Archive | January, 2011

Around the world Monday: Mexico’s Antonio Sanchez

31 Jan

It really can be a small world in jazz sometimes. Drummer Antonio Sanchez, born in 1971 in Mexico City, graduated from the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City and then went off to school in Boston at Berklee and then to the New England Conservatory, where one of his teachers was Panama’s Danilo Perez.

When Cuban-born Paquito D’Rivera called Perez to try to fill a drum seat in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra, Sanchez was off and drumming. Before long he had toured with Perez and was part of the Pat Metheny Group.

But Sanchez is hardly limited. He has released his first album as a leader and also performed with Marcus Roberts, Charlie Haden and the late Michael Brecker, among others. When Sanchez joined Metheny, Gary Burton and Steve Swallow in their reunion, Metheny said: ” (Sanchez) freed us all up to dig deep, back into this material, with a whole new perspective on it.”

It’s no surprise Sanchez made his career in the arts — his grandfather, Ignacio Lopez Tarso, is a well-known actor who has starred in Mexican soap operas.

Sanchez: “Just to lift your spirit, that is the sole purpose of music, I think. Music can completely change the way you feel in a second.”

Sanchez currently lives in New York and teaches at NYU when he’s not playing.

Next Monday: Puerto Rico

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Amos Lee: El Camino

30 Jan

Amos Lee doesn’t sound like a school teacher, but he was for two years after graduating from South Carolina and returning to his native suburban Philadelphia (Cherry Hill, N.J.).

Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the children he taught, he sought a career in music. Now 32, he’s just recently released his fourth album, Mission Bell (link to a song from it below). “It’s heart music, not head music, and Amos Lee – to this fan’s great relief — once again proves himself a master of the genre,” said a reviewer.

Don’t try to peg his voice, or his music. Whether it’s more blues or folk, or reminds one more of  John Prine or Willie Nelson or James Taylor or someone else is moot. It’s all Amos Lee. Listen, and enjoy.

Well to all my friends, that I’ve loved the most
You know I’m heading out to that other coast
I’m going to wash my soul, and I’m gonna get it clean
Heading down the border road, called the El Camino

Here’s a link to a recent interview and performance on the World Cafe:

Amos Lee on World Cafe

Eric Reed: Waltz for Debby

29 Jan

Another in the long line of talented musicians a.) with Philadelphia roots (Reed was born there in 1970) and b.) mentored by Wynton Marsalis.

Reed moved to Los Angeles when he was 11, and his primary influences were twofold: jazz pianists like Horace Silver, and his faith, not necessarily in that order. Reed’s father was a minister and a gospel singer, and Reed was playing the piano as early as the age of 2. He met Wynton in his teens and soon replaced Marcus Roberts when Roberts left. Reed had entered Cal State Northridge and attended for one year, but left for a jazz education with Marsalis.

Before long he was leading his own trio, and he soon recorded albums declaring It’s All Right to Swing, and another dedicated to Art Blakey. He’s now led nearly 20 albums. On Manhattan Melodies he penned Letter to Betty Carter, for the jazz singer who died in 1998, with the accompanying lyrics:

Exciting, inviting, igniting, providing
Everywhere you’d go
A voice so full of healing
No words could let you know that I will always love your voice, so healing

Reed, 40, still plays, teaches and has worked on projects as varied as an Eddie Murphy film to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Ahmad Jamal, twice Reed’s age, has called him “one of my favorite pianists.”  Ours too.

Here’s link to a Bill Evans composition, played by Reed.

Peter Cincotti: I changed the rules

28 Jan

Peter Cincotti is only 27, but already has a discography that needs both hands. His most recent, 2009’s East of Angel Town, was his first of all-original music; a previous single  said Goodbye to Philadelphia –which probably won him a lot of points in New York and Boston, if not elsewhere.

Born in New York and mentored by Ellis Marsalis, you can draw comparisons, for the piano playing and vocalizing to Harry Connick Jr. Not surprising since he once sat with Connick at a show in Atlantic City at age 7, and toured with him when a teen. His early inspiration, though, was Jerry Lee Lewis, after Cincotti started playing  piano at 3 and writing his own music at 9; his mother supplied the lyrics (on the track below, music by Peter Cincotti and lyrics by his mother, Cynthia).

Now he has evolved into his own style — part pop, part jazz, all good.

Peter Cincotti: “One of the things I remember and I think one of the most important things is from my first lesson. My mother told the teacher, ‘Don’t let him play anything he doesn’t want to. I want it to be fun.’ ”

Listening to him, it still is.

Hal Galper: All the things you are (or aren’t)

27 Jan

Playwright George Bernard Shaw said “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” But sometimes he who can, teaches in addition to doing.

