Monday, November 16, 2015

How Blue Note Helped Lou Donaldson Become A "Major Leaguer"

"The most successful type of major league baseball team can usually point to a strong farm system as one of the main reasons for prolonged success. The parent team is constantly stocked with players developed within its own organization. It takes good scouts to find this talent. Blue Note has got a good scout (and manager) in Alfred Lion, as witness the parade of home-grown talent on the Blue Note roster. Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and, the man in motion on this album, Lou Donaldson are all good examples. These players were introduced on the Blue Note label and have developed into major leaguers here."

Blues Walk Liner Notes

Bay Area major leaguer Mad Duran pays tribute to Lou Donaldson's Blue Walk a la SFJAZZ Hotplate Thursday, November 19th in Joe Henderson Lab.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hampton Hawes (1928-1977): Raise Up Off Me Alley


In honor of Hampton Hawes (1928–1977), whose birthday falls on November 13, we'd like to draw attention to a unique tribute you can find at the SFJAZZ Center.

The loading area and passageway on the west side of the building is named “Raise Up Off Me Alley” in tribute to the West Coast jazz piano great and his incendiary autobiography Raise Up Off Me. The memoir chronicles Hawes’ meteoric career that included the 1956 DownBeat award for New Star of the Year and work with Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Dexter Gordon, as well as Hawes’ struggle with heroin, his five-year imprisonment on drug charges, and his ultimate redemption with an Executive Pardon by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He lived in the Bay Area in the 1970s, and died of a brain hemorrhage at age 48.

The Five Spot: Happenings In The Jazz World (11/8-13)

The Five Spot pulls together the five most important happenings in the jazz world each week.

High School All-Stars Alumni Interview: Kevin Coelho

When you think of a high school jazz band, your “mind’s ear” may not immediately jump to the funky landscape of the Hammond B3 organ… but maybe it should. Kevin Coelho is one of the only organists ever to be involved in the High School All-Stars program, and he carved out a niche for himself in the way that talented auxiliary instrument players have to. Now at Stanford University, Kevin’s musical pursuits are taking many different shapes – from composer, to president of a musical consortium, to sometime SFJAZZ collaborator -- but we wouldn’t expect much less from this surprising contributor to the jazz scene.

You play an instrument that is not typically a part of big band jazz. What's your favorite recording that makes use of organ in a larger ensemble?

"Although organ may not be thought of as a typical big band instrument, there are lots of recordings of organ players with big bands, and they sound great. My two favorite albums are Joey DeFrancesco with City Rhythm Orchestra, and The Big Band of Jimmy McGriff."

Tell us about what you've been up to since you graduated.

"I’ve been studying computer science and doing some work in MST (Music, Science, and Technology) at Stanford. I’ve also been running my own 501(c)(3) student group, the Stanford Jazz Consortium. We’ve presented some medium to big names in jazz, -- Jon Batiste, Pete Escovedo, Marcus Shelby, Joe Gilman, Taylor Eigsti, -- and we host lots of workshops, jam sessions, and other opportunities for student musicians and local community members."

What upcoming shows are you looking forward to at SFJAZZ?

"So far this year, my student group has reserved tickets for Peter Bernstein, Wayne Shorter, Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, The Bad Plus Josh Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Terence Blanchard’s Champion, and Cassandra Wilson, so I’m looking forward to (and have already heard great things about) those shows!"

Keep up with Kevin’s upcoming shows on his website and keep an eye out for future SFJAZZ guest blogs by this young organist.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Travel in Cuba: A Recommended Reading List

Cuban music is a global phenomenon, and has been part of SFJAZZ since the beginning. As travel restrictions have eased in Cuba, more Americans are planning trips to explore the vast cultural wealth of our island neighbor to the south. If you are planning a trip, SFJAZZ Director of Education Rebeca Mauleón has provided a recommended reading list to help prepare you for the unforgettable experience you are sure to have. In her words:

"A lifetime of reading will never adequately prepare you for the Cuban experience; the island must be witnessed firsthand, and even then you will probably leave with more questions than answers!

Meanwhile, here are a few recommendations of books to explore – from top picks of classic Cuban literature, to recent investigative reports on the ever-changing landscape.

To start things off, we have Tom Gjelten’s excellent account of one of Cuba’s most iconic families, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba.

Fascinated by underworld kingpins? Be sure to check out Havana Nocturne by T.J. English, an eloquent tale of pre-revolutionary Havana and the role of American organized crime.

If Cuban literary masterpieces translated into English are more your style, we suggest the 19th century classic, Cecilia Valdés by Cirilo Villaverde, an account of the “depravity caused by slavery and colonialism.”

Budding musicologists should not miss Ned Sublette’s excellent tome, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo.

For those appreciating a contemporary perspective on the island’s political and economic transformation, try Cuban Revelations by Marc Frank, or Julia Cooke’s The Other Side of Paradise.

Love detailed historical accounts? Jon Lee Anderson’s critically-acclaimed book, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life is a no-brainer. If you prefer a more biting and witty style, try Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers. Just DO NOT take your copy to Cuba, as the book has been BANNED there! (Seriously.)

