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Monday, January 26, 2009

Great jazz Moents #1

For the first instalment in a new series, John Fordham explains why Livery Stable Blues was the fanfare for a revolution

The world first heard about a strange new music called "jazz" in 1917. Although this hybrid of brass-band, street-strutting blues, African dance rhythms, mutated European classical forms, funeral marches and ragtime had been developing during the previous decade, it took that long for the recording technology of the day to catch up and capture its sound.

After only a few years of those first clattery and raucous jazz recordings hitting the streets, 'the jazz age' dawned and dancers started moving to a more urgent and ecstatic beat – a feeling quite different from the discreet and elegant European styles that had previously ruled the floors.

Over the next 50 weeks, I'm going to highlight landmark moments that were not only transitional points in the history of jazz, but in the history of modern music. There is no more engrossing story in the music of the 20th and early 21st centuries than that of jazz, an artform that has changed the way we move, speak and sing. Jazz has achieved so many things: it has borrowed from European classical music and helped reinvigorate it, it has provided the vital ingredients of rock'n'roll, it has broken barriers in instrumental technique, rehabilitated improvisation from the bad publicity the classical establishment had given it, and, in its way, helped global interracial understanding.

Regarding that last point, it's an irony – though perhaps an unsurprising one – that music derived from the traditions of African slaves should have been first recorded by a white band. But if the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made history more through luck than judgment, and if many better players from New Orleans' black community – Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong – were to find recognition later, the group nonetheless captured jazz's unruly energy and youthful eagerness.

Livery Stable Blues is one of the first hits from a group of enthusiasts whose sound had been informed by the New Orleans street-band musician Papa Jack Laine and Louis Armstrong's mentor, the cornetist Joe "King" Oliver. The track was recorded in February 1917, after the the band's slapstick comedy had thrilled crowds at New York"s Reisenweber's restaurant. The record sold over a million copies, and turned jazz into a national craze. Cornetist Nick LaRocca, clarinetist Larry Shields, trombonist Eddie Edwards, pianist Henry Ragas and drummer Tony Sbarbaro have become footnotes in jazz history, and the sound they made seems rhythmically clunky and predictable today. But as the fanfare for a revolution (in a revolutionary year) Livery Stable Blues will never be forgotten.

from the Guardian UK Music Blog

www.100greatestrecords.blogspot.com - The 100 greatest Dancehall records: 1979-2009

"Jazz From Da 'Hood" & More on Riffin'



MONDAY: We’ve been trying to get this programme played, four weeks now. Tonight could be it, for the sonic bliss of Michael Hedges, Bobby McFerrin and Michael Brecker.

TUESDAY: More highlights from 50 years of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

WEDNESDAY: “JAZZ FROM THE HOOD”. Vibraphonist, drummer and composer, Warren Wolf, hails from Baltimore, and his debut album “Wolf Pac Raw, heralds a new talent to watch our for.

THURSDAY: ‘JAZZ FROM THE HOOD”. Pianist, composer, Marc Cary, is a Washingtonian, and graduate of the Duke Ellington School Of Art. After several acclaimed excursions into other styles, Cary returns to the acoustic tradition with a trio album “Focus”.

FRIDAY: RIFFIN in “mysterious ways”.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Final Nite Falls short, But E-Park comes up strong

Jamaica Jazz & Blues: Nite 3
"Everybody has their own favourite song, but some favourites mean more than others."
With that paraphrase of Orwell ("All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others"), I sadly pronounce an overall negative judgement on Saturday's closing night of the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay

It started out quite the opposite. In fact, in the persons of pianist Kamla Hamilton, and the personel of the E-Park abnd which immediately followed her, the audience got arguably its most sustained sequence of authentic musical improvisation (Reunion Quartet and Alto Reed Entourage notwithstanding) for the entire weekend. Not enough, mind you, to justify retaining the title, but a delightful passage nonetheless.