The two are not mutually exclusive as New England’s  Hal Galper demonstrates any time he puts fingers to a piano. Yes, Galper, now 72, teaches in the classroom — he’s taught at the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and Purchase Conservatory — and with the pen — he’s authored several articles for the magazine Down Beat, one for a scholarly journal on  stage fright, and a book on the touring musician.

But in between the writing of words and teaching of notes, he’s written plenty of notes, too. He’s led more than 20 albums and worked as a sideman for many more from Chet Baker to Phil Woods to Cannoball Adderly to the Brecker brothers and Nat Adderly and Lee Konitz and John Scofield. All told, he’s been involved in more than 80 albums.

Fortunately, Galper is not easily discouraged. Years ago his parents aspired for him to take over the family grocery store, and he might have. But because of a disability (eye), he qualified for a scholarship to Berklee. After graduation, a well-regarded Boston-area pianist told Galper, in his second lesson: “Forget it, kid. You’ll never play.” A decade later, Galper had that teacher’s job, and his respect (the pianist in question was magnanimous and promised Galper to never pre-judge an aspiring musician again). 

There was a brief time Galper actually didn’t play — when he went to Paris in 1960. He got few gigs, came home “discouraged” and didn’t play, by his own account, for two years.

We’re glad it was temporary, and that he plays and teaches. Said Galper: “Forgive the poor paraphrase, but, ‘Give a man lick and he’s just got a lick. Give him a concept and he has a million licks.’ When you change the way someone thinks you put into effect global, not incremental change.”

Here’s an example of Galper doing:

Ralph McTell: The Mermaid and The Seagull

26 Jan
English folk singer Ralph McTell

Despite The Streets of London, things haven't always been easy for Ralph McTell

English folkie Ralph McTell, born Ralph May in 1944, is best known for Streets of London, but should be known for so much more (see link below). He originally wrote the song about Paris when he was performing in the streets there and converted it to listeners’ most favorite song ever about London, according to a poll for the Evening Standard (The Kinks’  Waterloo Sunset is No. 2).

Streets of London has been recorded by more than 200 artists; it climbed to No. 2 in Britain; in Germany, at one time, there were four versions of it on the charts, including three different ones by McTell.

Originally intending to be a teacher, McTell changed his name when he set out on a performing career to pay tribute to one of his blues heroes, Blind Willie McTell. Streets of London was the third song he ever wrote, but it wasn’t until he re-recorded it that it became a phenomenon. McTell sold out storied British venues, and was one of the few English performers to continue to perform in Northern Ireland at the height of the conflict there.

Shortly after achieving fame, McTell left it and focused on family and other pursuits. In the 80s, he worked on English TV shows, and became famous for that to a generation late to Streets of London. In the 90s he made the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas his focus, completing a project on Thomas’ life called The Boy With a Note for the BBC. McTell has resumed performing, and just last year released his first download single.

Said McTell:  ”What starts out as a great adventure becomes your career and becomes your life so all the edges become blurred and I am not dependent on the industry because the industry does not support me.”

From The Mermaid and The Seagull (link below)

 

 I buttoned my coat up to my chin
Went walking along the sand
I thought I heard the mermaid sing
To the sound of a big brass band.
A seagull offered me a ride
And so as not to hurt his pride
I said I wasn’t going far
And I let him carry my guitar.

 
 

   

 
 

 

Benny Golson: Killer Joe

25 Jan

 

Today is the 82nd birthday of saxophonist Benny Golson, another in the long line of Philadelphia-bred jazz musicians (one of his albums was Benny and the Philadelphians). Graduated from Howard University and played with Tadd Dameron and Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie in the ’50s.

In the ’60s, he moved to Hollywood and wrote for many of the TV shows of the late ’60s and early ’70s — M*A*S*H, Mannix, Mission Impossible, Room 222, The Partridge Family (no, no, no, Come On, Get Happy is not his. We presume.).

But he returned to jazz after, and has been playing and composing ever since.  Has written some of the genre’s most memorable songs, including I Remember Clifford, which Golson wrote after hearing of the death of trumpeter Clifford Brown, 25, in a car crash in 1956. John Hendricks later added lyrics to the song:

I only know that I hear him now
And I believe that I always will
You’ve got to believe
I remember Clifford still, yes I hear him still
I know he’ll never be forgotten
He was a king uncrowned

Golson also wrote Killer Joe (listen below), Stablemates, Whisper Not, Five Spot After Dark, etc., etc.

Critic David Rosenthal: “In a sense, artists like Benny Golson may represent what modern jazz would have been had the bebop revolution not taken place under the sign of radical innovation.”

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