’s verdict — and, with it, a $2.8 million damages award. Those eight notes were “not a particularly unique or rare combination,” Judge Snyder wrote, and therefore could not be protected by copyright. (Lawyers for the plaintiff, Marcus Gray, who performs under the name Flame, have said they will appeal.)

As many litigators and legal scholars see it, these decisions have quickly reset the balance of power in music copyright cases. Since “Blurred Lines,” a series of lawsuits have focused on short phrases or chunks of generic musical elements in combination; those cases may now be harder for plaintiffs to win.

 

The case involving “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke, set off a string of copyright lawsuits. The case involving “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke, set off a string of copyright lawsuits.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America

“Before Led Zeppelin’s en banc ruling, plaintiffs were on a roll,” said Joseph P. Fishman, an associate professor at the Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville. “That string of events built a narrative that successful musicians really needed to be worried about being sued. Now, with the Katy Perry verdict being thrown out only a week after the big Led Zeppelin decision, that narrative may change.”

The two decisions addressed what has become a key question as more copyright suits have focused on song fragments: what is original about them — and thus can be copyrighted — and what are basic building blocks that cannot be owned by any songwriter?

The next beneficiary may be Ed Sheeran, whose “Thinking Out Loud,” which won the Grammy for song of the year in 2016, was accused of copying another Marvin Gaye classic, “Let’s Get It On.”

As with “Stairway,” the “Thinking Out Loud” suit includes the accusation of a common chord progression — one that a musicologist who analyzed the songs on Sheeran’s behalf said is so ordinary that it appears in at least two elementary guitar instruction books.

Sheeran’s case was set to go to trial last fall in New York, but the judge paused the case pending the outcome of the Led Zeppelin appeal.

For years, lawyers have complained that the complexities of music have made judges reluctant to dismiss cases before they reach a jury. And juries struggle with the job of separating what aspects of a song are protected by copyright from those that aren’t, said Christopher J. Buccafusco, a professor at Cardozo Law School.

“Juries are often told, essentially, ‘Listen to this song — but only listen to the original parts,’” Professor Buccafusco said. “How do you do that?”

As much as the music industry has obsessed over the “Blurred Lines” case, the issue has been controversial for decades.

 

A suit involving Ed Sheeran was delayed until after the Led Zeppelin case was resolved. A suit involving Ed Sheeran was delayed until after the Led Zeppelin case was resolved.Luca Piergiovanni/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Jurisprudence in this area went off the rails as early as 1946, when the Second Circuit established that a jury of ‘lay listeners,’ rather than judges informed by expert testimony, ultimately decides questions of infringement liability,” said Charles Cronin, a visiting scholar at George Washington University Law School, referring to a famous case — famous to copyright lawyers, anyway — that involved Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In.”

By more strictly defining what can and cannot be copyrighted in musical fragments, the Led Zeppelin and Perry decisions may give judges more leeway to dismiss cases before they ever reach a jury, said Professor Fishman, of Vanderbilt.

Not all lawyers agree with that interpretation. Richard S. Busch, who won the “Blurred Lines” case for Gaye’s children, said that the “virtually identical” standard mentioned by the Ninth Circuit does not apply to music, in part because, he said, the cases cited in Judge McKeown’s footnote involved computer operating systems and the design of children’s dolls — but not music.

“Thin copyright might apply to a doll or a painting because, for example, there are just so many ways to paint a tomato,” Busch said. “Creative choices are limited. It has never applied to music because there are literally an infinite number of creative choices in creating a song.”

But other litigators said they are already expecting more difficulties in bringing music copyright cases.

Sam P. Israel, who represented a musician who sued Carrie Underwood (the case was withdrawn), called the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Led Zeppelin “deadly” for potential plaintiffs, suggesting that the pendulum had swung far.

“It’s going to have a chilling effect,” he said, “on people who want to bring a complaint.”

Music and Copyright Cases

Ben Sisario covers the music industry for The New York Times. @sisario

  1. TV, movies, pop music and more.

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2020’s National Recording Registry Entries Range From Dr. Dre To Mister Rogers : NPR

2020’s National Recording Registry Entries Range From Dr. Dre To Mister Rogers : NPR


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https://www.npr.org/2020/03/25/821390228/national-recording-registry-announces-2020-entries-from-dr-dre-to-mister-rogers
 

National Recording Registry Announces 2020 Entries, From Dr. Dre To Mister Rogers

March 25, 202012:37 PM ET

Dr. Dre’s The Chronic was one of this year’s 25 additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, alongside the theme song to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and music by Tina Turner.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Updated March 25, 3:11 p.m. ET.

The National Recording Registry was founded in 2000 by the Library of Congress to showcase the breadth and depth of American sound. Every year, 25 recordings are picked to be preserved for posterity.

This year, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden called the selections “the ultimate stay at home playlist.” The entries, culled from a list of over 800 possibilities, include the original cast recording of the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roofstarring Zero Mostel; the 1978 disco classic “Y.M.C.A.“; Tina Turner’s 1984 pop hit “Private Dancer“; and a 1951 broadcast of a nail-biter of a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, with Jackie Robinson at bat. They go all the way back to a ferocious 1927 spoken-word recording made by Italian Americans in response to the execution of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and all the way up to a contemporary rap classic: Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, from 1992.

But the most comforting recording in this year’s list is indisputably the theme song to the beloved PBS children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

 

 

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Here’s the full list of the 25 recordings:

  1. “Whispering” (single), Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (1920)
  2. “Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti,” Compagnia Columbia; “Sacco e Vanzetti,” Raoul Romito (1927)
  3. “La Chicharronera” (single), Narciso Martinez and Santiago Almeida (1936)
  4. “Arch Oboler’s Plays” episode “The Bathysphere.” (Nov. 18, 1939)
  5. “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” (single), Memphis Minnie (1941)
  6. The 1951 National League tiebreaker: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers — Russ Hodges, announcer (Oct. 3, 1951)
  7. Puccini’s Tosca (album), Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Angelo Mercuriali, Tito Gobbi, Melchiorre Luise, Dario Caselli, Victor de Sabata (1953)
  8. “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” (single), Allan Sherman (1963)
  9. WGBH broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1963)
  10. Fiddler on the Roof (album), original Broadway cast (1964)
  11. “Make the World Go Away” (single), Eddy Arnold (1965)
  12. Hiromi Lorraine Sakata Collection of Afghan Traditional Music (1966-67; 1971-73)
  13. “Wichita Lineman” (single), Glen Campbell (1968)
  14. Dusty in Memphis (album), Dusty Springfield (1969)
  15. Mister Rogers Sings 21 Favorite Songs From Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood(album), Fred Rogers (1973)
  16. Cheap Trick at Budokan (album), Cheap Trick (1978)
  17. Holst: Suite No. 1 in E-Flat, Suite No. 2 in F / Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks / Bach: Fantasia in G (Special Edition Audiophile Pressing album), Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (1978)
  18. “Y.M.C.A.” (single), Village People (1978)
  19. A Feather on the Breath of God (album), Gothic Voices; Christopher Page, conductor; Hildegard von Bingen, composer (1982)
  20. Private Dancer (album), Tina Turner (1984)
  21. Ven Conmigo (album), Selena (1990)
  22. The Chronic (album), Dr. Dre (1992)
  23. “I Will Always Love You” (single), Whitney Houston (1992)
  24. Concert in the Garden (album), Maria Schneider Orchestra (2004)
  25. Percussion Concerto (album), Colin Currie (2008)

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‘social distancing’ rules applied to iconic album covers

‘social distancing’ rules applied to iconic album covers


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https://www.designboom.com/design/social-distancing-album-covers-the-beatles-abbey-road-activista-03-24-2020/
 

‘social distancing’ applied to iconic album covers like the beatles’ abbey road

creative duo paco conde and beto fernandez have reimagined photographyfrom a series of album sleeves to reflect the realities of social distancing.the project, called ‘6 feet covers’, features iconic artwork including the beatles’ ‘abbey road’ cover and blondie’s 1976 debut album.

'social distancing' applied to iconic album covers like the beatles' abbey road

images courtesy of paco conde and beto fernandez / activista via 6 feet covers

the abbey road cover now sees band members george harrison, paul mccartney, ringo starr and john lennon separated by lengths as they cross the street. meanwhile, other covers show members of blondie, u2, ramones and queen, all keeping a safe distance from each other.

social distancing applied to iconic album covers including the beatles' abbey road

conde and fernandez have created a dedicated site that allows visitors to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of the art. the hope is that the message of social distancing will mobilize people to take a moment and think about the consequences of getting to close one another during the coronavirus pandemic.

social distancing applied to iconic album covers including the beatles' abbey road

the idea is to maintain a distance between you and other people — meaning to stay at home, and minimize contact with people as much as possible. avoid public transportation whenever possible, limit nonessential travel, and work from home.

social distancing applied to iconic album covers including the beatles' abbey road

‘as creators, we have always used our ideas to help brands provoke real change,’ conde said in an interview with adage. ‘now more than ever, all of us need to use our talent, skills, experience resources or expertise to help beat coronavirus and its consequences. it shouldn’t be a trend, but an obligation.’

social distancing applied to iconic album covers including the beatles' abbey road

art director paco conde and copywriter beto fernandez are the co-founders of socially-minded creative shop activista in LA. together, they have executed campaigns for brands including absolut, dove and burger king. they have also been recognized by adage and the cannes report amongst the most awarded creative directors in the world.

'social distancing' applied to iconic album covers like the beatles' abbey road

'social distancing' applied to iconic album covers like the beatles' abbey road

'social distancing' applied to iconic album covers like the beatles' abbey road

'social distancing' applied to iconic album covers like the beatles' abbey road

project info

company: activista
project: 6 feet covers

 

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Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (Full Album) – YouTube

Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (Full Album) – YouTube


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When this record came out back in 1972 I was working for Cox Records Flatbush & 7th Ave right next door to the John’s Bargain Store right by the 7th Ave subway entrance.

The Soul Makossa was a dance hit so the DJs were coming in asking for it.

The record wasn’t commercially available in the States so bootlegs for the 45 were going for $25 back then.

R.I.P. Manu Dibango

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-pkgVyhIuU

 

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Aurlus Mabele, Congolese King of Soukous Music, Dies at 66 – The New York Times

Aurlus Mabele, Congolese King of Soukous Music, Dies at 66 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/world/africa/aurlus-mabele-dead-coronavirus.html?action=click
 

Aurlus Mabele, Congolese King of Soukous Music, Dies at 66

By Abdi Latif Dahir

March 23, 2020

His up-tempo hits and high-wattage performances were highlighted by spectacular dance moves. He contracted the coronavirus and died in Paris.

 

An album cover by Aurlus Mabele and his band Loketo. The band thrived on soukous, which blends traditional African and Caribbean rhythms with pop and soul. The word soukous is derived from “secouer,” which means “to shake” in French. An album cover by Aurlus Mabele and his band Loketo. The band thrived on soukous, which blends traditional African and Caribbean rhythms with pop and soul. The word soukous is derived from “secouer,” which means “to shake” in French.

Aurlus Mabele, the Congolese singer who was called “the king of soukous,” the energetic dance hall music that blends traditional African and Caribbean rhythms with pop and soul, died on Thursday in Paris. He was 66.

His death, at a hospital, was confirmed by his daughter, the singer Liza Monet, who said her father had contracted the coronavirus. He had had a stroke a few years ago and had been in fragile health.

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to surge in France, with more than 16,000 cases and almost 700 deaths as of Monday.

Mr. Mabele rose to fame across Africa in the 1970s and ’80s with his up-tempo hits and high-wattage performances highlighted by spectacular dance moves. In his early 20s he founded the musical group Les Ndimbola Lokole in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, gaining popularity with recordings of songs like “Waka Waka” and “Zebola.”

After moving to France in the 1980s, he helped start the band Loketo, which means “hips” in Lingala, the language spoken in parts of both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the group’s lead singer, Mr. Mabele worked alongside the renowned guitarist Diblo Dibala.

The band thrived on developing and playing soukous, a modern variation of the Congolese rumba music. The word soukous is derived from the French word “secouer,” which means “to shake,” and as Mr. Mabele’s band Loketo gained fame, the genre took hold in dance halls around the world, including in France.

Before breaking up in the 1990s, the band recorded bouncy songs like “Extra Ball,” “Douce Isabelle” and “Choc a Distance” and sold millions of albums worldwide. The group toured Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States.

Performing in Lower Manhattan at the club S.O.B.’s (for Sound of Brazil) in 1989, Loketo “did what it does best: packed the dance floor,” Peter Watrous wrote in his review in The New York Times.

“And while the show had its visual side — two women came out and invited audience members to bump and grind onstage with them — it was the intense interlocking of instruments, feeding off Diblo’s guitar figures, that kept the music effective,” Mr. Watrous added. “Like a mosaic, each little part contributed to a bright, gleaming whole that added up to a wicked dance machine.”