Hamilton & Co went htrough some modern fusion tracks (Watermelon Man and others) with a cool confidence - solos were garnished with just the right touches, but never extravagant.

Featuring the vocal talents of Michael Sean Harris and Karen Smith, as well as a six-man horn line, bass and lead guitar, drummer Desi Jones and a dual keyboard line of Othneil Lewis and music director Peter Ashbourne, the E-Park (named for Kingston's Emancipation Park, for whom they were first commissioned) Band romped through several indigenous and external pop classics, including snippets of the Studio One catalog, Ashbourne's whimsicla yet biting Half Way Tree (from his album, Blind Man Swimming). Harris belted out Paul Simon's Latin-tinged hopper "Late in the Evening" and Smith gave voice to COle Porter's "De-Lovely" The two then combined on "Because You Knew Me" from the Broadway production, "Wicked"

Thereafter, Atlantic Starr -a new fornt vocal line in place - never quite got to the intensity of their "Secret Lovers-Masterpeice" heyday (although both those tunes were delivered. The key really was the absence of star female vocalist Barbara Weathers, the definitive voice, along withthe founding Lewis brothers, behind many of those hits. "Message In A Bottle" and "Always" prompted cheek-to-cheek dancing i nthe open night air and the group would have left feeling somewhat satisfied, but I just din't get there.

The Ojays hit the ground running, with "BackStabbers", "Love Train" and
"Let Me Make Love To You" coming in quick succession. All throughout the nattily dressed trio (white jackets and trousers emblazoned with floral applique) twirled and sidestepped and sang their way into the crowd's hearts...... and then - two critical missteps. First, a cover of NewBirth's classic "Wild FLower" was dragged on longer than it should have been, and then the big faux pas - no "Brandy" arguably the song that more Jmaaicans associate withte OJays than any other. They just lewftthe stage and ignored the calls for encore. Methinks something was amiss but I'll have to get confirmation.
Chicago came out with lots of enthusiasm, but baffling sound set up meant that the vocals were sacrificed for the horn section. Things improved gradually, and the crowd warmed to material such as "You're The Inspiration" and "Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry" but, unfortunately, the damage tothe crowd's psyche had been done. It wasn't anywhere last year's debacle with Mizzz Ross (some might substitute an "a") but the show did not end on a high.

TOmoroow, I'll havea special wrap and some thoughts o nthe "real" festival the Talent stage (what's populalry known as the small stage).

michael Edwards


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lionel does hits right

Jamaica Jazz & Blues Fest Nite 2

I've made no secret of my general disdain for what I term "hits-driven performances" you know, where an act just comes and unloads their catalog and thinks that that is good eough.

Thankfully, Lionel RIchie understands - as he demonstrated on Firday night at the Aqueduct - that live music is supposed to move people, and not just to dance, but to feel more alive and also to feel collectively part of a bigger experience than they would as individuals.

In a set that ran well over a hour and a half, he and his band took the jazz & Blues fest to a party, the large crowd being swept up almost in unison into a massive pulsating sing-along (and dancealong). They went with him not only because they knew the songs, but because he maanged to make it feel as if they were being heard for the first time (no easy feat for a 30-year veteran). The Commodoores stuff like "Lady(You Bring Me Up)" "Easy Like Sunday Morning" and "Sail On" were there as well as the solo ballads like "Penny Lover" and "Hello" and even the cheesy "Dancin' On the Ceiling" were simply devoured by an anudience that could easily have stood for another hour. Fittingly Lionel eneded his conquest with the uptempo "All Night Long" all of which made life tough for former Foreigner front man Lou Gramm who had the grave misfortune of being the closing act (similar to Matisyahu on Thurs night).

