Jazz Icon Clark Terry’s Life Commitment Mentoring Young Musicians (Originally Published in iRockJazz)
Musicians can be a selfish or cryptic people. Even though it may or may not be a fair assessment to make, the truth of the matter is that many of them are, and for good reason. Musicians work very, very hard at learning their respective instruments, understanding composition and mastering improvisation. Then, they have to work that much harder at getting people to notice them – fans, potential band mates or bandleaders, record companies, management, and more.
Once they’ve obtained all of which they wanted, at whatever level they are content with, then the truly difficult task begins, which is keeping it all for themselves as long as they can while other musicians move up the ranks, fighting for position. So, after all of that, they want to keep it for themselves, afraid anyone who comes along will take their shine, or they may just want the youngsters to prove that they’re good enough by learning on their own the same way they did. Clark Terry’s early life encounter with such a musician was the catalyst that put him on a selfless path that helped make him the living legend that he is today.
Quincy Jones on Clark Terry: “The greatest honor I’ve ever felt in my life was when Clark Terry left Duke Ellington to come play with my band,” Jones testified in his book “Q” on Producing. “Can you imagine what it felt like to have the guy who taught me when I was 12 years-old leave Duke Ellington’s band to come play with me? It was incredible!”
Read the full article at iRockJazz.com: http://irockjazz.com/2013/03/pay-it-forward-clark-terrys-commitment-to-help-others/
Melvin Van Peebles belongs on the short list of the most innovative filmmakers of the 20th century. The renegade director’s approach to storytelling has made him a true original. His guerilla style quick camera cut approach to his breakout film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassssss Song laid the groundwork for the sub-genre what would become known as the Blaxploitation films. Movies like Shaft, Superfly, The Mack and a host of others owe a debt of gratitude to Peebles, but not just for the films, but for the music, as well.
Although Quincy Jones deserves the lion share of credit for breaking barriers for Black film scorers in the 1960s, and Curtis Mayfield may have been the most commercially successful Black film scorer of the 1970s, it was Peebles’ intuitive use of music. Music both as a backdrop and as a marketing tool that both initiated a lasting trend of popular Black artists like Mayfield, Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye lending their composing pens to these gritty, urban action movies, as well as paying considerable dividends for himself.Sweetback grossed 15 million dollars with a 150,000 dollar budget! The soundtrack of a Black movie went on to become a crucial undertaking for the film and its ability to attract audiences, to the point where in some cases; the music tends to outlast the film itself (i.e. Gaye’s Trouble Man, Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street and James Brown’s Black Ceasar). Peebles recently spoke with iRockJazz to discuss the role of music in his films.
Read the full article at iRockJazz.com: http://irockjazz.com/2013/04/melvin-van-peebles-architect-of-the-black-soundtrack/
Tutored by Motown’s Funk Brothers, most prominently the late, great Benny Benjamin, Wonder picked up the skins rather quickly (it’s rumored that Wonder was the excitable drummer on his 1966 hit “Uptight”). By the time he released Music of My Mind in 1972, it became clear that not only was Stevie a great drummer, but a distinctive drummer. Just listen to “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” and pay attention to how he uses plaintive hi-hat taps to set up his lifting, longing vocal plea and cranberry colored synths; not so much sounding sloppy but almost like he was simulating his own reverb. And so, those slushy hi-hats became his rhythmic calling card; it’s as much a part of his genius as is his miraculous, melismatic singing.
Since Stevie had an unparalleled gift to capture various styles and textures, it was imperative that he provided each composition with a complimentary beat. Just listen to how the thumping bass drum drives the blues of “Living for the City.” How about “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” which finds Wonder giving his own take on the shuffling riddim on Jamaica. Then there’s his tom-tom rich adventurous gospel fervor in songs like “He’s Mistra Know-It-All,” “Please Don’t Go” and “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).”