Mr. Mabele was born Aurélien Miatsonama on Oct. 24, 1953, in Brazzaville. In addition to Ms. Monet (who was born Alexandra Marie), his survivors include 12 other children.

His death drew messages of condolence from around the world. Mav Cacharel, a member of Loketo, said on Facebook, “May the peace and protection of the Lord remain in us.”

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Saxophonist Manu Dibango dies in France of COVID-19 | Euronews

Saxophonist Manu Dibango dies in France of COVID-19 | Euronews


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https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/24/saxophonist-manu-dibango-dies-in-france-of-covid-19
 

Saxophonist Manu Dibango dies in France of COVID-19

•  last updated: 24/03/2020 – 10:56

Saxophonist Manu Dibango dies in France of COVID-19
Copyright  Sia Kambou/AFP

Iconic Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango has died aged 86 from complications due to COVID-19.

“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible,” a message posted to his official Facebook account read.

The Afro-jazz artist created the famous world music tune “Soul Makossa”. He then reportedly sued Michael Jackson for taking one of the tune’s lines “mama say mama sa mama coosa” for a track on his “Thriller” album.

According to AFP, a financial agreement was eventually settled over the use of the line in the Jackson song “Wanna be starting something”.

The line also appears in the Rihanna song “Please don’t stop the music”.

Dibango was born in 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. He moved to France in 1949 where he discovered jazz music.

Just last week, a message on his Facebook said that he was recovering from the virus.

“He can’t wait to meet you again soon, and in those troubled times we all go through, wants you to take very good care of yourselves,” the message read.

 

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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HERBIE MANN Kabuki Rock w/Eric Weissberg – YouTube

HERBIE MANN Kabuki Rock w/Eric Weissberg – YouTube


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwDanuvqQF0

Kabuki Rock

Bass – Miroslav VitousRon CarterGuitar – Eric WeissbergRichie Resnicoff*, Sonny SharrockWritten-By – William S. Fischer

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Eric Weissberg, ‘Dueling Banjos’ Musician, Dies at 80 – The New York Times

Eric Weissberg, ‘Dueling Banjos’ Musician, Dies at 80 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/arts/music/eric-weissberg-dies.html
 

Eric Weissberg, ‘Dueling Banjos’ Musician, Dies at 80

By Bill Friskics-Warren

March 23, 2020

His melodic banjo work on a 1973 hit single (heard in the movie “Deliverance”) helped usher bluegrass music into the cultural mainstream.

 

Eric Weissberg, right, in about 1970 with his group Deliverance. His recording of “Dueling Banjos” with the guitarist Steve Mandell was a hit in 1973. Eric Weissberg, right, in about 1970 with his group Deliverance. His recording of “Dueling Banjos” with the guitarist Steve Mandell was a hit in 1973.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Eric Weissberg, a gifted multi-instrumentalist whose melodic banjo work on the 1973 hit single “Dueling Banjos” helped bring bluegrass music into the cultural mainstream, died on Sunday in a nursing home near Detroit. He was 80.

Juliet Weissberg, his wife of 34 years, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Though the theme songs to the film “Bonnie & Clyde” (1967) and the CBS sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” both recorded by Flatt and Scruggs, preceded “Dueling Banjos” in exposing wide audiences to bluegrass, neither made it to the pop Top 40. “Dueling Banjos,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1972 movie “Deliverance,” fared far better, rising to No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart.

The soundtrack to “Deliverance” was also certified gold, for sales of more than 500,000 copies.

But Mr. Weissberg — who also played fiddle, mandolin and guitar — produced much more than a one-hit wonder. More than a decade before “Dueling Banjos,” he had distinguished himself as a member of two popular folk groups, the Greenbriar Boys and the Tarriers, and as an in-demand session musician in New York.

As a session player he appeared on Judy Collins’s “Fifth Album,” contributing guitar to her 1965 version of “Pack Up Your Sorrows.” He played banjo on John Denver’s 1971 Top 10 pop hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” His fretwork was heard on albums like Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” (1974), Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” (1973) and the Talking Heads’ “Little Creatures” (1985). He collaborated with jazz musicians like Bob James and Herbie Mann as well.

“Dueling Banjos” did not, as the song’s title suggests, involve two banjoists pitting their skills against each other. Instead it showcased Mr. Weissberg’s three-finger Earl Scruggs-style banjo in a sprightly call-and-response — more of a dance than a fight — with the flat-picked acoustic guitar of his collaborator, Steve Mandell.

The song was originally recorded in 1955 as “Feudin’ Banjos” in a version that featured the song’s composer, Arthur Smith (known for “Guitar Boogie“), and Don Reno, both of them on banjo.

When it appeared on the soundtrack for “Deliverance,” a movie based on the James Dickey novel of the same name, it was mistakenly copyrighted to Mr. Weissberg.

A lawsuit was settled in Mr. Smith’s favor. Mr. Weissberg always maintained that Warner Bros. had credited him as the song’s composer without his knowledge or consent.

An inspiration to banjoists who followed in his wake, especially those of a progressive bent like Tony Trischka and Béla Fleck, Mr. Weissberg contributed to a trio of influential early banjo albums: “American Banjo Scruggs Style” (Folkways, 1957), “Folk Banjo Styles” (Elektra, 1961) and “New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass” (Elektra, 1963).

“Here were some early seedings of progressive banjo playing scattered in my fertile mind,” Mr. Trischka said of the “New Dimensions” album in a 2006 edition of Banjo Newsletter. “These tunes set a whole new standard for what could be done with the banjo. All that, plus a generous dose of the early melodic style.”

All but two tracks from “New Dimensions,” recorded with the guitarist Clarence White and the banjoist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Marshall Brickman, were reissued on the soundtrack to “Deliverance.” The Beastie Boys later sampled a snippet of one of the album’s tracks, “Shuckin’ the Corn,” on “5-Piece Chicken Dinner,” from their 1989 touchstone, “Paul’s Boutique.”

Eric Weissberg was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 16, 1939. His father Will, was a publicity photographer for the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan who loved listening to jazz. His mother, Cecile (Glasberg) Weissberg, was a liquor buyer for the Waldorf Astoria and later for the entire Hilton hotel chain. She often played selections from the “Fireside Book of Folk Songs” on the piano when Eric was young.

Mr. Weissberg grew up in Knickerbocker Village, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and attended elementary school at the Little Red School House, a progressive private school in Greenwich Village, where he began taking violin lessons at the age of 10.

By then Eric was already spending summers at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, N.Y., near Woodstock, which was run by the father and uncle of Toshi Aline Ohta, the future wife of Pete Seeger, who would give banjo lessons to Eric when he was 8 or 9.

Soon after Mr. Seeger’s folk group the Weavers formed, Mr. Weissberg attended hootenannies in the presence of other luminaries of the era, like Woody Guthrie.

Mr. Weissberg attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957 before leaving to study at Juilliard. On Sundays afternoons he joined singalongs with the likes of John Herald and Bob Yellin, in Washington Square Park, where public singing was permitted from only 12 to 6 p.m.

After his success with “Dueling Banjos,” which won a Grammy for best country instrumental performance in 1973, Mr. Weissberg formed a group called Deliverance, which toured widely and recorded for Warner Bros.

He continued to do session work, and later played with Tom Paxton and Art Garfunkel, among others, but he became less active as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s. One notable exception was his appearance, in 2009, at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Gala Concert at Riverside Church in Manhattan, along with, among others, the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus.

Mr. Weissberg married Juliet Savage in 1985. In addition to her, he is survived by his son, Will, and two grandchildren.

Tune up your Times experience.

Tune up your Times experience.

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

R.I.P. Mike Longo


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A great jazz musician has passed.

  He played with Dizzy and many of the legends.

He owned his own record label Consolidated Artists and was producer for the jazz series at the Bahai Center too.

So sad he had to go this way.

R.I.P. Mike Longo

Jim Eigo

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Ray Mantilla, Percussionist Who Blazed a Trail in Both Jazz and Latin Music, Is Dead at 85 | WBGO

Ray Mantilla, Percussionist Who Blazed a Trail in Both Jazz and Latin Music, Is Dead at 85 | WBGO


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Ray Mantilla, Percussionist Who Blazed a Trail in Both Jazz and Latin Music, Is Dead at 85

By  • 11 hours ago

 

Ray Mantilla, a percussionist and bandleader who led a prolific jazz career for more than half a century, died on Saturday, at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He was 85.  

The cause was complications of lymphoma, said his brother, Kermit Mantilla, who was at his bedside when he passed.

Mantilla played on hundreds of recordings, including some that have become important parts of jazz history, like Max Roach’s M’Boom, Herbie Mann’s Flute, Brass, Vibes and Percussion and Charles Mingus’s Cumbia & Jazz Fusion. He was one of the three most recorded conga players in the history of jazz; he held that distinction with Ray Barretto and Cándido Camero.

Like Cándido, one of his heroes, Mantilla championed the use of multiple congas, employing up to four drums at times, each tuned to a specific pitch. Also like Cándido, he championed the performance of solo pieces on congas. 

But Mantilla was, as he liked to put it, the complete percussionist — skilled not only on congas but also a range of other instruments. “I loved the way Ray played charanga-style timbales,” Barretto once said. “Remember, you have only one bell to keep time accompanying the flute and violins, and you have to play rock-solid time with swing.”

Mantilla described his own music as “Latin Jazz with authentic Latino rhythms.” He released nine albums as a leader. His first was Mantilla, in 1978, and his most recent was High Voltage, almost 40 years later. He recorded a follow-up, Rebirth, scheduled for release this year on Savant Records.

“It’s a combination of the familiar and the eclectic,” said longtime Mantilla associate Mike Freeman, who plays vibraphone on that album. The title, Rebirth, he explained, “is a reference to Ray surviving cancer two years ago.”

Raymond Mantilla was born in St. Francis Hospital in the South Bronx on June 22, 1934. His father, Carlos Mantilla Ghilardi, was an architect and engineer who was recruited to work on the building of the George Washington Bridge. He then began working for the U.S. Intelligence Services in a branch in Peru, just before the United States’ entry into World War II. Ray’s mother, Ramona Maldonado, hailed from the city of Vega Baja in Puerto Rico, and owned and operated a bodega in the South Bronx.

Ray’s childhood friends included some of the major forces in the Afro-Cuban music scene that became redefined by New York’s City’s Puerto Rican community into what we know as salsa. Among them were timbalero Orlando Marin, percussionist Manny Oquendo, pianist Eddie Palmieri, flutist and percussionist Johnny Pacheco, and percussionist Benny Bonilla.

Bonilla, who played timbales on the seminal Latin Boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That,” met Mantilla at age 15. “He and I would practice our conga beats to 78 vinyl records,” he said. “Ray stressed a steady and good left hand.” 

But Mantilla’s closest childhood friend was Barretto, a pioneering conga player who became an NEA Jazz Master in 2006, one month before his death at 76. “Me and Ray were like peas in a pod,” Mantilla once recalled. “He got me into the studios, since he would send me to cover dates he couldn’t do. Between Ray, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Rodriguez, Cándido, and me, we were doing all the Latin percussion work on studio sessions in New York.”

Barretto also made a fateful introduction when he recommended Mantilla to Mann, a flutist leading a widely popular Latin jazz band. Barretto and Mantilla played together on a handful of albums by Mann at the dawn of the ‘60s, including The Common Ground and The Family of Mann — but by the time of Herbie Mann at The Village Gate in ’61, Barretto had moved on, and given Mantilla his blessing.

His work with Mann, and his association with Barretto, brought Mantilla to the attention of prominent jazz bandleaders like Mingus, Roach, Art Blakey and many more. “I always liked the freedom in jazz and I dug the scene as well,” he said. “You could be more creative, looser. After a while I just stopped doing gigs on the Latin scene altogether unless I was called as a guest soloist.” 

In 1972, Mantilla was asked to join Roach’s percussion ensemble M’Boom, which had been formed two years earlier. “I was impressed by Ray when I saw him with Art Blakey because I liked the way he navigated his role in the group,” recalls founding member Joe Chambers, who recommended him for the gig. “He demonstrated the drummer’s philosophy as it was taught to me, to accompany. He never overplayed.”

Warren Smith, another member of M’Boom, recalls: “Ray understood the subtle nuances in African, Latin, and jazz-based music and he adapted beautifully. The first time he played with us it was seamless. What also impressed me was the variety of solo contexts he could do. He could play solo on bongos, congas, whatever, and hold the audience. He was also funny as an emcee. When we performed in Barcelona, Max let him speak to the audience in Spanish. He had them in the palm of his hand introducing each one of us with funny quips and jokes.”  

For Mantilla, M’Boom was an opportunity to expand his musicianship. “I had to learn to play mallet parts on vibes, xylophone, etc. I had never done that before. It was great. They showed me that and I had a chance to show the guys how to play hand drums and the percussion in an authentic way.”