Elsewhere on the night, indigenous vocal talent shined bright in the early going. Roslyn, a regal (and Francophone) Diana Rutherford and Ricardo Suave all gave good accounts of themselves, but the temperature didn't really pick up until L.U.S.T. took the stage. Exemplifying casual elegance, and withtheir voices in very good form, the quartet breezed through a compact yet diverse set, including their smash cover of Air Supply's "Just As I Am"

In a return engagement from last year, Canadian Nikki Yanofsky showed maturity and was confident enough to tackle 'big people stuff' like Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need of Love" but unfortunately she spent a little too long on stage and also was upstaged by the Western Jamaica combined Choir (have to check that name), who she invited on as special guests in rendering "A Little Help From My Friends"

Patrons would no doubt have left the venue satisfied i nthe early hours of Saturday morning, and with considerably high expectations of first-timers Chicago and the Mighty OJays, who are among tonight's headliners.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Solid Couple, Thicke, With Hits, Estelle Shines

Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival: Nite 1
Transport delays (memo to self: when not driving and relying on point-to-point transportation, factor in xtra time) meant that my arrival at the Aqueduct on Thursday night was in time to hear the last couple of selections from British import & Jon Legend protege Estelle. Seemd pleasant enough, but als ocame off as if she was trying (a bit) too hard. Definite potential as an artiste however, and i look forward to her growth.

Call me "Mr Mid-life" but Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson were the pick of the nite's acts - polished, but not stiff, voices perfectly on point and in key, and total rapport withthe audience - even when Ashford too ksome time after doing a rousing version of "Let's Go Get Stoned" to talk about their breakthrough at motown in the 60s. That preceded a medley of the hits form that era including "Ain't Nothin Like the real Thing (marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrelle) and Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Diana Ross), all of which flowed from the duo's golden pens.

Simpson, confidently sporting a revealing dress (slit thigh-high) in contrasting shades of green, also did great justice to another composiiton - "I'm Every Woman" (Chaka Khan, then Whitney houston) and they als odid "Any Street Corner" and a few more before exiting - certainly prematurely for this writer.

Robin Thicke came to please and from the get-go, the modern-day blue-eyed soul man had the jazz fest ladies eating out of his hand. I naddiiton to the smash "Lost Without You" and "Complicated" from his breakthrough CD, "The Evolution of Robin Thicke" he also laid down the funk in covering D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" and the soul, with Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" Thicke closed with a snippet of his latest hit "Magic" before exiting, bathed in sweat.

Also entertaining - albeit in a more stripped-down, slower mode - was Morgan heritage lead vocal Gramps, earning kudos from the crowd.

headliner Matisyahu seemed genuinely eager to give a good account on his maiden Jamaican outing, but his edgy stew of roots reggae, dub, rock and chants, while sonically engaging, did not connect withthe crowd and the Orthodox singer found himslef singing to a vastly dwindled crowd even before his final selection.

Overall, a good night's entertainment. Let's see what Lionel & Co. can come with tonite

- Michael A Edwards

Thursday, January 22, 2009

So Long, Fathead

David "Fathead" Newman, a jazz musician who played with the Ray Charles Band and won fame as a tenor sax soloist, has died at age 75.

Newman played and recorded with a wide range of jazz and soul luminaries, such as Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville. He also led a successful solo career.

He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1990 for his work with Art Blakey and Dr. John.

Manager Karen Nemman says the jazz musician died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer in a Kingston, N.Y., hospital.

According to his Web site, Newman spent 12 years with the Ray Charles Band beginning in 1954. He began as the baritone sax player and became the star tenor sax soloist.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Look out for us at Jazz &Blues

All being well, I should be heading to Montego Bay for this year's renewal of the Jazz 7 Blues fest. Yes, I know there's hardly any jazz or blues in it (Alto Reed - get it? -made his name as the saxman for Bob Seeger's Silver Bullet Band) but its THE event of the first qtr of the year.

