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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What is jazz, anyway?

Jazheads wiuld be fmailiar withthe Louis Armstrong's rejoinder, "If you have to ask, you'll never know"
and it may indeed seem strange to ask after well over a year, over thousand posts
and a couple thosusand visitors, but I felt compelled to ask anyway.

Among the many definitions of jazz I've come across (I forget the writer's name who coined it)
is " spontaneous order" something I can relate to on many levels.

What's your definiton of jazz? feel free to sound (or type) off om the topic

Sunday, November 12, 2006

jazz & reggae

Jazz Notes

Monty Alexander returns to the ‘reggae wellspring’


    This week, Herbie Miller examines the Air Jamaica jazz line-up in light of the roster in the recently held Anguilla tranquility jazz festival and we interview renowned Jamaican jazz pianist, Monty Alexander, whose latest CD Concrete Jungle, returns to the work of late reggae king Bob Marley, an oeuvre which has inspired the jazz man on several previous occasions.
    But first, this column says ‘rest in peace’ to a great champion of jazz and one of the very best newsmen of our time, Emmy award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley. Bradley died of leukaemia this past week, aged 65.
    He spent his formative adult years as a jazz DJ, an activity he regarded more as a vocation than a career, and remained a vocal - and visible - advocate of the art form. Ironically, Bradley made the move from jazz into journalism because he felt it would afford him the standard of living and professional opportunities he sought. He was an inspiration to this writer in both spheres and will certainly be missed.
    “IT beats working” is how the ever affable Monty Alexander summed up his continued motivation for playing jazz piano Alexander is in his fifth decade as an artiste and his schedule remains packed enough to belie the easy answer he offers. On tap over the next several months is a performance on the Jazz Cruise, a full-ship straight-ahead jazz on the seas showcase, a tour of Europe, and a 30-year reunion at the Montreux festival in Switzerland with his cohorts in the Clayton-Hamilton group. And oh yes, in January, he returns home as part of the line-up for the 2007 Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival, a slot which he has in fact occupied several times over the history of the event.
    “It’s home, so that alone just gives me great pleasure everytime I play here,” he said via telephone. “More than that, I’m planning to invite a few friends who I’ve played with and whose music I’ve enjoyed over the years. Guys like Freddie Cole [brother of Nat ‘King’ Cole], [saxophonist] Houston Person and Red Holloway, among others.”
    Preceding his arrival on home soil, Alexander also returns to familiar territory on record. His new disc, Concrete Jungle (Telarc) plumbs the archives of the late Robert Nesta Marley. Marley’s music has become something of a touchstone for the pianist, with a previous tribute album, Stir It Up and with other single nods to the ‘Gong’ including outstanding takes on Running Away (from his Live At The Iridium album), and, in tandem with Ernie Ranglin, Redemption Song.
    “Bob’s music has given me so much personal pleasure and delight over the course of my life and career. Every song has given me insight into how to live a better life.”
    For this particular outing, Alexander first managed to persuade the label to allow for recording to be done here in Jamaica rather than in the US. “I thought it was important for us to do that and I convinced them to let us do the record in Jamaica. Unfortunately, I almost had to cancel because of some difficulties at Customs, but fortunately we were able to resolve those and get it done.”
    The ‘us’ and ‘we’ therein referred to includes a cast of fine musicians, Jamaican and overseas-based, who contributed to the disc, including Glen Browne, Dean Fraser, Othniel Lewis, Hassan Shakur, and Delfeayo Marsalis and Herlin Riley.
    The latter two, trombonist and drummer respectively, represent the famous Marsalis jazz family of New Orleans, Delfeayo as brother of trumpter Wynton (and an acclaimed performer and producer in his own right) and Riley as drummer in Wynton’s septet and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra “It’s just amazing how things just came together, how we were able to bridge the US Afro-American experience and the Jamaican experience and the affinity those guys have for reggae and for the culture as a whole”, Alexander notes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jazz debate

An excerpt from interesting debate on the use of the name
'jazz 7 Blues by organisers of the upcoming Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues festival

The debate continues
Jazz Notes

by Michael 'Jazzofonik' Edwards
Sunday, November 05, 2006

This writer has put himself in a bit of a pickle, having promised - several times now - a response from Walter Elmore to the concerns and criticisms raised regarding the name and nature of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
Ironically, scheduling has thus far kept Elmore from responding, as he has been running the Jazz Quest artiste search for the festival, out of several of the airline's US gateways as well as preparing for the upcoming Kingston appearance of Air Supply at the National indoor Sports Centre come December (said event will also serve as the launch of the 2007 Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival).
Be that as it may, the debate has not abated, and following are comments from Canadian-based Jamaican music commentator and author, Klive Walker and Jamaican jazz legend and founder of the Ocho Rios International jazz festival, Sonny Bradshaw.

Klive Walker wrote:
The following comments are in support of Herbie Miller's article 'Battles Royale: Setting the stage for blues and jazz' published in the October 8, 2006 issue of the Jamaica Observer.
Miller's article exposes the fact that Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival has very little to do with either jazz or blues. Miller is to be commended for sparing the time and having the courage to attempt to educate the organisers of the festival and the festival attendees on the basic and fundamental questions: What is jazz? and what is blues?
I commend Miller because it takes courage to attempt to divest organisers of the thought that Jamaican audiences will only pay in sufficient numbers to see former country and western stars and former r&b and pop stars as part of a festival which tells them it is a jazz and blues festival.
Why courage? Because I am not sure the organisers really care whether they undermine the legacy of jazz or blues. I think they care about the fact that calling it a jazz and blues festival will attract the middleclass and keep the 'grass roots boogooyagga crowd' at bay. They also care that it will be profitable.
The message of the organisers seems to be: This is not meant to be a real jazz and blues festival, it is designed for a particular audience concerned with appearances rather than the quality of music. They probably think Charlie Parker is a type of cigarette and that Trane is a railway line somewhere in New York.

Can these organisers and their audiences be educated and convinced? I am not sure that attempting to convince them is time well spent. Maybe it is better to follow the lead of Calabash and try to affect the taste of individuals who at least show an inclination and desire to understand the art form and what makes quality art. Those legitimate jazz fans in Jamaica and, yes, organisers take note, they do exist, I know some of them personally, and they would welcome a real jazz festival.

Those of us out here in the Diaspora would book our passage well in advance if we had the opportunity to see and hear, on a beach on the north coast, real jazz artistes such as Jazz Jamaica led by British-Jamaican Gary Crosby, Jamaican-Canadian jazz singers Sharron McLeod and Denzal Sinclaire, as well as Americans like, for example, Cassandra Wilson, David Murray, Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Rollins in addition to Monty and Arturo.

Klive Walker, Toronto

Editor's note - Cassandra Wilson was in fact presented at the 2004 Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues, ironically the very year Kenny Rogers made his Jamaican debut.