In 1977, Mantilla also made political history, as part of a group of musicians led by Dizzy Gillespie who became the first to perform in Cuba since the travel embargo of 1962. Their joint concerts with Cuba’s supergroup Irakere and the rúmba percussion ensemble Los Papines would reestablish musical ties with the island.

It was the following year, 1978, that Mantilla really became a bandleaderHis group, which he eventually dubbed the Space Station, explored Afro-Cuban-based rhythms but also experimented with expanding the parameters of the music, notably with odd meters. “I was into that when nobody else was, other than people like Don Ellis,” Mantilla said. “That’s why on that album you hear things in seven, etc. Nobody in Latin jazz was doing that at all. That’s why I would call the group Space Station. We were doing things that were out of the norm.”

Trumpter Guido Gonzalez spoke to Mantilla’s style as a bandleader: “In many ways Ray was like Art Blakey. He’d let everyone in the band give their input. He was also funny. The way I got in the band was after I played in a rehearsal, he came up to me and said, ‘Man, your sound doesn’t bother me.’”

Mantilla is survived by his brothers, Kermit and Lisandro Gilberto, and his sisters, Irma Ogden and Sara Kelly, along with extended family. “What I want people to know is that Raymond helped to spread Latin jazz throughout the whole world,” said Kermit. “That is his greatest contribution. Our family is proud of him, as is the entire Peruvian and Puerto Rican community worldwide.”

Over the last few years, as the latest member of M’Boom, I got to know Ray really well on a personal level. The funny anecdotes, deep storytelling, and of course his priceless musicianship (not to mention the bind we had as Bronxites) were all things that I always looked forward to — along with performing, and seeing brothers Warren Smith and Joe Chambers.

But it is the friendship I will always cherish more than anything. Ray was on the Music Board of the Bronx Music Heritage Center, where my wife Elena Martinez and I are Co-Artistic Directors. We always looked forward to our meetings, as Ray and fellow Bronxite Jimmy Owens would hold court with the memories of our beloved borough.

Another S.O.B. (Son of da’ Bronx) has left us embraced by the spirits of ancestors that have contributed mightily and majestically to the history of the music. Rest in power and Aché, Brother Ray. 

Special thanks to Chucho Martinez and Kermit Mantilla for providing biographical information.

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Bill Smith, Master of Two Musical Worlds, Is Dead at 93 – The New York Times

Bill Smith, Master of Two Musical Worlds, Is Dead at 93 – The New York Times


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Bill Smith, Master of Two Musical Worlds, Is Dead at 93

By Steve Smith

March 21, 2020

As Bill Smith, he was a jazz clarinetist who played with Dave Brubeck. As William O. Smith, he was a composer who pioneered unorthodox techniques for his instrument.

 

The clarinetist and composer Bill Smith straddled the classical and jazz worlds with ease. One of his longest collaborations was with Dave Brubeck, seen here performing with Mr. Smith in 2004. The clarinetist and composer Bill Smith straddled the classical and jazz worlds with ease. One of his longest collaborations was with Dave Brubeck, seen here performing with Mr. Smith in 2004.Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Bill Smith, a clarinetist and composer who forged collaborations with some of the pre-eminent jazz and classical artists of the 20th century, including an especially long and close alliance with the pianist Dave Brubeck, died on Feb. 29 at his home in Seattle. He was 93.

His wife, the painter Virginia Paquette Smith, said the cause was complications of prostate cancer.

When he was a teenager, Mr. Smith both led a jazz ensemble and performed with the Oakland Symphony, an early sign of the double musical life that marked his career.

As William O. Smith, he pioneered unorthodox techniques for his instrument and developed ways to notate them for other players. Composers like Luigi Nono, Pauline Oliveros and Gunther Schuller fashioned works that took advantage of Mr. Smith’s uncommon virtuosity. His own compositions were performed and recorded by eminent artists like Mr. Schuller, André Previn and Marni Nixon.

As Bill Smith, he enjoyed a lively career as a jazz clarinetist. He was admired for his bright tone and buoyant swing, most visibly in bands led by Mr. Brubeck.

In fact, the lines between William and Bill were never sharply drawn. Mr. Smith wrote compositions and arrangements for the novel octet he founded with Mr. Brubeck in 1946, which anticipated the stylistic movement synthesizing classical music and jazz for which Mr. Schuller coined the term “Third Stream”in 1957. Mr. Smith’s pieces for other bandleaders, like Red Norvo (“Divertimento,” 1957) and Shelly Manne (“Concerto for Clarinet and Combo,” 1957), also showed his affinity for the style.

Mr. Smith recorded with the Dave Brubeck Quartet on three albums, for which he also provided all the compositions: “Brubeck à la Mode,” “Near Myth” and “The Riddle.” 

In 1966 Mr. Smith joined the faculty of the University of Washington, where he organized an experimental ensemble, the Contemporary Group, with the trombonist Stuart Dempster.

During the 1980s and ’90s he returned to Mr. Brubeck’s quartet, traveling widely, recording regularly and experimenting with electronic effects on his horn.

Dave Brubeck’s son Chris, who played bass and trombone in a later group of his father’s, described Mr. Smith as an avuncular guru of limitless capacity and sly wit.

“I would always hear melodic inventiveness and lyricism,” Mr. Brubeck said of Mr. Smith’s playing in a phone interview. “If he wanted to get from point A, a high note, down to this unbelievable low note in this very wide range, it wouldn’t be a mystery where he would fumble or fake it. He would have an entire chord structure up his sleeve: He knew exactly what he was doing, all the time. His facility was just incredible, and also his sense of adventure.”

That last quality, Mr. Brubeck noted, extended to Mr. Smith’s approach to touring: “Bill was always the first one out of the hotel with guidebooks, and he knew a lot about what he was going to see. He was constantly culturally thirsty.”

Bill Smith was born William Overton on Sept. 22, 1926, in Sacramento, Calif., to Ross Moody Overton, a traveling salesman, and Beatrice (Watson) Overton, who worked as a model and raised her son with help from her mother. After divorcing Mr. Overton, Mr. Smith’s mother married Bob Smith, who adopted him.

William grew up in Oakland and took up the clarinet at 10. After a brief time at the Juilliard School in 1946, he returned to California to study composition with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland that same year. He later studied with Roger Sessions at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1950 and a master’s in composition in 1952.

Mr. Smith’s introduction to Mr. Brubeck, another Mills College student, came at the behest of Milhaud, who encouraged them in their pursuit of an idiom that incorporated classical and jazz techniques.

“I was really impressed with Bill because at such an early age he’d mastered so much of the technique of clarinet, both in classical and in jazz, which is rare,” Dave Brubeck said in a 1989 interview for University of Washington television. “Even older, established players didn’t have as much mastery as Bill had when he was very young.”

In 1957 Mr. Smith was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome, leading to study there and a lifelong love affair with the city, where he long maintained a second home.

As a composer, he embraced technological innovations; his “Duo for Clarinet and Recorded Clarinet” (1960) is cited in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians as the earliest example of a work for clarinet and tape. He combined Third Stream notions and 12-tone technique in “Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra” (1962). 

Mr. Smith and Ms. Paquette Smith were married in 1978 and collaborated on art installations in which, Ms. Paquette Smith said, he would “play” her paintings through improvisation.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by four children from a previous marriage, Mark, Gregory, Matthew and Rebecca Smith, and two grandchildren.

“Bill never stopped playing and composing,” Ms. Paquette Smith said in an email.

“He had major concerts with his friends and students, who continue to perform and compose in the same experimental and fiercely creative mode as Bill,” she added, “combining the jazz and classical modes that Milhaud inspired in him.”

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R.I.P. Ray Mantilla

R.I.P. Ray Mantilla


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Sandy’s Jazz and Blues Revival Presents Marty Grosz Wayne Wright Archtop Acoustic Monsters of Jazz Guitar – YouTube

Sandy’s Jazz and Blues Revival Presents Marty Grosz Wayne Wright Archtop Acoustic Monsters of Jazz Guitar – YouTube


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Mermaid Inn jazz favorite, 90, releases autobiography – Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA –

Mermaid Inn jazz favorite, 90, releases autobiography – Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA –


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Mermaid Inn jazz favorite, 90, releases autobiography

Posted on March 20, 2020, updated on March 20, 2020 by Len Lear

The autobiography of Mermaid Inn favorite George Grosz, 90, which is “full of sardonic wit with a touch of vaudeville,” was just released by publisher Golden Alley Press on March 4.

by Len Lear and Elizabeth Coady

One of the most popular performers ever to play the Mermaid Inn, Marty Grosz, is celebrating his 90th birthday and his astonishing 70-year career in music with his autobiography, “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.” The memoir, “full of sardonic wit with a touch of vaudeville,” was just released by publisher Golden Alley Press on March 4, the same date that Grosz played a celebratory concert at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 

Marty has many stories to tell. In his seven-decade career, he has performed with jazz greats such as Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd, Dick Hyman, Leroy “Slam” Stewart, Bob Wilber, Kenny Davern, etc. Beginning in the 1950s, he became a prominent figure of Chicago’s jazz club scene and toured with the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra, Soprano Summit, The Classic Jazz Quartet and others. Marty’s lengthy discography ranges from a 1951 recording with veteran New Orleans’ bassist “Pops” Foster to his 2015 CD with The Fat Babies.

But Marty is more than just a great jazz guitarist and singer; he’s a raconteur sharing yarns accumulated over a lifetime between performing classics like “I’m Crazy About My Baby” and “Beale Street Blues.” He’s played in the White House for President Jimmy Carter, toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan and Australia, and strummed behind Woody Allen every Monday night for a year at a pub on New York’s East Side. “He couldn’t play,” Grosz recalled in an earlier interview with the Local, referring to the famous movie director who he says wore the “same dyspeptic look” he does today. “He owned a clarinet.”

In an earlier gig at the Mermaid Inn, two musicians drove down from New York City for the pleasure of playing with Grosz. “He’s a legend,” said Lynn Redmile, a photographer whose trumpeter husband, Danny Tobias, regularly accompanies Grosz on gigs. “Marty is one of the last great rhythm guitar players around,” said Tobias. “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to play with him. He’s really funny on the microphone and completely spontaneous. When he sings, sometimes he’ll just put asides in the music like Fats Waller did … I never pass up a chance to play with Marty.”

Grosz has recorded dozens of albums on his own. Esteemed jazz journalist Scott Yanow touts Grosz as “one of jazz music’s great comedians” and a “brilliant acoustic guitarist.” Grosz was bornFeb. 28, 1930, the youngest son of renowned German Dadaist painter George Grosz, who gained international acclaim for viciously satirizing the corruption and decadence of Berlin society of the early 20th century and later of Hitler’s Nazi regime. “Barbarism prevailed … The times were mad,” the artist wrote of that era in his biography, “A Little Yes and a Big No.”

A Grosz oil on canvas entitled “Wild West” sold for $2.2 million, his highest-priced painting, at an October, 1996, auction at Christie’s in London. A watercolor and pen and India ink over pencil on paper entitled “Der Neue Mensch” (“The New Man”) sold in November, 2009, for $1.3 million at Christie’s auction house in New York.

Grosz the artist drew Jesus hanging on a cross wearing a gas mask and infantry boots; he skewered businessmen, prostitutes and upper class German society with pen-and-ink and oil. “I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon … I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands,” Grosz was quoted as saying in “Before the Deluge,” Otto Friedrick’s book on 1920s’ Berlin.

George Grosz was declared public enemy number one by the Nazis for his mocking depictions of soldiers and was prosecuted three times for ”blasphemous art,” according to Christie’s. He fled Germany for America 18 days before Hitler assumed power in 1933.

Only three years old at the time, Marty remembered traveling on the ship S.S. Bremen, which had set the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic two years earlier. “One thing you don’t forget is that they had a catapult plane, a sea plane. And a guy got in the cockpit … catapulted off the Bremen and sailed away into the clouds,” Grosz recalled. “And I remember coming into the New York Harbor.”

“It’s a Sin” also contains interviews that are transcriptions from 11 live interviews between 2015 and 2019. In them, Marty opines on guitar tuning, Eddie Condon, drummers and bassists, Slam Stewart, Mingus, Chet Baker, Hoagy Carmichael, Herb Ellis and more.

For more information, visit martygrosz.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com lenlenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

 

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Danny Ray Thompson, 72, Dies; Mainstay of Sun Ra’s Otherworldly Band – The New York Times

Danny Ray Thompson, 72, Dies; Mainstay of Sun Ra’s Otherworldly Band – The New York Times


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Danny Ray Thompson, 72, Dies; Mainstay of Sun Ra’s Otherworldly Band

By Giovanni Russonello

March 20, 2020

For the better part of five decades, he was the baritone saxophonist and linchpin of one of the most idiosyncratic and influential ensembles in jazz.

