Monday, March 2, 2015

Kind Of Blue: Bill Evans' Liner Notes

Kind Of Blue (side one) was recorded today (March 2nd) back in 1959. Read pianist Bill Evans' original liner notes (below) for one of the greatest jazz albums of all time!

Improvisation in Jazz
by Bill Evans

There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Left to right: John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis + Bill Evans

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a "take."

Miles Davis + Bill Evans

Although it is not uncommon for a jazz musician to be expected to improvise on new material at a recording session, the character of these pieces represents a particular challenge.

Briefly, the formal character of the five settings are: "So What" is a simple figure based on 16 measures of one scale, 8 of another and 8 more of the first, following a piano and bass introduction in free rhythmic style. "Freddie Freeloader" is a 12-measure blues form given new personality by effective melodic and rhythmic simplicity. "Blue in Green" is a 10-measure circular form following a 4-measure introduction, and played by soloists in various augmentation and diminution of time values. "All Blues" is a 6/8 12-measure blues form that produces its mood through only a few modal changes and Miles Davis' free melodic conception. "Flamenco Sketches" is a series of five scales, each to be played as long as the soloist wishes until he has completed the series.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SFJAZZ Collective's Obed Calvaire: Notes on Joe Henderson's "Fire"

Obed Calvaire

“I was a bit late in making my decision for a Henderson arrangement, so needless to say, the band picked most of the hits. This was a blessing in disguise. I stumbled on a killing Joe Henderson album titled The Elements. If you are not yet familiar with this album, pick it up! Joe’s writing simulates the elements – earth, air, water, and fire. The late, great Charlie Haden plays this funky bass line while Alice Coltrane floats around between the piano and harp. I tried not to stray away from the funky bass line while adding my own twist to the song. Hope you enjoy it!”

— Obed Calvaire, album notes from SFJAZZ Collective's new album The Music of Joe Henderson and New Compositions

Pre-order SFJAZZ Collective's Music of Joe Henderson and New Compositions today!

See Spring 2015 Tour Dates.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

VIDEO: SFJAZZ High School All-Stars play John Coltrane's "Alabama" at Bringing The Noise 2015

Watch this stirring rendition of John Coltrane's "Alabama" by SFJAZZ High School All-Stars (HSAS) Jasim Perales (trombone), Akili Bradley (trumpet) and Ayana Bradley (keys) at Youth Speaks' ‪‎Bringing The Noise‬ 2015 on ‪‎MLK Day‬.

Catch the HSAS again on March 22nd, performing with Melissa Aldana and Angela Wellman.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


The SFJAZZ Collective today announced their new live CD (out March 10) Music of Joe Henderson and New Compositions, Live at SFJAZZ Center, recorded live at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, featuring arrangements of classic and lesser-known Joe Henderson numbers drawn from his great 1960s Blue Note albums like Page One, Inner Urge and Mode for Joe, and 1970s Milestone records like Black Narcissus and The Elements. The album also features eight new original pieces, each composed by a member of the Collective.

NEW SINGLE: Listen to drummer Obed Calvaire’s funky percussion-driven arrangement of “Fire"—originally recorded by Joe Henderson in 1973 featuring Alice Coltrane.

Pre-order Music of Joe Henderson and New Compositions today!

See Spring 2015 Tour Dates.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Your Top 5 Favorite "My Funny Valentine" Renditions

Who did it best? Sinatra? Chet? Or another artist? We asked you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over Valentine's Day weekend, you answered. Below, in order of votes, are your Top 5 renditions of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's timeless ballad.

SFJAZZ's Week Of Love might be over, but there's a lot more great music coming up. Check out the lineup.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

High School All-Stars Alumni Interview: Nora Stanley

February's alumni installment features a young woman who has been a big part of SFJAZZ Education in 2015. Nora Stanley was with the High School All-Stars 2013-2014 on baritone saxophone, and after graduating from Berkeley High School, headed east to Oberlin College. Nora returned to us briefly this winter as an intern, and our organization was lucky enough to be able to pick her brain just at that incredible moment of being one semester into the music conservatory experience. How is performing music different in college? What's the best part and what will you do differently? With Whiplash making such a splash in the Oscar pool right now especially, conservatory freshmen are a fascination more than ever. Read on to learn about the passion and diversity that accompany the rigor in that transition for a jazz musician.

Nora performing on the Miner Auditorium stage

You play a lot of different instruments. Can you tell us what they are and how they relate?

"I play alto and flute mainly, but have also played baritone and soprano saxophone as well. The saxes all have the same fingerings and similar concepts but, as I learned from going back and forth between them a lot, each sax requires a different embouchure and technique. I started studying on flute but moved logically (flute and sax have similar fingerings) to sax to be able to be more versatile in a jazz context."

Some of the All-Stars sax section at the 2014 Alumni Jam Session

You describe your interest in jazz as being a very sudden "ah ha" moment, versus a slow discovery; what was that catalyst and what did you do once you knew?

"I definitely had a moment when jazz first spoke to me, but I've always been obsessive about music of all kinds. My passion for jazz definitely grew over time, but was first sparked by hearing Lucky Thompson’s recording of "You Don't Know What Love Is" on KCSM while riding in the car with my dad when I was about 9 or 10 years old. After that I began to explore my dad’s extensive jazz collection and really fell in love. I started taking piano lessons, then added flute, and subsequently sax."

Nora (second from right) with members of the All-Stars at the 2014 SFJAZZ gala

What were some of your experiences in the High School All-Stars that related to or prepared you for your work at Oberlin so far?

"In the All-Stars, I met incredible musicians with great passion for the music who hailed from all over Northern California. At Oberlin, I've similarly met many passionate musicians from all over with different backgrounds and relationships to jazz. I think one thing I’ve loved about my time in the High School All-Stars and also at Oberlin is discovering different individuals’ unique relationships to the music they're making, which is what makes each musician different and interesting and in essence is the reason we all keep listening to music. If we all had the same backgrounds, reasons for playing, and relationship to the art, music would be boring, right?"

Monday, February 9, 2015

Joni Mitchell, Unyielding

SFJAZZ Gala 2015 Honoree Joni Mitchell

"Joni Mitchell's defiant relationship to her fame, her unwillingness to allow herself to be defined or even fully claimed by others, is precisely what has made her such a talismanic figure for so many, and for so long." Read more in New York Magazine's "Joni Mitchell, Unyielding."

On May 8, 2015, we honor Joni Mitchell with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award for her artistic vision and contributions to modern music at the SFJAZZ Gala 2015.

Friday, February 6, 2015

LISTEN: Zakir Hussain & Celtic Connections

Tabla genius Zakir Hussain’s triumphantly successful project originated during an appearance in Scotland in 2011, combining an ensemble of the greatest Indian musicians with a stellar group of artists from the Celtic tradition to explore their cross-cultural language. A 2014-15 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, Hussain brings Celtic Connections to the SFJAZZ Center April 2-3, 2015.