Look for my reports on this blog as well as on E-Square (www.liveplug.blogspot.com)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Still time to catch the Pre- Inaugural Riffin'

For some unfathomable reason, we cant add the Riffin Rundown for this week - yet. but scoot on over to www.newstalk.com.jm tonight starting 8:30 local time to hear how Dermot is saluting the new Prsdient and other great sounds from around the globe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monty heads to Birdland

from pianist Monty Alexander:


Acclaimed Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander will perform four nights at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Manhattan, from Wednesday, January 21 to Saturday, January 24.
The first two nights will feature his classic jazz trio lineup (piano, bass, drums), and the second two nights will be his "Jazz and Roots" ensemble with both a reggae and jazz rhythm section working together. There are two sets per evening, at 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

For tickets: 212-581-3080.

If you don't live in the New York area, please forward this information to anyone in New York you know who might be interested and able to attend.

E-Park comes to Mobay

From my good friend and feloow jazz blogger Claude Wilson, a notice of a big band - featuring singer Michael Sean harris et al - for the Jamaica Jazz & Blues fest

E-Park Band, formed in 2005 with a glitter of Jamaica's music greats
like Dean Fraser, Glen Browne, Peter Ashbourne, Dwight Pickney, Michael Fletcher gets its moniker from its original bandstand at Kingston popular leisure spot Emancipation Park.

The band filled a vacancy created by the absence of a regular performing big Band Band in Jamaica.

Under the musical directorship of legendary pop, jazz pianist and conductor Peter Ashbourne, the rotating 11-piece band that attracts an all-star cast, is contingent on five rhythm section players and six wind instrumentalists , the smallest number of musicians that can successfully simulate the big band sound.

Cabaret star Karen Smith and crooner Michael Sean Harris make up the vocal contingent to enhance E-Park's repertoire that include jazz, Show, cabaret and popular music, both instrumental and vocal.

Turnkey Productions, organisers of the annual event, has sought to uprooted E-Park from the New Kingston Park to seed the Big Band at the fertile Aqueduct grounds in Montego Bay for a Saturday (January 24) showing at Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival.

E-Park Big Band

Hopeton Williams and Vivian Scott: trumpets
Romeo Gray/Calvin Cameron: trombone
Ian Hird: alto sax, flute
Nicholas Laraque/Everton Gayle: tenor sax, flute
Dean Fraser: baritone, alto sax
Desi Jones: drums
Glen Browne/Michael Fletcher: bass
Dwight Pickney: guitar
Othneil Lewis: keyboards
Peter Ashbourne: piano, conductor

Missed A Day, But....

The remeainder of this week's Riffin' line up awaits you

TUESDAY: A MUSICAL SAFARI: First to the Medina, of Tunis, Tunisia, in search of Anouar Brahem, whose music is as heady as the hypnotic sound of his oud. Journeying again to Mali, we find Vieux Farka Toure, the son of Ali Farka Touire.

WEDNESDAY: Celebrating an era of swing for the seniors of Jamaica, the “mom and pop” of yesteryear, with music by the Swing Masters.

THURSDAY: Samba and bossa nova, the Brazilian wave this Thursday night with Eliane Elias, and the African Flamenco singer, Buika.

FRIDAY: “ Rude Boys back In Town”, featuring Michael Franti and Cherine, who will be performing at Barack Obama’s, inauguration celebration.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Underground in the BK: Jazz comes up

Despite my fondest wishes, it doesn't appear as if I'll be able to get to NYC this year (again) for the Brooklyn Jazz Underground festival, but those of you planningto be in the Big Apple this weekend have a great opportunity to catch the present and future of the music at its best at the legendary Small's club go to www.brooklynjazz.org for more

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Its Not too Late to get ready for Freddie

Missed part One, but catch the Freddie Hubbard Tribute (Pt 2) tonite, and much more good stuff through the rest of this week



MONDAY: Celebrating, trumpeter par excellence, Freddie Hubbard, Part One

TUESDAY: Celebrating, trumpeter par excellence, Freddie Hubbard, Part Two.

WEDNESDAY: A soulful woman and a soulful man, Marlena Shaw and Houston Person.

THURSDAY: Samba classes begin tonight. All Sambistas welcome.

FRIDAY: Riffin’s Radio Retaliation for 2009.