Wonder’s virtuosity as a pianist and songwriter has clouded the average listener’s attention to his drumming, but his contemporaries certainly know better. In 1974, guitar god Eric Clapton called Wonder the “greatest drummer of our time;” hefty praise coming from a man who played side by side with Ginger Baker. Former co-producer Bob Margouleff once stated in an interview that Stevie’s proficiency on drums was equal to that of his piano and harmonica playing. Since he has at least 15 albums of evidence to observe, here are a few standout examples of Stevie Wonder’s dynamic beat sorcery:
Read the full article, with clips and audio, at The Revivalist: http://revivalist.okayplayer.com/2013/04/04/stevie-wonder-the-greatest-drummer-of-our-time/
THE PROTOTYPE: BETTY DAVIS LIT THE SPARK THAT IGNITED TODAY’S MUSIC INFERNO (Originally Published in iRockJazz)
Brooklyn, NY. Saturday, October 6, 2012. It’s 8:45pm just outside the doors of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, located on the third floor of the Brooklyn Museum. Many people congregated there to witness a celebration of rare and innovative music. The auditorium was located on the third floor and in order to reach it, the concertgoers had to walk through an exhibit called Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, a long term gallery installation that presented priceless African relics. The walls are adorned with gold and reminders of an ancient time when the pharaohs and inhabitants of the North African country were the envy of the globe, thanks to their innovative architecture, imagery and regality.
Each and every one of those who gazed upon the gallery had no choice but to feel fascination and inspiration from these tombs that encased kings. The women were immortalized in these alabaster carvings and sculptures that presented them as both nurtures and rulers. Finally, when the eager souls filled the hall’s 415 seats, they were ready to bask in another priceless African artifact the music of one Betty Davis.
Conceived by Brooklyn singer Nucomme Davis-Walker, “Betty’s Story” was a multimedia tribute to the under-championed singer/songwriter who had used funk to empower and liberate her listeners and herself. “Betty’s Story” was a feast to the senses, which featured an aural narration of her career, video collages of news clippings and album covers, a raucous five-piece band and alluring exotic dance, provided by the Brown Girls Burlesque troupe.
In between the spoken dialogue was the true legend as the robust, confident Nucomme, who decisively and convincingly belted out songs from Davis’ catalog, like the defiant “Nasty Gal” and the driving hedonism of “If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up”. The crowd took it all in, rocking their heads, clinching their fists and biting their lips as the curdling bass injected its way into their veins, the burlesque dancers occupied their eyes and Nucomme’s voice dominated their minds.
In the end, however, it was their souls that got the ultimate workout, which of course was their rationale behind attending the event in the first place. Davis’ assertive, unfiltered artistry had a lingering effect on each of them, prior to their decisions to enter the Brooklyn Museum. All the while, projected above the performers were images of Betty at several stages of her career, as an exuberant young model that made the road easier for Black beauties like Iman, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, and as a rough singing sexual dynamo who paved the way for artists like Millie Jackson, Rick James and Prince.
No matter in what incarnation, there she was, high above the stage, her flawless fair skin, her shining pouty lips, with that proud and natural afro, like she was carved from a piece of jade. When you look into her eyes, you see a trailblazer, but behind them was just an artist who only wanted her music to be heard; an artist who used her sexual energy on stage and wax to fulfill her need to simply write songs.
When it comes to the influence that Betty Davis bestowed on music, her individual work is always an afterthought when held up against her lasting impression on former husband, legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Fact about it, whenever her name is mentioned in print, it’s immediately followed by “ex-wife of Miles Davis”.
Read the full article at iRockJazz.com: http://irockjazz.com/2012/12/the-prototype-betty-davis-lit-the-spark-that-ignited-todays-music-inferno-pt-i/
It’s late October 2012. Pianist McCoy Tyner age 73 (now 74), regarded as one of America’s greatest jazz treasures, stepped on stage at New York City’s Symphony Center to perform as a special guest at the Jazz For Obamabenefit concert. He made his way to the Steinway and Son’s grand piano slowly, requiring help from a fellow musician. You’d think at his age, mere days before spearheading a weekend long festival at Lincoln Center, The Gentle Side of Coltrane, that he wouldn’t want to spread himself so thin. However, once he sat on the bench and played “Walk Spirit Talk Spirit,” he maintained the deft, heavy handed style that we’re used to hearing from him; and if you closed your eyes, you’d swear up and down that you listening to a 26-year-old McCoy Tyner. Even now, while enjoying his status as a legend, he still feels the need, and want, to hone his craft during his off time.
