Thursday, August 28, 2014

Accepting the Gift

When my father passed away from the effects of a stroke on July 25th, it meant the loss of the person most responsible for the directions I have taken in my life.

My dad wore many hats during his 86 years on Earth – student, apprentice, military man, machinist, educator, supervisor, athlete, mechanic, sports fan, breadwinner, brother, husband, father. As might be imagined, all of these roles had immense impact on me, but there was one aspect of my father that had foremost influence on my life’s passion, education and career – his tireless enthusiasm for jazz. From his early adulthood in the 1940s, breathlessly waiting for the year’s performance of Norman Granz’s
Jazz at the Philharmonic with Charlie Parker, Illinois Jacquet and J.J. Johnson, to his last concert in Oakland with the Count Basie Orchestra the week before his stroke, his deep love of the art form never waned. If anything, it deepened and became more profound as he aged, providing solace and a source of Zen-like calm, particularly in later years when my mother began experiencing serious health issues and he needed a release. When I still lived at home and later when I would stop by the house to visit, I’d often enter the living room to see my father seated in his favorite blue easy chair in front of the stereo, headphones clamped over his ears, with his eyes closed and a look of total focus on his face. Inevitably, he’d look up to see me standing in the doorway and say, “You gotta hear this arrangement!” while shoving the headphones into my hands. For him, jazz was not background music – something you put on and largely ignore while you’re doing something else. It demanded and deserved one’s complete attention, and is the furthest thing from genteel, apologetic aural wallpaper. This is soul and life and passion and blood and heartbreak and direct human expression made into something beautifully tangible and offered to you as a gift. Something that moves the body and the mind. Accept this gift gratefully and play it loud. Of the many life lessons my dad gave me, that one became something of a personal ethos.

To say jazz was the soundtrack of my childhood is putting it mildly. I knew the versions of classic Disney songs on Dave Brubeck’s Dave Digs Disney much better than the originals in the animated films, and not only did I know who wrote the music for the Charlie Brown TV specials, but I knew who Vince Guaraldi’s sidemen were on the recordings. Jazz concerts were a regular part of my upbringing, and as a pre-teen, the evenings spent at the Venetian Room in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel to see the Buddy Rich Big Band and the Oscar Peterson Quartet were two particularly influential standouts. I still reference those nights as visceral demonstrations of instrumental mastery that pushed the boundaries of the possible.

I began playing my brother’s disused drums at age 12, and I knew instinctively that I had found a lifelong pursuit. I played throughout junior high and high school, and when I chose to enter college as a music major, my parents were incredibly supportive. I had expected stiff resistance to my decision, but knowing what music meant to my father, I hoped he would understand. He did. For him, being a musician was a noble calling.

Of course, it’s natural to want to assert your own identity and reject the influence of your parents when you reach a certain age, and my father and I had differences of taste and opinion on many things. My “punk rock” rebellion was fully embracing the most inaccessible fringes of the avant garde, but to his credit, my father was a trouper. He didn’t have much use for the Cecil Taylor, Wadada Leo Smith and Albert Ayler records I was consuming voraciously in my late teens and 20s, but when I described the concept behind the performance of John Zorn’s game piece “Cobra” I was going to, he was intrigued enough to want to tag along. I don’t know how much he enjoyed the show, but he appreciated the spirit and creativity of the music, and years later I still laugh to myself when I remember that my father attended a performance that featured a member of Slayer.

As I got older, I began to realize how deep my dad’s love of the music went. I discovered that in 1959, as the president of his local 20-30 Club chapter in Livermore, CA, he’d begun a dialog with Dave Brubeck and his manager that brought the jazz giant to Livermore for a benefit performance at the local high school. My high school. My dad the concert promoter – an interesting parallel to my future work. Last year, my father had one of the two remaining concert posters from that show framed, and he presented it to me. I wasn't aware they existed and his act of generosity rendered me speechless.

I will greatly miss the pleasure of sharing new music with my dad, talking about my gigs, and going to concerts with him. That was where he seemed the happiest – it was like the troubles of the world disappeared and there was only the joy of experiencing those precious, fleeting moments of spontaneous creativity on a lighted stage. One of the things that made my dad most proud in his last years was the fact that the organization I worked for built a mecca for jazz on the West Coast. Not just anywhere in the world, but here in his hometown. A place he described as "the venue this music deserves to have." He told everyone he knew about the SFJAZZ Center, and he considered his visits some of the most special occasions he had in recent memory. We had planned for more, but sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

When it came time to plan my dad's memorial service, the only gift I could think to offer as a last tribute was the one he taught me to appreciate so deeply. So when my quartet played the Horace Silver tune “Peace,” which was my wish for what he hopefully found at the end of his life, I knew he would have enjoyed it. But he would have been more excited about the classic Dave Brubeck tune “In Your Own Sweet Way” that I chose to start the ceremony, and how we played it. Not quietly. Not reverently. Not apologetically. Not in the background. With gratitude, played loud. For the living.

– Rusty Aceves

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Watch: Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival YouTube Playlist

Can't get enough of Joe? Neither can we! Check out this YouTube playlist of some of Joe Henderson's greatest live moments documented on film—from playing with the Horace Silver Quintet, to touring worldwide with his own group, to a special version of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" at the White House with Herbie Hancock.

The Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival wraps up this evening with saxophonist Michael Zilber's reinterpretation of Joe Henderson's GRAMMY-winning 1992 Verve album Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn.