 

Danny Roy Thompson, right, and Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra in performance at the New School in New York in 2018. Danny Roy Thompson, right, and Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra in performance at the New School in New York in 2018.Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Danny Ray Thompson, who spent the better part of five decades as the baritone saxophonist and linchpin of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, one of the most idiosyncratic and influential ensembles in jazz, died on March 12 in Philadelphia. He was 72.

The saxophonist Marshall Allen, the current leader of the Arkestra, confirmed the death, at a hospice center. He did not specify the cause but said that Mr. Thompson had been ill for some time.

Mr. Thompson was barely 20 when Mr. Allen introduced him to Sun Ra in New York in 1967. His first assignment was to watch the band’s house on the Lower East Side every Monday night, while the Arkestra played its weekly gig at Slugs’ Saloon nearby. Eventually he was promoted to band driver, before finally joining the ensemble as a saxophonist and flutist.

He went on to serve for many years as the Arkestra’s manager, responsible for everything from distributing its self-released albums to organizing tours.

“Within a few years Thompson was to become one of the most trusted people in Sun Ra’s entourage, and, some even said, the heir apparent to the leader,” the music historian John Szwed wrote in “Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra” (1997).

Mr. Thompson’s devotion to the group’s music — and its theatrically attired, cosmo-futurist performance ethic — sprang eternal. At one concert, Mr. Szwed related, Mr. Thompson was locked in a three-saxophone melee of free improvisation when two of the keys became dislodged from his baritone saxophone and shot off into the audience. He used his fingers to plug the open holes and kept playing, aggressively. All of a sudden his hand got stuck in the horn, and even after the other saxophonists had grown tired and dropped out, he kept going, not knowing what else to do.

“You need to be creative like that,” Mr. Allen remembered Sun Ra telling him approvingly afterward. “He was so creative he tore the keys off; he was like that little Dutch boy and the dike!”

Danny Ray Thompson was born on Oct. 1, 1947, in New York City, to Elgie and Oscar Leonard Thompson. When he was a child his family moved to Los Angeles, where he picked up the nickname Pico, for the boulevard near where he lived. His father, a research scientist, was the first black person to receive a degree from the University of Texas. His mother, an interior designer, encouraged Danny’s interest in both music and acting.

He is survived by a half sister, Dawne Thompson; a son, Darrell Thompson; and two stepchildren, Loren and Gay Ojugbana, whom he helped raise after his marriage to their mother, Marilyn Ojugbana, ended in divorce.

After high school, Mr. Thompson returned to New York and enrolled in night classes at Juilliard.

He played in his first concert in 1966, with the Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji. Through Mr. Allen, another member of Olatunji’s band, he was soon introduced to Sun Ra.

After working his way into the Sun Ra organization, Mr. Thompson made his first major appearance with the Arkestra at Carnegie Hall on April 12 and 13, 1968, just one week after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

At first his role was simply to play bass lines on the baritone saxophone, as the group had recently lost its bassist and already had a capable baritone player in Pat Patrick. But he eventually became the sonic foundation of the group, whose music could range from swing-era revivalism to blistering free jazz.

Sun Ra and much of the band soon moved to Philadelphia, taking over a house owned by Mr. Allen’s father in the Germantown neighborhood. At one point, Mr. Thompson expanded beyond simply managing the band’s affairs; he and his mother opened a grocery store, Pharoah’s Den, which he sought to make not just a moneymaking venture but also a haven for Afrocentric art.

Mr. Thompson left the Arkestra in the 1990s and worked for the Census Bureau and the Transportation Security Administration before moving to Texas for a time. But in the 2000s he returned to Philadelphia and rejoined the band, which had continued after Sun Ra died in 1993.

In recent years it has experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly around the 2013 centennial of Sun Ra’s birth. The band now performs dozens of shows each year, and still tours internationally.

In his final months, Mr. Thompson was in failing health and in and out of the hospital. But he gathered the strength to participate in a concert at Town Hall in Manhattan on March 4. It was his final public performance.

 

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Kenny Rogers, pop-country singer of ‘The Gambler’ who dominated 1970s music charts, dies at 81 – The Washington Post

Kenny Rogers, pop-country singer of ‘The Gambler’ who dominated 1970s music charts, dies at 81 – The Washington Post


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Kenny Rogers, pop-country singer of ‘The Gambler’ who dominated 1970s music charts, dies at 81

Terence McArdle

Kenny Rogers, a grizzled, raspy-voiced country-pop crooner who specialized in narrative-driven ballads such as “Lucille” and “The Gambler,” the latter of which sent its life-as-a-card-game refrain echoing through popular culture, died March 20 at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga. He was 81.

A representative confirmed the death to the Associated Press but did not cite a cause. Mr. Rogers’s seven-decade career — which included stardom in “The Gambler” TV films and co-ownership of a fast-food chicken franchise — wound down in 2017 as he encountered health problems that included a diagnosis of bladder cancer.

His farewell concerts generated headlines that referred to lyrics from his signature song, about a card player who philosophizes that in life, as in games of chance, “you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”

A veteran of doo-wop, jazz and folk groups, Mr. Rogers was pushing 30 when he had his first brush with commercial success as part of the pop group the First Edition. The group’s 1967 hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” was about a hallucinogenic trip and was later featured in a psychedelic dream sequence in the 1998 Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski.”

 

Kenny Rogers performs at the 2012 CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Kenny Rogers performs at the 2012 CMA Music Festival in Nashville. (Wade Payne/Invision/AP)

The act broke up in the mid-1970s, and Mr. Rogers found himself thrice divorced, $65,000 in debt and hawking the “Quick-Pickin’ ‘N Fun-Strummin’ Home Guitar Course” in TV commercials.

Seeking a change, he found it in Nashville.

“I went to Fan Fair in Nashville at Municipal Auditorium one time,” Mr. Rogers told Billboard, “and there were about 10,000 people in the audience, and they introduced this guy who had had a record back in 1954, and the crowd went crazy. I felt that, with that type of longevity, this is where I needed to be.”

 

Mr. Rogers and Lionel Richie perform together in 2012. Mr. Rogers and Lionel Richie perform together in 2012. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nashville producer Larry Butler engineered Mr. Rogers’s reinvention as a country performer. With his impeccably groomed gray beard and designer western wear, the singer cultivated a romantic but laid-back persona that played off Butler’s careful, hook-laden song choices.

“I’d say, ‘I want to do ballads that say what every man would like to say and every woman would want to hear,’ ” Mr. Rogers told The Washington Post in 2016. “And the reason I did that was then you had both audiences: You had the male and female audiences.”

During the 1970s, Mr. Rogers fine-tuned a middle ground between country and easy listening pop that reaped commercial dividends. Every recording he made between 1976 and 1984 sold more than 500,000 copies, and many sold more than 1 million.

“His roots were in pop and folk music,” country music historian Rich Kienzle said in an interview. “He developed a mellow voice that put him in the vanguard of a type of light, fluffy easy listening country which gained the industry name ‘Urban Cowboy’ after the popularity of the John Travolta film. He had a long career because of his crossover appeal to fans of easy listening pop.”

The love ballads included “You Decorated My Life” and “She Believes in Me,” both from 1979, and a cover the next year of Lionel Richie’s “Lady.” In addition to Don Schlitz’s “The Gambler” (1978), he had hits with “story songs” such as “Lucille” (1977), about a woman leaving her impoverished farmer husband (“You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille”) and “Coward of the County” (1979), the story of a passive man’s bloody revenge against the rapists who attacked his sweetheart. Cumulatively, they established him as a force in country pop.

Some of his notable duets included “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton and “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton, both in 1983; “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer” (1980) with Kim Carnes; and “Every Time Two Fools Collide” (1978) with Dottie West. “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” Mr. Rogers’s duet with a male singer Ronnie Milsap, won a Grammy for best country duo in 1987.

He won two other competitive Grammys, for “The Gambler” and “Lucille,” and was nominated 19 times. In 2013, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In part as a backlash against the crossover style of Mr. Rogers and other pop-driven singers, a number of performers such as Randy Travis and George Strait began in the mid-1980s to reorient the music toward its roots. Mr. Rogers’s chart presence declined, but he remained a constant and instantly recognizable presence on television, hosting music specials and bringing the title character of “The Gambler” to life in a series of made-for-TV westerns. He also starred as a racecar driver in the 1982 family film “Six Pack.”

In 1991, he invested his earnings and name in a chain of fast-food rotisserie chicken restaurants, Kenny Rogers Roasters. The company achieved a publicity coup in 1996 when its signature bright red neon signs became a plot line in the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.”

But the business faced stiff competition from other franchisers, and it filed for bankruptcy in 1998. After several changes in ownership — and the shuttering of its U.S. locations — the company began operating principally in Asia.

Kenneth Ray Rogers was born in Houston on Aug. 21, 1938. He was the fourth of eight children and grew up in a public housing development. He said his father — a carpenter and country fiddler — was an alcoholic who often drank his wages. His mother was a nurse’s assistant.

Inspired by a Ray Charles concert he attended at 12, he decided to pursue a music career — in search, he later said, of acclaim and girls. He formed a Houston doo-wop group and called it the Scholars.

“A misnomer — there wasn’t a C student in the bunch,” he later quipped. They had a regional hit with “That Crazy Feeling” (1958) released under his own name. One of the group’s follow-up recordings was a song, “Kangewah,” written by Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

“We figured she’d plug our record in her column,” Mr. Rogers later told People magazine. “It was a great idea but had no relationship to reality. We came home broke.”

After a stint as a bass player in a local jazz trio, he joined the New Christy Minstrels in 1966. But the next year, feeling stifled by the group’s formulaic hootenanny style, Mr. Rogers and three former Minstrels — singer Mike Settle, guitarist Terry Williams and vocalist Thelma Camacho — formed the First Edition. Mickey Jones, a drummer who had toured with Bob Dylan, rounded out the unit.

With Mr. Rogers increasingly featured as the frontman, the group was later billed as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The group’s 1969 hit, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” written by country star Mel Tillis, was about a paralyzed and cuckolded veteran and was perceived as a thinly veiled swipe at the Vietnam War. “Reuben James,” also from 1969, told the story of a black man raising a white child. The band had a syndicated television show — “Rollin’ On The River” (later shortened to “Rollin’”) — which ran from 1971 to 1973.

Mr. Rogers said his ambition and inclination to put work first led to a turbulent personal life. Four of his marriages — to Janice Gordon, Jean Rogers, Margo Anderson and actress Marianne Gordon — ended in divorce. His 1993 divorce settlement with Marianne Gordon, after 16 years of marriage, cost him $60 million.

“She deserves every penny,” he later said, noting that she “stood behind” him in the years he was broke — and before his breakthrough as a major solo performer.

Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Wanda Miller, and several children from that and his earlier marriages. His oldest brother, Lelan Rogers, an independent record producer who died in 2002, produced some of Mr. Roger’s earliest doo-wop songs.

Mr. Rogers remained an enthusiastic performer, still hoping to make new fans, well into the twilight of his career. “I’ve always said I don’t care whether one person walks away saying, ‘He’s the best singer I’ve ever heard,’ ” he once said. “But I want everyone to walk away saying, ‘I enjoyed that.’ ”

Read more Washington Post obituaries

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Mal Sharpe’s San Francisco – YouTube

Mal Sharpe’s San Francisco – YouTube


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Mal Sharpe, Groundbreaker in Street-Level Pranking, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Mal Sharpe, Groundbreaker in Street-Level Pranking, Dies at 83 – The New York Times


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Mal Sharpe, Groundbreaker in Street-Level Pranking, Dies at 83

By Neil Genzlinger

March 19, 2020

Long before late-night talk show hosts began doing it, he conducted absurd interviews with gullible passersby with his comedic partner, Jim Coyle.

 

The pranksters Mal Sharpe, center, and Jim Coyle, right, pose as researchers from The Milpitas Physical Fitness Institute in 1963 in San Francisco, where they talk a man into a display of sidewalk gymnastics. The pranksters Mal Sharpe, center, and Jim Coyle, right, pose as researchers from The Milpitas Physical Fitness Institute in 1963 in San Francisco, where they talk a man into a display of sidewalk gymnastics.John Gorman/San Francisco Examiner

Two strangers approach a man named George on the streets of San Francisco.

“George,” one of them says, “would you yourself participate in a program of inter-protoplasm flow?”

George doesn’t hesitate. “If I needed it, I guess I would,” he says.

One of the strangers, earnestly impressing on George the seriousness of that commitment, elaborates:

“If you knew that you were going to have all of your — let’s face it — your insides taken out or sucked out of you and in return you were going to have the insides of another person placed into the interior of your body, either the insides of one other person or many other people, would you participate in such a program?”