And finally, Lithuanian photographer Marius Jovaisa, who was granted special permission to shoot arial photos over much of Cuba, released his extraordinary collection in Unseen Cuba. This is a must-have for photography buffs." 
– Rebeca

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jazz Musicians Who've Served In The U.S. Military

In honor of Veterans Day, we take a look back, and salute many of the jazz legends who've served in the U.S. Military - many lending their musical talents to boost troop moral.

Allen Toussaint (U.S. Army)

Artie Shaw (U.S. Navy)

Clark Terry (U.S. Navy)

John Coltrane (Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy)

 Glenn Miller (Major, U.S. Air Force)

Vince Guaraldi (U.S. Army)

Hampton Hawes (U.S. Army)

 Jo Jones (U.S. Army)

Lester Young (U.S. Army)

Tony Bennett (U.S. Army)

Wayne Shorter (U.S. Army)

Any additions? Please share on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Remembering Allen Toussaint (1938-2015)

Allen Toussaint at the 2009 San Francisco Jazz Festival (S. Chernis)
The phrase “living legend” is often carelessly bandied about in popular culture, but could well have been coined specifically to describe composer, pianist, singer, producer, and New Orleans music icon Allen Toussaint, who passed away from a heart attack on November 10 in Madrid, Spain following a performance.

An artist synonymous with the gritty, funky R&B of the Crescent City, Toussaint played an integral part in many of the greatest hits to emerge from New Orleans since the 1950s, and his indelible contributions to popular music earned him a much-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Toussaint's presence graced hundreds of recordings for dozens of artists, including New Orleans mainstays Dr. John, The Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, and Irma Thomas. He recorded 19 albums over his career beginning in 1958 and culminating with his 2013 solo release Songbook, showcasing the composer’s immortal tunes in an intimate piano and vocal setting. The album is a fitting finale to Toussaint’s life and career.

The breadth of Allen Toussaint’s influence is truly incredible. His compositions have been recorded and performed by a veritable who’s-who of artists from all areas of popular music. The Pointer Sisters, Lee Dorsey, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Glen Campbell, Bo Diddley, The Yardbirds, The Band, Devo, Little Feat, the Jerrry Garcia Band and Otis Redding all covered his songs at points in their careers.

From writing immortal tunes like “Working in a Coal Mine,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights,” and “Get Out of My Life Woman” to producing albums for Patti Labelle, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney and Solomon Burke, Toussaint’s influence spanned genres and generations. His legacy will live on forever.

Toussaint performed for SFJAZZ numerous times over the years, including his final appearance at the SFJAZZ Center last November with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Monday, November 9, 2015

5 Jazz Covers of Radiohead

"Exit Music (For A Film)" (Brad Mehldau)

Perhaps no one has interpreted Radiohead as well as pianist Brad Mehldau. His covers not only do justice to the mood, melodies and textures we love Radiohead for, but they are always distinctly Mehldau (one of the reasons he's garnered such a following). Keep an ear out for "Exit Music" and more Mehldau-Radiohead covers ("Paranoid Android," "Knives Out") when Mehldau's Trio comes to SFJAZZ Novemeber 10-11.

"Maiden Voyage / Everything In Its Right Place" (Robert Glasper)

At a time when mash-ups were the rage, Robert Glasper (always hip to the times) mashed Herbie Hancock's classic "Maiden Voyage" melody over Radiohead's heady, odd-time "Everything In Its Right Place." Runner-up goes to Glasper Trio's sumptuous cover of Radiohead's "Reckoner," heard at the 33rd Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival back in June (find it on his new album Covered).

"The Eraser" (Christian Scott)

Although technically not a Radiohead cover ("The Eraser" is the title track off Thom York's debut solo album), Christian Scott captures the mood beautifully with his Harmon-induced "whisper technique" over a grainy piano vamp. Even York dug it,  inviting Scott up to the stage to perform "The Eraser" at the Roseland Ballroom back in 2010!

"Karma Police" (The Bad Plus)

Known well for its covers, The Bad Plus have interpreted Nirvana, Niel Young, Aphex Twin, Black Sabbath, Pixies and Stravinsky. Not until the compilation album Exit Music: Songs With Radio Heads did the longstanding trio put its sonic stamp on Radiohead's "Karma Police." Now, if only Joshua Redman got on this track when The Bad Plus Joshua Redman comes to town in December!

"The National Anthem" (Chris Dave / Meshell Ndegeocello)

Off the same Exit Music compilation, Chris Dave and Meshell Ndegeocello's "The National Anthem" takes the edgy rock vamp of Radiohead's original and makes it super funky. Ndegeocello, using tasteful effects, doesn't imitate Thom York (impossible to do, which is why most Radiohead covers here are instrumental). The go-go veteran does her own thing, and it works. Fans of "The National Anthem" probably dig the raw horn lines. Chris "Daddy" Dave gives the horns even more space to experiment.

Want more Radiohead covers? Check out SFJAZZ's "Radiohead Meets Jazz" Playlist!