We might just have to make this Festival an annual thing...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Video: SFJAZZ Collective on Joe Henderson's music

In conjunction with the Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival this weekend, the SFJAZZ Collective talk about the music of Joe Henderson, the late saxophone giant and longtime SF native who had a long association with SFJAZZ. The Collective are back on tour throughout 2014-15 playing the music of Joe Henderson + originals, including a 4-night run at the SFJAZZ Center, Oct. 23-26, 2014.

See all their Tour Dates.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo: Joe Henderson Lab Dedication Ceremony

Mel Martin + band playing Joe Henderson's Page One

Executive Artistic Director + SFJAZZ Founder Randall Kline reading a letter from Mayor Ed Lee recognizing Joe Henderson's legacy in San Francisco

DJ Pat Les Stache (TJ Gorton) spinning classic Joe Henderson vinyl

Joe Henderson's son Malcolm Daniel reminisces about his father
(meanwhile, his family acts as his paparazzi)

Mel Martin giving the Page One backstory, track by track

Joe Henderson's Family joined by saxophonists Mel Martin + Hafez Modirzadeh,
SFJAZZ's Don Derheim + Randall Kline

Saxophonist-educator Hafez Modirzadeh recounts the story behind Joe Henderson's
Selmer Mark VI saxophone

Up Close: Joe Henderson's Selmer Mark VI

Check out the full Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival Lineup.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Trumpeter Kenny Dorham's Whimsical Liner Notes From Joe Henderson's 'Page One'

Page One album artwork (Photo: Francis Wolff)

"Long Tall Dexter [Gordon]" asked the young man [Joe Henderson] if he'd like to play some. Minutes afterward, the musical astronaut was on the launching pad, and the count down was in progress with a three man crew (rhythm section) behind him. There was a thunderous (Art Blakey type) roar from the battery man, and the saxophonist was off and soaring his (lyrical) way to new heights on a Charlie Parker blues line. At the end of the chorus (and I do mean 15 to 20), there was a warm and exhilarating applause for Joe, and as for Dex, sitting on the side, he looked 'gassed.'"

-- Kenny Dorham, excerpt from the liner notes, Page One, Blue Note Records.

Read more.

Hotplate Tribute to Page One tonight with saxophonist Mel Martin!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Archive: Mel Martin Interviews Joe Henderson

A spur-of-the-moment duet: Joe Henderson + 18-year-old Larry Grenadier
at the War Memorial's Green Room, 1986

“What I was developing was a sense of not falling into that habit of playing the same things all the time. We are creatures of habit anyway so its easy to fall into them. You practice early on so that habits don't form which have to be dealt with later, like bad fingerings that you have to clean up later.”

“Teaching allows us to plant some trees, and to keep the art form alive. The information that was passed on to us helped us to enjoy the planet a little more through our music.”

—Joe Henderson

Originally published in The Saxophone Journal, above are two excerpts from saxophone great and Joe Henderson collaborator Mel Martin's interview with the iconic saxophonist and longtime San Francisco resident.

Read the full interview.

Mel Martin opens the 4-night Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival this Thursday (8/14), playing the music of Henderson’s 1963 debut, Page One, a landmark session and a remarkably self-assured first statement from Henderson as a bandleader.

In 2001, right after Henderson passed, Mel Martin filmed footage of vibraphone legend Bobby Hutcherson—a frequent collaborator and dear friend of Joe's—recalling some fond memories, notably a humorous story about giving Joe haircuts.

Learn more about the Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tribute: Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival

We formally dedicate the Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ Center, named after the iconic saxophonist, by paying tribute to four of his greatest recorded moments. Check out the Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival this week!

Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival

Joe Henderson had a long and memorable history with SFJAZZ, performing over a dozen times in various settings: a sacred concert duet with tabla master Zakir Hussain (now a SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director) at Grace Cathedral, a salute to Antônio Carlos Jobim with Herbie Hancock, and the 1993 tribute night “We Love Joe” featuring Henderson's quintet with John Scofield, Charlie Haden and Al Foster, his Big Band, and the Kronos Quartet!

"We Love Joe" Tribute at Davies Symphony Hall, 1993 -- Joe Henderson & John Scofield

The official Dedication Ceremony will take place this Thursday, Aug 14th at 6:30pm in Joe Henderson Lab, and will feature remarks by SFJAZZ co-founder Randall Kline, as well as Joe Henderson's two sons Malcolm Daniel and Kim Vasquez

Buy tickets to the Joe Henderson Hotplate Festival.

Watch the SFJAZZ Collective discuss their favorite Joe Henderson recordings.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Just Launched: Brand New SFJAZZ Mobile App

The power of SFJAZZ in your hand... with the new SFJAZZ mobile app, you can learn about all the artists and programming at SFJAZZ, purchase tickets right from your smartphone, and even select your own seat! Download free on the iTunes App Store or Google Play!

  • Browse all SFJAZZ performances
  • SFJAZZ Members can now take advantage of many Member benefits
  • Select-Your-Own-Seat functionality
  • Buy tickets seamlessly from your smartphone
  • Connect with us on social media
  • View your purchase history and access ticket details
  • Get the most recent SFJAZZ News and reviews
  • Watch the latest SFJAZZ videos
Please Note: This is a brand new app. Users of our old CloudTix app need to download this new app!