George again affirms, “Yes, if I needed it.” Only when the two try to get him to accompany them to a lab, right then and there, to have the procedure done does George balk.

The two ersatz medical experts were Mal Sharpe and Jim Coyle, and the exchange, immortalized in an audio track, took place in the early 1960s, one of countless pranks the pair sprung on unsuspecting passers-by decades before “Impractical Jokers” and present-day late-night hosts thought of working similar comedic territory.

Mr. Coyle stayed in the punking game only a short while, but Mr. Sharpe made something of a career out of it, influencing the whole field of ambush humor.

Coyle and Sharpe were pioneers of an entire genre of comedy, the Man on the Street bit,” Charlie Todd, founder of the comedy collective Improv Everywhere, said by email. “Every late-night host and YouTube prankster owes a bit of their act to Coyle and Sharpe.”

Mr. Sharpe, who was well known in the Bay Area for his wacky interviews and also as a jazz trombonist, died on March 10 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 83. His daughter, Jennifer Sharpe, said his health had diminished since he underwent heart surgery three and a half years ago.

Mr. Sharpe first met Mr. Coyle in 1959 when they were bunking at the same San Francisco rooming house. Mr. Coyle asked Mr. Sharpe what he did for a living, and Mr. Sharpe said he specialized in animal-to-human brain transplants and was himself waiting to receive a flamingo brain. Mr. Coyle, in turn, gave Mr. Sharpe his biography: Although he looked 23, he said, he was 80 and had a pension from serving in the Spanish-American War.

With such an introduction the two hit it off and began exchanging comedic ideas. They went their separate ways briefly, but returned to San Francisco in 1961 and began pranking in earnest.

They used a tape recorder hidden in a briefcase to record their absurd encounters. Comedy albums were enjoying a surge of popularity, driven by the enormous success of Bob Newhart’s 1960 record, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” and the pair had hopes of landing a record deal with their recordings. Although the first company they tried rejected them, they were eventually signed by Warner Brothers Records, which in 1963 released “The Absurd Imposters.”

Its track list gives the flavor of the enterprise: “Selling Insects to a Clothing Store” is one; “Carpenter, Give Us Your Lunch” another. And then there was “Mutant Zebra-Eel in a Paint Store,” in which they tried to persuade a merchant to exhibit a new life form in his shop window.

“It’s a cross between a zebra and certain type of sea eel,” one of them explains, “and it’s almost entirely zebralike physically. The eel influence is only in the legs.”

The album didn’t sell all that well, but disc jockeys started playing the cuts, and KGO radio in San Francisco signed the pair to do a show, “Coyle and Sharpe on the Loose.”

“C & S, who had never done radio work before, were suddenly faced with the terror of filling 18 hours of airtime a week,” Jennifer Sharpe wrote in liner notes for a 1995 album drawn from the tapes from this period. To get better audio quality, they abandoned the hidden recorder and went to a straight-on interview method with microphone and recorder in full view.

About a decade ago, Jesse Thorn, founder of the Maximum Fun podcast network, turned some of Coyle & Sharpe’s best material into bite-size podcasts.

“What makes it work so amazingly,” Mr. Thorn said in a phone interview, “is that Jim was a genuine weirdo who was also an actual con man, and Mal was an actual cool guy who could pass for a square.”

The moment — space exploration just beginning; science asserting itself — was also right, since many of the pair’s bits involved concepts that were on the edge of science fiction.

“What you had,” Mr. Thorn said, “was people who were used to living in a world of wonder, and science is the one delivering the wonder.”

Malcolm Sharpe was born on April 2, 1936, in Cambridge, Mass. His father, Ralph, who died when Malcolm was 4, managed a shoe store. His mother, Carolyn (Varnick) Sharpe, worked in a clothing store during World War II.

Mr. Sharpe enrolled in Boston University’s public relations and communication program, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1958. He later pursued a master’s degree in broadcast communications at Michigan State University. His interest in jazz led him to San Francisco, drawn, he said, by an image on the cover of an album by the San Francisco jazz musician Turk Murphy.

He and Mr. Coyle, who died in 1993, called their pranks “terrorizations,” but generally the pranksters and their targets parted as friends thanks to Mr. Sharpe’s genial personality.

Well, except for that time the two got arrested.

“We were interviewing this guy and told him that we wanted to borrow his car for a few hours to go to a restaurant,” Mr. Sharpe related to The New York Times in 2000. “He said, ‘How do I know you’re going to bring it back?’ We said that would be the great thing for him: We would bring it back and then he’d have more trust in human beings. And he called the police.”

The two made a television pilot, but nothing came of it, and in the mid-1960s Mr. Coyle abandoned the partnership. Mr. Sharpe, though, kept doing on-the-street interviews, working in radio and advertising and releasing two albums on his own. In the early 1970s he had a nationally syndicated television show, “Street People.” He worked for several radio stations doing street interviews, and for years he was a host of “Back on Basin Street,” a jazz program on KCSM in the Bay Area. He also had his own jazz band, Big Money in Jazz.

In 1964 Mr. Sharpe married Sandra Lee Wemple; in addition to his daughter, his wife survives him.

The Coyle and Sharpe radio show lasted only two years. Although Mr. Sharpe did plenty of pranking on his own afterward, he told San Francisco Weekly in 1995 that his partnership with Mr. Coyle was in a class by itself.

“You hate to think your best stuff was the first stuff you did, but in a way I’ve always felt that way,” he said. “That stuff was much more artistic, and had more validity and somehow was out there on a level that I really didn’t do again in many ways.”

  •  

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Which movies should jazz lovers watch and avoid while stuck at home? Howard Reich offers some tips. – Chicago Tribune

Which movies should jazz lovers watch and avoid while stuck at home? Howard Reich offers some tips. – Chicago Tribune


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Jazz movies to watch — and to avoid — while stuck at home

Howard Reich

Chicago Tribune |

Mar 19, 2020 | 1:35 PM 

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon stars in Bertrand Tavernier's "'Round Midnight," the greatest jazz feature film ever made.

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon stars in Bertrand Tavernier’s “‘Round Midnight,” the greatest jazz feature film ever made.(Little Bear)

With clubs and concert halls shut down, our musical needs must be satisfied at home.

And surely one of the best ways is by watching movies devoted to the subject.

With that in mind, here’s one listener’s guide to some of the best and worst movies on jazz:

“’Round Midnight” (1986)

 

 

Sometimes it takes an outsider to illuminate what’s happening inside another culture. Certainly that’s the case with “’Round Midnight,” the best feature film ever made about a distinctly American art form. Directed and co-written by the French master Bertrand Tavernier, “’Round Midnight” captures the melancholy of a jazz musician’s life, as well as the joys of making music on the bandstand. Part of the film’s genius lies in its casting, with jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordonplaying the tortured protagonist (loosely modeled on pianist Bud Powell), who battles addiction and other woes. Herbie Hancock won an Oscar for his original score in a film that makes the music a character in itself.

“Young Man with a Horn” (1950)

 

 

Kirk Douglas, who died in February at age 103, turned in one of the most convincing and compelling characterizations of a jazz musician ever filmed. You can feel his character’s obsession with the music, and you can witness its terrible cost. He’s surrounded by a comparably effective cast, with Doris Day as the embodiment of hope, Lauren Bacall as the face of cynicism and immortal songwriter-pianist Hoagy Carmichael as the sage who narrates it all. Harry James recorded the trumpet solos that Douglas mimes so beautifully, James’ famously golden sound easy to get lost in. The ending of director Michael Curtiz’s film is not perfect, but just about everything else in it is. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

 

 

Can an animated film do justice to the elusive art of jazz? The Oscar-nominated “Chico & Rita” definitively answered that question. Very loosely based on the story of Cuban musician Bebo Valdes, the film shows American jazz and its Cuban counterpart intermingling to brilliant effect. Beyond the vivid animation – which re-creates the likenesses of Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Tito Puente, Chano Pozo and others – the music is the star, thanks partly to the contributions of Jimmy Heath, Arturo O’Farrill, and Valdes, who played piano tellingly. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

“Jazz on a Summer’s Day” (1959)

 

 

The music never looked more beautiful nor sensuous than in Bert Stern’s classic documentary, which chronicles the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in ultrapoetic tones. Of course, any film that features live performances by Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Thelonious Monk and others already has a great deal going for it. Stern interweaves the concert footage with lush cinematography of the environs, in effect shattering the unfortunate but widely disseminated myth of jazz as an inherently dark and forbidding world.

“Keep on Keepin’ On” (2014)

 

 

The jazz world has known few figures more gifted or generous than trumpeter Clark Terry, whose final chapter is lovingly captured here. We see Terry mentoring the young pianist Justin Kauflin, just as Terry had encouraged and influenced future stars such as Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis. When Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra come to play for an ailing Terry, we see – and hear – how jazz musicians connect and how legacies pass through generations. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

 

 

Writer-director Damien Chazelle made quite a splash with this feature film, which was so histrionic and exaggerated as to demean both its central characters and the art of jazz itself. For those who believed such hysterical melodrama, please realize this soap opera has nothing to do with how jazz is played or lived. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

 

 

You’d think a lifelong jazz lover and advocate such as director Clint Eastwood would have a better understanding of Charlie Parker than he displayed in this starchy biopic. You would be wrong. To Eastwood, Bird was a swooning, drugged-out clown, which made this film a disgrace to Parker’s music, his disease and his legacy. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

 

 

It takes real talent to suck the life out of an art form as animated as jazz, but documentary filmmaker Ken Burns managed to do it – and in only 19 hours! Errors, exaggerations and omissions abound in this 10-episode extravaganza of talking heads and precious little music-making. In all, an ideal expression of what jazz is not. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

 

 

Director-star Don Cheadle somehow turns Miles Davis, one of the most charismatic figures in jazz history, into a small, petty, ridiculous man. The laughable plot line concerns Davis and a fictional journalist hotly pursuing a stolen tape of the trumpeter’s music, complete with car chase and gunfire. Really. (Available to stream on Amazon Prime)

Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com

Howard Reich

Howard Reich is the Tribune’s Emmy-winning arts critic; author of six books, including “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel”; and writer-producer of three documentaries. He holds two honorary doctoral degrees and served on the Pulitzer music jury four times, including for the first jazz winner, “Blood on the Fields.”

 

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Jazz Commentary: Remembrance of Jazz Venues Past – The Arts Fuse

Jazz Commentary: Remembrance of Jazz Venues Past – The Arts Fuse


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Jazz Commentary: Remembrance of Jazz Venues Past

March 18, 2020 Leave a Comment

By Steve Provizer

The idea of posting this list now is to remind people of what has been lost and hope that it stirs us to preserve what we have left.

Izzy Ort’s bar and Grill.

No one knows how lasting the ramifications of the coronaviris (COVID-19) will be. Physical suffering and mortality are going to increase. And it is certain that the need to decrease the spread of the disease through social isolation will lead to an enormous amount of financial suffering on the part of businesses large and small. No doubt non-profit cultural organizations and venues will be hard-pressed to find the resources needed to survive the loss of revenue. Given their already tight margin, jazz venues will be especially hard hit.

With the help of others, including my good friend Dick Vacca-[The Troy Street Observer]-I’ve compiled a list of venues in Boston that had live jazz, at least for a while. The idea of posting this now is to remind people of what has been lost and hope that it stirs us to preserve what we have left.


1369 Club,
Accurate Records Loft,
Ahmed’s,
Arbor House,
Ark of the Covenant,
Back Bay Hilton,
Backstreet,
Beantown Jazz Festival,
Bebop,
Beehive,
Bella Luna,
Berklee,
Betty’s Rolls Royce,
Boston Arts Festival
Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Boston Globe Jazz Festival,
BPL,
Brothers in Brookline,
CasaBlanca,
CCP Studios,
Charles St. Playhouse,
Choppin Blok,
Club 47
Club Zircon,
Connelly’s,
Copley Plaza Bar,
Costello’s,
Cronins,
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen,
Debbie’s,
Doyle’s,
Elbow Room,
Ellis Room,
Essex Hotel bar,
Estelle’s,
Fairmount Grille,
Friends of Great Black Music loft,
Gallery East,
Goodlife,
Greene St Grill Cambridge,) Green St,( JP),
Hasty Pudding,
Hi Lo Lounge,
Hotel Avery,
Hyde Park Jazz Festival,
Inn Square Men’s Bar.
Izzy Ort’s
Jazz Workshop/Pall’s Mall,
Joes,
Johnny D’s,
Jonathan Swift’s,
Kresge Auditorium
Lennie’s on the Turnpike,
Les Zygomates,
Liberty Cafe, a basement in Central Sq
Lilypad,
Lizard Lounge,
lue Parrot,
Lulu White’s,
Magnolia Loft.
Merry Go Round at the Copley Plaza,
Michael’s,
Middle East Corner,
Midway,
Modern Theater,
Most of the strip clubs had Hammond Trios,
NEC,
Nightstage,
OCBC,
Outpost 186,
Oxford Ale house,
Paine Hall,
Paris 25,
Parker House,
Performance Center in the Garage,
Playground Series at the loft on Harrison Ave,
Playland,
Plough and Stars,
Pooh’s Pub,
Ramsey/Toy VFW Post, Dorchester,
Real Deal jazz club at the Cambridge Multicultural Center,
Regattabar,
Rise Club
Ryles,
Sandy’s,
Satch’s,

Savoy,
Scotch and Sirloin,
Sculler’s,
Slades,
Space,
Speakeasy,
Starlite Roof,
Stone Soup,
Storyville,
Streetfood,
Studio Red Top,
Sunflower Cafe,
Swifts,
the (old)Winery,
Thelonius Monkfish,
Third Life Studio,
Top of the Hub,
various churches and libraries.
Village Smokehouse in Brookline,
Vouros Bakery
Wally’s,
WBUR,
Western Front,
WGBH,
Willow,
Wurst Haus,
Your Father’s Moustache
Zeitgeist Gallery

From Dick:

These are mainly Boston jazz venues, or suburban spots inside Route 495, in operation from 1972 onward — though there are a few from the ’60s. Individual schools and churches are not included. And there were rock rooms like the Channel and the Paradise that had jazz on occasion, but not often enough to make the list.

