Thursday, September 23, 2010

A movie about a guitarist ... by a guitarist

One of the coolest things about Steve Vai is that he is committed to his love of the instrument and music. Many artists have enjoyed artistic freedom, controlling their output and being able to maintain their visions thanks to his Favored Nations label.
Several years ago, Vai greenlighted a movie bio-pic about the legendary Hank Garland, called Crazy. I hadn't heard of this movie before coming across it on Netflix, and enjoyed it immensely.

Granted, it's a fictionalization, and gives short shrift to Garland's terrific jazz playing, but the first 30 minutes are a delight for fans of jazz guitar, western swing, or rockabilly playing. The opening shots of a room filled with Gibson and Gretsch archtops are a players' dream sequence.

For those unfamiliar with Garland, check out his recordings with Gary Burton. Burton says he went to Nashville to record with Boots Randolph, a local Evansville, Ind., hero when Burton was growing up, hired to play on Garland's jazz album.

The result is magic -- some of the best, hard swinging small combo music you'll hear. Garland reminds me of Barney Kessel at times, playing with that easy swing not matter the tempo, with a touch of blues every now and then.

His chord knowledge is just astounding, though. He jumps into quick chord stabs in the middle of a melodic run, then slips back into the run. Other times, he uses chains of chords to embellish a melody.

Check out Crazy if you like movies about musicians and great music. Watch for real-life guitarist Tony MacAlpine's screen debut as Wes Montgomery!

Oh, and producer Vai slips in for a moment Hank Williams.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Music service ... or disservice?

I subscribe to several music services, including Napster and eMusic, for accessing music for my listening enjoyment, for work and for teaching. All of these sites offer their helpful "picks" or recommendations, but there's a huge difference between the recommendations made by the sites.
Compare Napster's top picks to eMusic's:
Lyla by Avishai Cohen
The Architect of Modern Bossa Nova (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
The Best of Dizzy Gillespie
Ultimate Big Band Collection: Glenn Miller
Body and Soul, by Louis Armstrong

Pathways, by the Dave Holland Octet
Kind of Blue, by you know who
Lush Life, by John Coltrane
Half the Perfect Word, by Madeleine Peyroux

This a list of really great and important work done half-a-century ago ... and three new releases. Making Kind of Blue
one of your picks on these sights is analagous to "phoning it in": you've obviously not heard anything new so you're falling back for the obvious.

In fairness, both sites are pushing Esperanza Spalding on the eve of her new release, which is great. Scroll down a little bit to find my opinions of Ms. Spalding.

But as wonderful as she is, she is but one of hundreds of hugely talented people recording and touring today. Most of whom are getting the short end of the stick because record companies -- and their apparent proxies, the music services -- are beholden to their back catalogs of classic recordings.

If jazz is in trouble, it's because these companies have decided the marketplace only has the capacity to grow by one or two new names each year (this year's additions are Michael Buble and Spalding). There's more money to be mined in what was recorded 50 years ago, so why bother?

It's got to be extremely difficult for musicians to get their names known and to build any kind of music sales -- it's not right to make them compete with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An extra treat at the Somerville Jazz Festival

Made it to Somerville in time to catch all of Louis Hayes' set -- the set list included some Monk, some Coltrane, some Adderley ... Hubbard and Shorter tunes. Terrific!
I took a Bloggie, hoping to capture at least one performance but forgot to change the settings -- after getting about 2 minutes of the opening tune, the memory card was full and the camera jammed up ... but I did get this video of the mayor of Somerville, Brian Gallagher, declaring Sept. 12 as "Louis Hayes Day" in Somerville.

Here's Louis showing off his proclamation:

Wouldn't it have been great to have captured a bit of the performance -- especially since Hayes brought Javon Jackson out! What a great treat!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Central Jersey jazz weekend

This weekend offers local jazz fans a feast and a festival ... Princeton's Jazz Feast on Saturday, and Sunday's Somerville Jazz Festival. Both have great lineups -- can you make both?

Princeton's feast opens with the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble -- a top notch group -- and follows with the New Legacy Jazz Band. Bucky Pizzarelli returns at 2:30 to help accompany Nicki Parrott -- that will be a great treat.

The afternoon is rounded out with The Fins and Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks will wrap things up.

Sunday's fun begins at 1 p.m. and has a fabulous lineup: The Curtis Brothers, "Sweet Papa" Lou Donaldson, Melissa Walker and the great Louis Hayes to close it. Last year, the festival ended with Jimmy Heath -- do I see a pattern here? If so, it's a good one!

Both events are downtown and outside, so plan on getting in early for the best spots.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday in Princeton

Came across Adam Parker-Lavine and friends playing at Princeton's Farmers Market today:

Sorry for the lo-fi audio, but it's always nice to hear live music enhancing a gathering.