Local jazz musicians playing at the 2010 Warwick Valley Jazz Festival discuss jazz album/artist who were a significant influence on their music.
Producer, Warwick Valley Jazz Festival
"Kind of Blue" and "Live Evil" - Miles Davis
Miles. It had to be him........How do I pick one? I won't. "Kind of Blue" and "Live Evil".
The elegance of ensemble playing, the direction of Miles, the fire of Cannonball, the new sound of Trane and the blissful swing of Jimmy Cobb. Throw in some brilliant composition, 2 remarkable pianists and you have the quintessential jazz album for players and fans.
Kind of Blue is always fresh, and returning to it is a workshop for jazz. This is how to do it. Reminds me of my limitations and the remarkable gifts of others.
Live Evil...hmmmm the critics banned it, the jazz academia sneered at it's lack of "legitimate " jazz content and the purists accused him of selling out. Quite the contrary. This record is an extension of an artist always in transition. Selling out might have been to play it safe. Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea on electric keyboards, a Motown bass player, Gary Bartz, Steve Grossman, Airto and John McLaughlin. Does it swing? Well not like Basie or Duke. Does it bop like Bird? No. It grooves. It's group listening and improvisation on simple themes. But the players! It's live. ( mostly) and it's happening...............always.
Jazz for me is a metaphor for high consciousness living. What's good for the ensemble, collective, is good for the individual. They live interdependent on that relationship. The music succeeds on the merit of that perspective.When Louie came up, and Diz was on 52nd st. someone was always unhappy. "It just isn't jazz."
Jazz lived and will survive by stretching the paradigm. We'll always gravitate to a preference. But attachment to a singular definition and rejection of variations on familiar themes holds us back. Miles gave us "new directions." And man are we the fortunate recipients.
"Focus" - Written for Stan Getz
In 1962 I heard an album of original orchestral pieces written for the great jazz tenor saxophonistStan Getz. It was recorded by Verve Records and was called "Focus." The compositions and arrangements were by Eddie Sauter, one of the great living arrangers of his day.
They were for the string orchestra and Stan Getz was given sketches of possible melodic lines to play over the arrangements by Sauter. He overdubbed his solos save for one of the tracks which he actually recorded live with the orchestra. These pieces were lush and beautiful, brilliantly arranged with a master's touch for orchestration.
Getz played brilliantly over them displaying his lyrical genius for improvisation and his gorgeous sound on the tenor. This album just knocked me out and I listened to it over and over again. To me it just was everything that I valued as I discovered more and more about music - mastery of the instrument, mastery of the orchestra and making a work of art that was expertly constructed and truly beautiful. Here I am 50 years later and I still go back to it for inspiration from time to time.
"Undercurrent" - Bill Evans and Jim Hall
This is the record that made me want to play jazz guitar. A piano-playing jam partner turned me on to it. One guitar, one piano, one giant telepathic brain between the two geniuses.
If you get the CD now, you'd get all the alternate takes - I suggest making a playlist out of the non-alternates in order to get a feel for the original sequencing.
The official take of "My Funny Valentine" must stand as the definitive version of that song. It's amazing how they take this ballad and imply a dynamic, almost driving swing even while playing extremely sparsely. And the beginning of Jim Hall's solo right after the head - something like 8 bars of brilliance built from two notes - it's the jazz world's version of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl solo (just kidding, folks).
All kidding aside, this whole record is brilliant - Skating in Central Park? Heavenly. Darn That Dream... well, you can read the contents for yourselves.
"Greatest Hits" - John Coltrane
An album that had a significant impact on me was a John Coltrane "Greatest Hits" collection that I had gotten after trading a punk rock cd to a friend in 10th grade. I had been playing drums for about a year or two and my musical taste had begun to expand considerably. The lead track was "My Favorite Things" and I was immediately taken by the intensity that was being conjured up by these four magicians: Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and the one and only Elvin Jones.
I had started taking serious drum lessons, and was easily impressed by music that had different rhythmic patterns (and this track was in 3/4).....so for me it was cool to hear this guy swinging away in this pattern; 3 had always been stiff before that. But on a much deeper level, there was passion I could hear in the music, that I hadn't experienced before in jazz, due to my limited exposure previously.....sadly most of what I had heard before this was Glenn Miller, and other Swing music, which certainly had its share of talented musicians, but it wasn't digging into my soul the way the Beatles had done earlier in my life. Also, I was astounded by the technical acumen possessed by these guys.
I went on to study music at the University of Arizona, and got deeper into jazz at that time, especially the music of John Coltrane. I discovered the wideneing textures explored by this particular group on later recordings, and it was my great pleasure to get to hear and meet Elvin Jones when I was about 21 years of age. I was with the big band from college at the Lionel Hampton Jazz festival in Idaho, where he and other giants of jazz were performing and giving seminars. It was prior to departing, at the airport, where I got to have a brief conversation with this legend. I walked up to him and told him that I would never stop playing drums after listening to "A Love Supreme," an album on which the same 4 musicians took jazz to hitherto unexplored regions, and in what was one of the most profound moments in my entire life, this big man grabbed me and gave me a bear hug, and then told me that he was "glad that we accomplished what we set out to do."
"H.R. is a Dirty Guitar Player" - Howard Roberts
In the early 60s I had the pleasure of hearing an album by a guitarist named Howard Roberts(1929 – 1992). He was a west coast musician whose career was focused primarily on the recording industry, movies and television. He was one of the most celebrated “session” musicians of his time. He traveled outside of California occasionally to do live performances.
He made a number of recordings that quickly became popular with guitarists and music lovers all over the country. The one that impressed me most was “H.R. Is A Dirty Guitar Player”which was issued in the early 60s. It featured Howard Roberts in a quartet format (guitar, organ, bass, drums) with sidemen made up of west coast session players who were all accomplished musicians in their own right.What made Howard Roberts so good? It was his ability to fuse various playing styles into one unique style. He was heavily influenced by Les Paul, and you could hear it in his playing, but he took the guitar to new levels by incorporating elements of funk, rock, and progressive jazz. He was unique in every respect and he was far ahead of his time and his ability to fuse many styles into a coherent performance.I had the pleasure of meeting Howard Roberts in person around 1964 in Washington, D.C. when he played live at a club located just a few blocks from my home in northwest Washington, D.C. Meeting him and hearing him play live in an intimate setting was, and still is, one of the highlights of my musical life.“H.R. Is A Dirty Guitar Player” and many of his other recordings have been reissued on compact disc. His playing has had an enormous influence on my playing from the first time I heard it until the present day. A detailed biography of Howard Roberts can be found on Wikipedia and his recordings are available on the Internet.
For a complete schedule of concerts taking place at the Festival, go to www.warwickvalleyjazzfest.com