Downtown Crossing/State St/Quincy Mkt
Bay Tower Room
Cafe Fleuri, Meridien Hotel
Chez Freddie
City Hall Plaza
Concerts on the Common
Cricket’s
Gallagher’s
Lily’s
Michael’s Waterfront
Sir Harry’s

Theatre District
1-2-3 Lounge
Bradford Hotel Grand Ballroom
Caribe Lounge
Four Corners
Stuart Manor
The Vagabond
Tic Toc
Varty’s Jazz Room

Park Square
Number 3 Lounge
Playboy Club
Saxony
The Other Side

Back Bay
Danny’s
Darbury Room, became The Point After
Hatch Shell
Hotel Eliot Lounge
ICA Theatre
Jason’s
Lenox Hotel
My Apartment Lounge
Office Lounge
Turner Fisheries

Huntington Ave
Club Symphony
Gardner Museum
Museum of Fine Arts
Zachary’s

Roxbury/South End
Desert Lounge
Handy’s Grill
Juice and Jazz
Piano Factory
Pioneer Club
Rainbow Lounge
Savoy on the Hill
The Station
Tinker’s

Dorchester
Playhouse in the Park (Elma Lewis, Franklin Park)
Strand Theatre

Kenmore Square
Kix
Cafe Yana
East Boston
Airport Hilton
P.J.’s Lounge

Brookline/Brighton
Kismet Lounge
Papillon
Walters

Cambridge/Somerville
Atrium Lounge
Cantares
Lai-Lai
Spinnaker Lounge (Hyatt)
Springfields
Turtle Cafe

West of Boston
Bonfire, Westborough
Colonial Inn, Concord
Cottage Crest, Waltham
Decordova Museum, Lincoln
Ephriam’s, Sudbury
Finally Michael’s, Framingham
Matrix, Natick
Piety Corner Gardens, Waltham
Sticky Wicket, Hopkinton

North of Boston
Buddy’s, Revere
Cafe Beaujolais, Gloucester
Club Caravan, Revere
Ebb Tide, Revere Beach
Lakeside, Topsfield
Oceanside Jazz and Big Band Festival, Winthrop
Romie’s, Danvers
Stouffer’s Bedford Glen Hotel, Bedford
The Surf, Revere Beach
Wagon Wheels, West Peabody
South of Boston
Boston Jazz Society’s Jazz BBQ
Joseph’s, Braintree
Great Woods Performance Center
Water Music’s Jazz Boat


Steve Provizer writes on a range of subject, most often the arts. He is a musician and blogs about jazz here.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Don Burrows: 1928-2020 – JazzWax

Don Burrows: 1928-2020 – JazzWax


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Don Burrows: 1928-2020

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 8.28.58 PM
Don Burrows, a multi-instrumentalist known largely in Australia, where he spent much of his professional career and where he became a significant jazz performer and recording artist, died on March 12, 2020. He was 91.

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Burrows recorded on nearly every reed and woodwind instrument and in many different jazz styles, from Dixieland to fusion. In Australia, he was often called upon to play in orchestras backing marquee pop singers on tour, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Cleo Lane. He also performed with touring jazz stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson.

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While hugely popular in Australia, where he became a fixture on televised variety shows and concerts, Burrows was little known in the U.S. That’s largely because his records weren’t widely distributed here, probably because labels required touring to support their release. Burrows didn’t tour much outside of Australia. That decision was likely a practical one, since travel abroad would have taken him away from home for sums that didn’t sufficiently offset the cost or inconvenience.

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At home, Burrows was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1973 and Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1987.

Here’s a sampling of Burrows’ sound on alto saxphone and flute:

Here’s Love Is For The Very Young (also known as The Bad and the Beautiful)

Love Is for the Very Young

Here’s Esa Cara, with a Bud Shank feel...

Esa Cara

Here’s Ivory Moss

Ivory Moss

Here’s The Shade of the Mango Tree with Luiz Bonfá…

The Shade of the Mango Tree

And here’s Burrows with the Australian jazz choir, Adelaide Connection, singing Stolen Moments

Stolen Moments

A special thanks to Dennis Galloway.

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Steve Turre Danny Boy – YouTube

Steve Turre Danny Boy – YouTube


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ARTIFACTS OF THE RECORD BUSINESS

ARTIFACTS OF THE RECORD BUSINESS


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The Sticker Not The Album

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How McCoy Tyner, Dead at 81, Reinvented Jazz Piano – The Atlantic

How McCoy Tyner, Dead at 81, Reinvented Jazz Piano – The Atlantic


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https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/03/how-mccoy-tyner-dead-81-reinvented-jazz-piano/607717/
 

The Jazz Great Behind One of the Most Famous Pairings in Music History

The pianist McCoy Tyner, who died last week at 81, played with John Coltrane and developed a simple but revolutionary sound.

David A. Graham

March 10, 2020

Ron Pownall / Getty / The Atlantic

Walk into any jazz room, anywhere on Earth, on any night, and you’ll probably hear a keyboardist copping McCoy Tyner’s licks and tricks.

Even though the piano player, who died Friday at 81, played in John Coltrane’s classic quartet—one of the most famous and influential combos in history—his towering legacy was not a foregone conclusion. At the height of Tyner’s career, his playing was sometimes dismissed or overlooked, and he nearly quit music a few years later before regaining his footing. But his sturdy and timeless style was so powerful that it made him one of the most imitated, and admired, pianists in jazz.

Tyner’s great achievement was the creation of a sound rooted in the blues but suited to the avant-garde. Its hallmarks are relatively simple to describe, belying its revolutionary impact: There are the great cascades of left-hand chords, less ludic than Thelonious Monk’s surprise attacks but no less jagged or forceful. There are the trilling flurries of notes in the right hand. And there are the signature open, epic chords. Despite all the imitators, Tyner’s playing is usually instantly recognizable—he was, as his 1967 masterpiece had it, The Real McCoy.

 

Tyner emerged from a Philadelphia jazz scene overflowing with talent. Among his peers were the trumpeter Lee Morgan and the drummer Tootie Heath. Just a few years older were saxophonists Jimmy Heath (who died in January) and Coltrane. As a teen, Tyner was so obsessed with the bebop-piano progenitors Monk and Bud Powell that his friends called him “Bud Monk.” Tyner became friends with Coltrane when the older man was briefly living at home in Philadelphia in the late 1950s, and when he launched his own band, he invited Tyner to join.

Read: Thelonious Monk’s quiet, slow conquest of the world

From 1962 to 1965, that group—rounded out by Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass—produced one of the most impressive runs in music history, including classics like Crescent and Impressions, and A Love Supreme, a top contender for the greatest jazz record ever. Aside from Coltrane, Tyner was the pivotal member of the group. “When you are thinking of Coltrane playing ‘My Favorite Things’ or ‘A Love Supreme,’ you may be thinking of the sound of Mr. Tyner almost as much as that of Coltrane’s saxophone,” writes the critic Ben Ratliff.

 

Coltrane was at the time rewriting not only what a saxophonist could play, but also what any improviser could do, and Tyner’s accompaniment laid a foundation for his boss’s work. “My current pianist, McCoy Tyner, holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them,” Coltrane said in 1961. “He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”

Tyner attributed the band’s success to his and Coltrane’s shared background in R&B music, but Tyner wasn’t just recycling old blues tricks. To hold those harmonies down, he reached for unusual modes—alternatives to the familiar Western scale—and left room for experimentation by using chords with the interval of a fourth (think “Here Comes the Bride”). By sidestepping the third note of the scale, Tyner could make the music seem neither major nor minor. The openness lent itself to sweeping vistas of sound. Meanwhile, Tyner added rhythmic propulsion with his thumping left hand, creating something like a cubist rendition of 1920s stride piano.

As the pianist, composer, and critic Ethan Iverson wrote in a 2018 essay, Tyner didn’t get much critical respect at the time. Write-ups of Coltrane’s band tended to disparage Tyner’s range as limited—though they often ignored him altogether in favor of the saxophonist. But the style he created transformed the way the piano is played in jazz, effectively influencing those who took it up after him. (Tyner’s influence was not limited to jazz. Bob Weir, the Grateful Dead’s innovative rhythm guitarist, has said he learned to accompany Jerry Garcia by imitating Tyner’s backing of Coltrane.)

“No one—not Art Tatum, not Powell, not Monk, not Bill Evans—dropped a bomb on jazz pianists quite like McCoy Tyner,” Iverson wrote. “There was pre-McCoy and post-McCoy, and that was all she [w]rote.”

Tyner’s place in the pantheon would have been secure if he’d never recorded another track after quitting Coltrane’s band, whose sound was, by the mid-’60s, too loud and chaotic for Tyner’s tastes. Tyner struggled to get gigs in the ensuing years, leading to his nearly quitting music. His experience doesn’t speak well for how America treats its greatest artists, though Tyner remembered the period with equanimity. (“Sometimes struggle’s good—it gives you conviction,” he told me in 2006. “You know, you might say caviar is terrible, but you gotta eat that caviar first … Give me a sandwich, I’m fine.”)

But the music Tyner made even in that period was stellar. The Real McCoyburns from top to bottom, applying the new ideas of the Coltrane group to a more conventional jazz quartet. Expansions finds Tyner thriving with a larger ensemble—and what an ensemble it is: the trumpeter Woody Shaw, saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Gary Bartz, and Ron Carter on cello, plus a rhythm section.

 

Tyner never went electric, which may have inhibited his commercial success in the 1970s jazz-fusion period. But much of his output during those years is both accessible to nonjazz listeners and uncompromising in quality. Work like the indelible 1973 “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” (a mystical ostinato that will get stuck in your head for days) and the string-section-adorned 1976 outing Fly With the Wind don’t just presage the recent crossover success of artists like Kamasi Washington—they also run circles around the modern-day copycats.

If Tyner never fully escaped Coltrane’s shadow, who could blame him? Neither has any other jazz musician since, and Tyner had been integral to the success of the Coltrane quartet. But Tyner was modest about his legacy. When I askedhow he wanted to be described as a player, he eschewed technical language or generic labels and replied, “As a guy who wasn’t afraid to take his chances—and hopefully to come out with something relevant!”

He wasn’t, and what he came out with remains as startlingly relevant as it was 60 years ago.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

 

David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
  •  

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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How McCoy Tyner, Dead at 81, Reinvented Jazz Piano – The Atlantic

How McCoy Tyner, Dead at 81, Reinvented Jazz Piano – The Atlantic


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https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/03/how-mccoy-tyner-dead-81-reinvented-jazz-piano/607717/
 

The Jazz Great Behind One of the Most Famous Pairings in Music History

The pianist McCoy Tyner, who died last week at 81, played with John Coltrane and developed a simple but revolutionary sound.

David A. Graham

March 10, 2020

Ron Pownall / Getty / The Atlantic

Walk into any jazz room, anywhere on Earth, on any night, and you’ll probably hear a keyboardist copping McCoy Tyner’s licks and tricks.

Even though the piano player, who died Friday at 81, played in John Coltrane’s classic quartet—one of the most famous and influential combos in history—his towering legacy was not a foregone conclusion. At the height of Tyner’s career, his playing was sometimes dismissed or overlooked, and he nearly quit music a few years later before regaining his footing. But his sturdy and timeless style was so powerful that it made him one of the most imitated, and admired, pianists in jazz.