After recording with some of the most successful labels in Jazz history, Impulse,Blue Note, and most recently Telarc, the composer launched McCoy Tyner Music in 2007. “I think I was a good idea,” Tyner declared. “I think if you have the initiative and the interest to do something like that, why not do it? There are plenty guys out there that have had their own label and gave a good for it. You learn something about the business as well.” Tyner admittedly founded inspiration in producer Bob Thiele and Coltrane, whose tenure withImpulse provided a great template for musician/businessmen. “I’ve always taken an interest in both. I think that there are people who like to sell records and have interests in that. I think that the more savvy you are about what’s going on in the Jazz business, the better off you are. In Jazz, Rock & Roll, the Blues, whether you’re into, if you get on the business side of it, it’s good; you learn. What’s wrong with learning something?”
Read the full article at iRockJazz.com: http://irockjazz.com/2013/01/mccoy-tyner-act-like-a-legend-think-like-youre-hungry/
Januarys in New York City can be deathly cold, effectively altering the heat of any building in the path of the sub-freezing winds. So, when fans of Jose James entered Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom for his album release concert, having walked many blocks in 10 degree weather, it felt like exiting a freezer to stand inside a refrigerator. The sell-out crowd briskly bypassed the coat check to gather close to the stage, and soon, the collective body heat briefly aided calmed the concertgoers as they waited for the man with the “Glenlivet voice”.
Jose strolled onto the stage toting his signature Yankee-fitted cap and an acoustic guitar to un-containable cheers and applause. Bowers’ Rhodes playing, with the band following, offered the capacity crowd with a sensuously funky prelude to let them know the vibe they’ve got in store. That’s when Smith kicked into the drum intro for album opener “It’s All Over (Your Body),” and all of a sudden, it didn’t feel quite as cold as it did just moments before. If the not quite-fast-not-quite-slow groove played the role of the scalding, sweet hot chocolate that soothed the core of the listener, then James’ supple vocals serves as the smoke coiling just above it.
Read the full review at iRockJazz.com:
Harlem by way of New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott has emerged as a great force in jazz, as well as its most frank provocateur of truth since Rashaan Roland Kirk. His wildly incendiary testimonials of political frustrations (“Jenacide (The Inevitable Rise and Fall of the Blood Revolution)”), personal encounters with corrupt government institutions (“K.K.P.D. aka Ku Klux Police Department”) and intense social commentary (“When Marissa Stood Her Ground”) are equally as striking as his statements of his “stretch music” ideal of fusion, melded a perplexing combination of influences and turning it into an intoxicating presentation of reverb heavy rhythms and arresting melodies.
Scott’s eighth album—the double-CD set Christian aTunde Adjuah, commemorating his new name—displays “stretch music” at its most realized. It’s full of ferocious statements of dissatisfaction and admiration for his family and New Orleans heritage. Although only 29, he’s ready to partake in a daunting challenge: bringing jazz back to black youth and dissolving age-old (and, until now, unchallenged) rules of what jazz is and who jazz is for.
Christian on completing his name to Christian aTunde Adjuah:
“For me, I didn’t wanna be exclusively known as a name that was assigned to my ancestors so their captors could know that they owned them at one point. Fuck that.”
Christian on his long, politically-charged song-titles:
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t get flack for my titles. Even within the confines of the daily conversations you have with business people or people on your team; the label, agents or publicists, any of those things. It’s not a very comfortable job for someone to have to navigate selling someone any album that the first song is called “Ku Klux Police Department.” You know how hard that is for a business person? At the end of the day, I’m not budging; that’s what the song is called. If you don’t want the song to be called that, then stop these motherfuckers from pulling guns on people like me.”
Christian’s definition of his style, “stretch music:
“…it is a seamless improvisational fusion form that can literally acculturate any musical vernacular that has ever existed.”
Read the full interview at the Village Voice blog site: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2012/08/christian_scott_interview.php