Tyner’s great achievement was the creation of a sound rooted in the blues but suited to the avant-garde. Its hallmarks are relatively simple to describe, belying its revolutionary impact: There are the great cascades of left-hand chords, less ludic than Thelonious Monk’s surprise attacks but no less jagged or forceful. There are the trilling flurries of notes in the right hand. And there are the signature open, epic chords. Despite all the imitators, Tyner’s playing is usually instantly recognizable—he was, as his 1967 masterpiece had it, The Real McCoy.

 

Tyner emerged from a Philadelphia jazz scene overflowing with talent. Among his peers were the trumpeter Lee Morgan and the drummer Tootie Heath. Just a few years older were saxophonists Jimmy Heath (who died in January) and Coltrane. As a teen, Tyner was so obsessed with the bebop-piano progenitors Monk and Bud Powell that his friends called him “Bud Monk.” Tyner became friends with Coltrane when the older man was briefly living at home in Philadelphia in the late 1950s, and when he launched his own band, he invited Tyner to join.

Read: Thelonious Monk’s quiet, slow conquest of the world

From 1962 to 1965, that group—rounded out by Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass—produced one of the most impressive runs in music history, including classics like Crescent and Impressions, and A Love Supreme, a top contender for the greatest jazz record ever. Aside from Coltrane, Tyner was the pivotal member of the group. “When you are thinking of Coltrane playing ‘My Favorite Things’ or ‘A Love Supreme,’ you may be thinking of the sound of Mr. Tyner almost as much as that of Coltrane’s saxophone,” writes the critic Ben Ratliff.

 

Coltrane was at the time rewriting not only what a saxophonist could play, but also what any improviser could do, and Tyner’s accompaniment laid a foundation for his boss’s work. “My current pianist, McCoy Tyner, holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them,” Coltrane said in 1961. “He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”

Tyner attributed the band’s success to his and Coltrane’s shared background in R&B music, but Tyner wasn’t just recycling old blues tricks. To hold those harmonies down, he reached for unusual modes—alternatives to the familiar Western scale—and left room for experimentation by using chords with the interval of a fourth (think “Here Comes the Bride”). By sidestepping the third note of the scale, Tyner could make the music seem neither major nor minor. The openness lent itself to sweeping vistas of sound. Meanwhile, Tyner added rhythmic propulsion with his thumping left hand, creating something like a cubist rendition of 1920s stride piano.

As the pianist, composer, and critic Ethan Iverson wrote in a 2018 essay, Tyner didn’t get much critical respect at the time. Write-ups of Coltrane’s band tended to disparage Tyner’s range as limited—though they often ignored him altogether in favor of the saxophonist. But the style he created transformed the way the piano is played in jazz, effectively influencing those who took it up after him. (Tyner’s influence was not limited to jazz. Bob Weir, the Grateful Dead’s innovative rhythm guitarist, has said he learned to accompany Jerry Garcia by imitating Tyner’s backing of Coltrane.)

“No one—not Art Tatum, not Powell, not Monk, not Bill Evans—dropped a bomb on jazz pianists quite like McCoy Tyner,” Iverson wrote. “There was pre-McCoy and post-McCoy, and that was all she [w]rote.”

Tyner’s place in the pantheon would have been secure if he’d never recorded another track after quitting Coltrane’s band, whose sound was, by the mid-’60s, too loud and chaotic for Tyner’s tastes. Tyner struggled to get gigs in the ensuing years, leading to his nearly quitting music. His experience doesn’t speak well for how America treats its greatest artists, though Tyner remembered the period with equanimity. (“Sometimes struggle’s good—it gives you conviction,” he told me in 2006. “You know, you might say caviar is terrible, but you gotta eat that caviar first … Give me a sandwich, I’m fine.”)

But the music Tyner made even in that period was stellar. The Real McCoyburns from top to bottom, applying the new ideas of the Coltrane group to a more conventional jazz quartet. Expansions finds Tyner thriving with a larger ensemble—and what an ensemble it is: the trumpeter Woody Shaw, saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Gary Bartz, and Ron Carter on cello, plus a rhythm section.

 

Tyner never went electric, which may have inhibited his commercial success in the 1970s jazz-fusion period. But much of his output during those years is both accessible to nonjazz listeners and uncompromising in quality. Work like the indelible 1973 “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” (a mystical ostinato that will get stuck in your head for days) and the string-section-adorned 1976 outing Fly With the Wind don’t just presage the recent crossover success of artists like Kamasi Washington—they also run circles around the modern-day copycats.

If Tyner never fully escaped Coltrane’s shadow, who could blame him? Neither has any other jazz musician since, and Tyner had been integral to the success of the Coltrane quartet. But Tyner was modest about his legacy. When I askedhow he wanted to be described as a player, he eschewed technical language or generic labels and replied, “As a guy who wasn’t afraid to take his chances—and hopefully to come out with something relevant!”

He wasn’t, and what he came out with remains as startlingly relevant as it was 60 years ago.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

 

David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
  •  

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

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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History of Pittsburgh jazz explored | News, Sports, Jobs – The Herald Star

History of Pittsburgh jazz explored | News, Sports, Jobs – The Herald Star


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https://www.heraldstaronline.com/news/local-news/2020/03/history-of-pittsburgh-jazz-explored/
 

History of Pittsburgh jazz explored

Mar 9, 2020

 


PRESENTATION — Samuel W. Black, director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, was at the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center Saturday to discuss the history of jazz music in Pittsburgh. — Craig Howell

WEIRTON — People may not always think of Pittsburgh when they think of jazz, but hundreds of professional jazz musicians have called the Steel City home during the last century.

Visitors to the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center were able to learn Saturday about some of the history of jazz music in Pittsburgh, and its contributions to the nation’s culture.

Samuel W. Black, director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center, was on hand to discuss some of his own research into the early Pittsburgh jazz scene.

“When you think of jazz, you don’t necessarily think of Pittsburgh,” Black said.

Through his research, Black has found information on close to 500 jazz musicians who have lived in Pittsburgh, ranging from the 1920s and 1930s to modern day.

This included individuals such as Earl “Fatha” Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Paul Chambers, Billy Eckstine, Grover Mitchell, Roy Eldridge, “Duke” Spaulding and Marva Josie.

Black explained that jazz music has a variety of nuances, depending on where the musician lived and the influences around them. Pittsburgh’s jazz scene has more of a “sophisticated” feel to it, Black said.

“A lot of them studied classical music,” Black explained, noting many musicians started out by learning the piano.

Early lessons often came from home, with parents and other older relatives teaching the children, with some also learning in church.

“It was not so much what we would call formal musical education,” he explained.

In fact, Black said, jazz music, which developed while segregation was still in effect, wasn’t always looked upon as acceptable in the public school system. Those schools which did adopt programs usually did so after students lobbied for it.

That also has led to much of the history of jazz music, in general, being divided or even lost. Mary Lou Williams, he noted, created a Pittsburgh jazz family tree, which now is located at Rutgers University. Earl “Fatha” Hines’ collection is in Oakland, Calif., where Hines died, while Erroll Garner’s collection is at the University of Pittsburgh.

“They weren’t keen on collecting or preserving the material,” he said.

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Steve Weber, 76, a Founder of an Influential Folk Band, Dies – The New York Times

Steve Weber, 76, a Founder of an Influential Folk Band, Dies – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/06/arts/music/steve-weber-dead.html
 

Steve Weber, 76, a Founder of an Influential Folk Band, Dies

By Ben Sisario

March 7, 2020

Mr. Weber and Peter Stampfel were the heart of the Holy Modal Rounders, a group born of the folk revival. It then detoured into a mischievous, “zany” style.

 

Steve Weber, right, and Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders in 1972. They drifted from their folk beginnings into a sometimes warped kind of pop music and made a mark with a song in the movie “Easy Rider.” Steve Weber, right, and Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders in 1972. They drifted from their folk beginnings into a sometimes warped kind of pop music and made a mark with a song in the movie “Easy Rider.”Henry Horenstein

Steve Weber, the guitarist of the Holy Modal Rounders, a cult psychedelic folk group that grazed the pop-culture mainstream with a song featured in the 1969 film “Easy Rider” and influenced generations of underground musicians, died on Feb. 7 at his home in Mount Clare, W.Va. He was 76.

His death was announced by the Davis Funeral Home in nearby Clarksburg, which did not give a cause.

The Holy Modal Rounders emerged in New York in 1963 as a duo, with Mr. Weber on guitar and Peter Stampfel on fiddle and banjo. Like countless others swept up in the folk revival of the time, they were inspired by the traditional songs in the “Anthology of American Folk Music,” compiled by the filmmaker and historian Harry Smith in 1952.

But while most of their peers approached old material with reverence, Mr. Weber and Mr. Stampfel stood out with their spontaneity and almost boyish mischief. On their first two albums, released by the folk label Prestige in 1964 and 1965, they freely rewrote lyrics to 1920s songs like “Blues in the Bottle” and “Bully of the Town,” and sang gleefully with a peculiar kind of nasal harmony.

Their antics did not endear the band to folk purists, although Mr. Weber, who grew up in rural Bucks County, Pa., was noted for his mastery of traditional guitar styles.

Mr. Weber developed a reputation as a charmed character. Tall, strapping and handsome, he would wander barefoot through the Lower East Side of Manhattan and never seem to step on a shard of glass, said Mr. Stampfel, who described Mr. Weber in those days as looking “like an idealized Li’l Abner.”

The two young men began to drift into ever more radical and warped forms of pop music. In 1965, they played on the first album by the Fugs, whose leaders, the poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, relished the anarchic and puerile side of rock but had only the most rudimentary skills playing instruments. Mr. Weber wrote one of the group’s most popular numbers, “Boobs a Lot.”

By this time Mr. Stampfel and Mr. Weber had largely ceased playing as the Holy Modal Rounders; Mr. Stampfel said he had grown frustrated with Mr. Weber’s preference not to rehearse.

“I like to keep things fresh and natural,” Mr. Weber said in an interview in “Always in Trouble,” a 2012 book about the underground record label ESP Disk, by Jason Weiss.

The two men reunited for a 1967 album, “Indian War Whoop,” on ESP — this time with the playwright Sam Shepard as their drummer — and then for “The Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders,” released by Elektra in 1968. The albums still stand as extreme examples of acid-tinged folk music. “Moray Eels” ends with “The Pledge,” in which Mr. Shepard tries to recite the Pledge of Allegiance but forgets it.

“Moray Eels” opens with “Bird Song,” written by the poet and songwriter known as Antonia; she was a longtime partner of Mr. Stampfel’s and had once dated Mr. Weber. A spacey waltz, the tune caught the ear of Dennis Hopper, who was directing “Easy Rider.” He used it in a scene in which he, on one motorcycle, and Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda on another, ride down the highway, flapping their arms in the wind. The song appeared on the soundtrack as “If You Want to Be a Bird.”

By this point the Rounders had made a television appearance on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” and their work was admired by a small group of musicians who recognized them as innovators. The Lovin’ Spoonful and Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band, for example, recorded versions of the Rounders’ adaptation of “Blues in the Bottle.”

Mr. Shepard soon left the band, which grew to become a large ensemble. But with Mr. Weber and Mr. Stampfel often bickering, it failed to capitalize on the success of “Easy Rider.”

By the early 1970s the pair had parted ways, with Mr. Weber taking the group to Portland, Ore., where it enjoyed years as a hard-rocking bar band. Mr. Stampfel remained in New York. But they gathered for occasional reunions.

Steven P. Weber was born in Philadelphia on June 22, 1943, and grew up with his mother in Buckingham, Pa. There he met Robin Remaily, who would become a longtime member of the Holy Modal Rounders, and Michael Hurley, a singer-songwriter and illustrator who would also have a long association with the group.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

“The Holy Modal Rounders … Bound to Lose,” a 2006 documentary by Sam Wainwright Douglas and Paul Lovelace, portrays Mr. Weber’s time on the West Coast, starting in the early 1970s, as being plagued by drug and alcohol abuse. By the mid-1990s, Mr. Weber said in the film, he had decided to return home to Pennsylvania after waking up to find himself cradling a half-gallon bottle of vodka.

Mr. Weber and Mr. Stampfel performed in 1996 at the Bottom Line in New York, which kicked off a series of reunion appearances and led to a new album, “Too Much Fun,” in 1999. But the film captures the two men still bickering onstage and in strained rehearsals, and it ends with Mr. Weber failing to appear at a 40th-anniversary show in 2003. Mr. Stampfel said he had not spoken to him since.

In “Always in Trouble,” the book about the ESP label, Mr. Weber said he had failed to appear because he had felt deceived by the filmmakers and disappointed that the film paid so little attention to the Portland incarnation of the Holy Modal Rounders that he led starting in the early 1970s.

He was asked what made the Holy Modal Rounders different from other folk groups. He noted that other musicians were interested in singing about social reform.

“We took more of a raucous and zany detour,” he said.

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He Played With Charlie Parker. For $15 He’ll Play With You – The New York Times

He Played With Charlie Parker. For $15 He’ll Play With You – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/06/nyregion/barry-harris-jazz-workshop.html?te=1
 

He Played With Charlie Parker. For $15 He’ll Play With You

By Sheila McClear

March 6, 2020

Barry Harris has been offering a weekly jazz workshop since the 1970s. Everybody’s welcome, but they’d better love bebop.

 

For 46 years, students have crowded around Dr. Barry Harris for his weekly jazz class. For 46 years, students have crowded around Dr. Barry Harris for his weekly jazz class.Jonno Rattman for The New York Times

If you want a spot near the maestro at Barry Harris’s jazz workshop, you’re going to have to fight for it.

On a recent Tuesday evening, about 15 minutes before the session was to start, adults of all ages started jostling for the most coveted spot: the seat on the piano next to Dr. Harris, who always plays by example, and always listens.

The others clustered around the piano, many with their own keyboards and guitars. Some focused their cellphones on Dr. Harris in order to preserve every bit of the 90-year-old’s wisdom.

“Small stuff is what you do best,” said Dr. Harris, who is wiry with snow-white hair and glasses, and who wore a black overcoat and natty plaid scarf that night. “Not big stuff.”

The pianist, composer and teacher — he has four honorary Ph.D.s and so prefers to go by “Dr. Harris” — is the last of his breed: an interpreter of bebop in its purest form. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk — his more famous contemporaries, and his friends, died long ago. And many feelthat bebop — a genre that originated in the 1940s, characterized by a fast tempo as well as chord changes that are equally quick and complex — died with them.

Dr. Harris’s revered jazz workshop, surely the longest-running in New York City, is proof that bebop lives on. And Dr. Harris is eager to share his knowledge with new generations. “I’m just passing everything along,” he said. “I’m just passing on music.”

His collaborators reads like a list of the greatest jazz players of the 20th century. Dr. Harris has worked or played with everyone from Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to Sonny Stitt; he played with Cannonball Adderley, Dexter Gordon and Yusef Lateef. He sat in with Charlie Parker, his idol. His discography starts in 1958, and his last record was made in 2009.

Even though he has been teaching in New York since the 1960s, Dr. Harris put together what he calls the “big class” in 1974. It began by happy accident: Before teaching the final session of a workshop, Dr. Harris recalled, he was out engaging in one of his few vices — he was at an OTB, betting on horses — when he realized he had lost track of time and was hours late. He jumped into a cab. The students were still waiting for him. “So I said, ‘Look here: since you waited for me, I’m going to have a class forever in New York. And it won’t cost you much.’”

Dr. Harris’s  class takes place every Tuesday night at a rehearsal studio in Midtown. It has three segments: piano from 6 to 8, vocals from 8 to 10, and improvisation for all instruments, from 10 to midnight. Everyone is welcome, and the website notes that you don’t even know how to play piano to attend. Six hours of jazz instruction for $15.

“It’s the most beautiful thing you want to hear in your life,” Dr. Harris said of the sound of a musician whose skills improve after working with him.

Originally from Detroit, where he started teaching at age 15 out of his mother’s house, Dr. Harris moved to New York in 1960. He soon became friends with the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a Rothschild scion and jazz patron, who invited him to move into her modern-style house, which had stunning views of the Hudson River, in Weehawken, N.J. And a hundred cats.

Thelonious Monk joined him around 1972, dubbing it the “Cat House” and staying until his death 10 years later. Dr. Harris still lives there today. The baroness died in 1988, and she made arrangements so that Dr. Harris could live there as long as he wanted.

These days, Dr. Harris’s friends drive him into the city for gigs and for the workshop.

The students — who range in age from 20 to 60 and vary widely in experience and ability — sit or stand as close to Dr. Harris as they can, watching intently. The effect is as if he were teaching in a fishbowl. Many have been coming to the workshop for decades. And they know they need to come prepared.

“Come on, man, you think a grown man plays like that?” Dr. Harris shot at a man in his 60s wearing business casual and struggling through a piece. To a guy burning through a Cole Porter improvisation, Dr. Harris shouted, “Hit it!” And this is why his students love him.

“Barry is one of the most important people in my life,” said Robert Nissim, who has been attending the workshop for 27 years. The teacher, he said, “is on a passionate search for beauty, and this he demands from his students.”

Isaac Raz, who has studied with Mr. Harris for eight years, likes the “chaotic nature” of the class. “I thought I knew everything,” he said, referring to his background at Berklee College of Music. “He’s pulling lessons out of his head. You have to be at the top of it to keep up.”

Michael Weiss, a pianist and composer, checks into class “maybe once every two years,” he said. When Mr. Weiss was 20, Dr. Harris offered him a piano lesson. They have been friends and colleagues now for 40 years. In the past, they’ve even exchanged musical ideas over the telephone. “Barry would call me and say: ‘Now just play me an F-major triad in the first inversion, now take it up to C, and move it up a half-step.’”

While Dr. Harris sat in a rehearsal room before that night’s workshop, he recited the names of bebop musicians as if he were repeating the Rosary.

“We believe in Bird, Dizz, Bud. We believe in Art Tatum. We believe in Cole Hawkins,” he said quietly. “These are the people we believe in. Nothing has swayed us.”

It was well after midnight when Mr. Harris left the building, surrounded by students trying to get one more word in and say a final goodbye. One young woman was so nervous that he grasped her wrists with both hands. “You’re shaking!” he said.

Mr. Harris said he felt secure in the knowledge that the people who need to know about his legacy, do. “Most of the musicians know,” he said. “The real musicians, they know. The piano players know. We even got church piano players,” he said, heading for his ride that would take him back to Weehawken. “’Cause they know.”

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Remembering Jazz Legend Bill Smith | Divine Art Recordings

Remembering Jazz Legend Bill Smith | Divine Art Recordings


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https://divineartrecords.com/remembering-jazz-legend-bill-smith/
 

Remembering Jazz Legend Bill Smith

Posted by Divine Art Recordings Group on
 6 March, 2020
Bill Smith with Ian Mitchell

William Overton (‘Bill’ to everyone) Smith was not only a clarinettist of distinction in both jazz and ‘straight’ fields, but also a composer of remarkably innovative music, much of it for his own instrument. He single-handedly expanded the capabilities of the clarinet beyond the wildest dreams of other musicians. From the beginning of the 1960s he regularly discovered and explored many new ways of playing the instrument: multiphonics (producing more than one sound at once; playing two clarinets at once – inspired by the ancient Greek double wind pipe the aulos; using a cork mute, and much more. He also composed the first clarinet and tape piece and a 12-tone jazz concerto. Born in California in 1926 he could claim (if modesty allowed) more than most to be dubbed a truly versatile musician. He studied clarinet at Juilliard and the Paris Conservatoire. As Bill Smith the jazz player he was the co-founder, with fellow Darius Milhaud student at Mills College, of the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1946-47, continuing to work frequently with Brubeck. He also studied composition with Roger Sessions at Berkeley, going on to write well over 200 works.

Bill was inquisitive and searching, inventing ways of playing purely for his own interest. I remember sitting on the bed in his hotel room once being shown how he had recently found that one could play the clarinet without a mouthpiece – flute-like, as side-blown instrument. He also explored the use of computers and electronics.  He was modest, entertaining, and with an engaging high pitch laugh,  carrying a root of ginger in his pocket, from which he’d occasionally slice a piece off to chew to help keep him healthy. He was a special musician and a special person, continuing to play literally throughout his life, playing at a 93rd birthday concert in September 2019.  Many will not realise his enormous legacy as one of the most creative musicians of the second half of the twentieth century, as they begin to explore the world of ‘advanced’ techniques for the clarinet. RIP Bill.

—Ian Mitchell, 6 March 2020

Bill Smith’s Discography on Métier

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Bob “Protz’’ Protzman, (83), a 40-year, multi-ward winning journalist and highly regarded radio jazz show producer/host, died March 4, 2020York Times

Bob “Protz’’ Protzman, (83), a 40-year, multi-ward winning journalist and highly regarded radio jazz show producer/host, died March 4, 2020York Times


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https://www.burtonfuneralhomes.com/obituaries/obituary/robert-protzman
 

Obituary/Notice

Bob “Protz’’ Protzman, (83), a 40-year, multi-ward winning journalist and highly regarded radio jazz show producer/host, died March 4, 2020 of heart disease.  Bob was born in Erie Aug. 25, 1936, son of the late Robert Leroy and Ethel M. (Cleveland) Protzman.

When Bob was 7, TB struck the family with Bob and his sister Carol spending four years in a TB sanatorium. They were in other institutions through high school. Thanks to the late Father William Hastings and the Catholic Diocese, Bob was awarded a scholarship to Erie’s Cathedral Preparatory School, where he often said he spent four of the best years of his life. 

He joined the Air Force after graduating from high school in 1954 and ran into his long-time love: jazz. Living on a base 65 miles outside of New York City Bob and his buddies spent weekends in NYC at clubs like the Five Spot and Birdland where they saw jazz greats like Charles Mingus and Art Blakey perform. Backward and forward, inside and out – he learned everything he could about America’s original music form. 

          After his discharge Bob returned to Erie where the late Erie Morning News city editor/columnist Hugh “Red’ Barr got Bob an interview, and his newspaper career began in December 1959. He worked from 1959-67 for the Morning News, then accepted a post in 1967 at the St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press, where he stayed until retiring in 1998.

As a journalist Bob was proudest of his efforts on behalf of individuals and groups who were treated unfairly or ignored altogether. He was honored with a national award for coverage in the Erie Morning News leading to the establishment of the Office of Public Defender in Erie County to provide legal services for the poor.  Bob shared the award with the late Erie Daily Times colleague and friend Garth Minegar. 

After an elderly, destitute man was set afire in an Erie apartment house doorway, Bob wrote that story and a series of articles on derelicts and alcoholism.  Those efforts resulted in the opening of a halfway house in Erie, and led to the program becoming a model nationally. 

At the Pioneer Press, Bob noticed what he felt was a lack of coverage of the black community. He asked the city editor if he could begin to close that coverage gap and he did. When Bob retired from the Pioneer Press, a farewell piece headlined “So Long Protz.’’ credited Bob with leading the way to the paper expanding its coverage of blacks and other minorities throughout the newspaper’s sections.

For his last 20 years in St. Paul, Bob moved from “hard news’’ to covering arts and entertainment as a feature’s writer and rock, pop and jazz critic. Though he reviewed people like Janis Joplin, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Prince, his true passion was jazz. Recognizing this, the editors named him a fulltime jazz writer/ critic, one of the few on a U.S. daily newspaper.  In that role, Bob interviewed/reviewed many of the most famous musicians/vocalists of the era, including Sonny Rollins, Elvin Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Joe Williams, Maynard Ferguson, and Tony Bennett. 

Nationally, Bob was known for his articles in Down Beat (generally regarded as jazz’s major publication), JazzEd and Jazz Times magazines. He also was a voting member of the International Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). Bob was inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame – one of only two non-musician members. 

In the late ‘80s he began to cover a burgeoning comedy scene in the Twin Cities, interviewing and reviewing many of the big names in comedy, including Jay Leno, Louie Anderson, Jackie Mason, Bill Cosby, Richard Lewis, Roseanne Barr, David Brenner, and many more. 

Bob enjoyed a second career as a broadcaster. In Erie radio he did news, produced and hosted a sports show and a nightly jazz show. Bob produced/ hosted a three-hour jazz show from the ‘60s in Erie to the 80s and 90s in St. Paul/Minneapolis, and again in Erie from 2004-13 with an “Everything Jazz’’ program on WQLM-FM and Mercyhurst University’s jazz FM (WMCE-FM). In 2003 Bob joined the Jazz Erie board and helped bring nationally known artists like Joe Lovano, Joey Defrancesco, Bobby Sanaabria, Karrin Allyson, and others to Erie. 

          Bob was preceded in death by his parents; a brother Donald (in childhood), and sisters Shirley Hawley, Carol Protzman and Patti Pratt, and his first wife Mary Louise Parker.

He is survived by his wife Barbara Freasier McNally; stepson Christopher McNally and wife Corrie; granddaughters Kendall McNally and Kennadi McNally, grandnephew Ryan Todd and grandnieces Victoria Arico and Sarah Christoph; sister-in-law Doretha Christoph; and very good friends Susanne Rohland and Jeff Barr. 

The family would like to thank Jackie Marucci and Cindy Travernese for making Bob’s final years better with their extraordinary care, compassion and kindness. 

There will be no calling hours.  A memorial celebration at the Dakota Bar and Grill (jazz club) in Minneapolis MN will be held for musicians and friends to celebrate his life. 

Arrangements entrusted to the Burton Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc. Send condolences at www.Burtonfuneralhome.com. 

In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to the American Heart Association, 823 Filmore Ave., Erie, PA 16506.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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