From start to finish, 1958′s Melba Liston and her ‘Bones is hard-swinging, driving and deeply rooted in the bop tradition. A virtuoso trombone player, it’s Melba Liston’s only recording as a leader and one of the few on which you can hear her play solos. Perhaps because of her gender, she’d long been ignored in the jazz world until the reissue of this record in 2006.
This album was released just after Liston had toured with Dizzy Gillespie and formed her own all-female quintet in the late 1950s. Melba plays with a mysterious warmth that’ll leave you snapping your fingers to the beat.
The lineup of supporting musicians on this record is impressive, featuring Bennie Green, Al Grey and Benny Powell, all on trombone as Liston’s backups. Kenny Burrell’s understated, melodic guitar adds to the allure of the album while Ray Bryant’s piano shines a glimmering light throughout the theme song What’s My Line. Slide Hampton’s tuba (yes, Slide also played the tuba!) adds a deep richness that can only be achieved by the largest and lowest-pitched of brass instruments.
The opening track Christmas Eve swings with fervor while The Dark Before Dawn engages the listener with a secretive pensiveness. The Trolley Song is a triumphant celebration. Blues Melba is probably the highlight of the album: seductive, driving bluesy-jazz, reminiscent of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
Liston’s bandmates paid her the highest of compliments when they said, “She’s just like one of us.” When other women were playing the piano and singing, Melba was blowing her trombone and writing great tunes. This album deserves to be pulled from the vaults, dusted off and remembered as a significant session in jazz history.
-Jessica Rand, Host of Takin’ Off (Mon-Thurs 3-6 PM)
As the 33rd annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival drew to a close on a beautiful sunny evening, attendees slowly made their way out of the green grass and into the night, off to their homes (or perhaps one of the nearby venues hosting closing parties).
If they attended the entire 3 days, audience members were treated to one of the most diverse line-ups the festival has hosted in its three decades of existence.
On Friday night, the Transcendental Brass Band (pictured above) took the stage, laying down funky rhythms and New Orleans-influenced grooves. Before you knew it, the crowd was up and dancing. Of course, at Cathedral Park, one demographic in particular is ALWAYS dancing.
It’s a tradition at the Festival that children get up and dance on the platform in front of the stage. On Saturday, concert-goers were treated to the sounds of Stan Bock and the New Tradition, Portland’s Trio flux, and the Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra. Sunday brought more new sounds to the stage with first time appearance from the bass and vibes duo, 1939 Ensemble. Click here to catch a glimpse of 1939 Ensemble performing live. After that, Eri Yamamoto and her trio delivered a nuanced, relaxing modern Jazz set that seemed to match perfectly with the weather.
For the concerts finale, Portland’s Blue Cranes took the stage. The band’s keyboardist, Rebecca Sanborn recalled attending the Cathedral Park as a teenager with her father to see Les McCann. At the time, she thought “one day, I might just get be on stage myself.” Dreams do come true…
All in all, the 2013 Cathedral Park Jazz Festival was a rousing success. From our rough count, it appeared to be one of the best attended events in years. We’re already looking forward to 2014!
Love, Gloom, Cash, Love (Bethlehem, 1957)
Herbie Nichols has been called one of jazz’s “most tragically overlooked geniuses” and the pianist’s final 1957 masterpiece, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, bears witness to that description. Some think of him as a disciple of Thelonius Monk, but that’s not giving him nearly enough credit. Highly imaginative and unpredictable, Nichols was a contemporary of Monk; he was also equally innovative, curious and playful.
For those who only know his earlier Blue Note recordings, or the iconic song he composed — Lady Sings the Blues — for Billie Holiday, the Bethlehem date is a revelation. The soothing sophistication of his piano work is rounded out by Charles Mingus’ drummer Dannie Richmond and bassist George Duvivier to create the challenging, provocative and magical wonderland that is Nichols’ vision of jazz. The melodies are complex; the rhythms subdued.
Denzil Best’s 45 Degree Angle is a finger-snapping, mischievous smoker while All the Way is breathtakingly restrained and romantic. The spirited warmth of Every Cloud is a playful exchange between Nichols’ heavy piano chords and Richmond’s shifting rhythms. Beyond Recall is a call-and-response jazz march, perhaps reminiscent of his days serving in World War II. Nichols’ whimsical imagination comes to the fore in the title track, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, a sweet, gratifying waltz.
Sadly, just as Nichols began to develop a following, he was stricken with leukemia and died too young in 1963. Humble and hard-working, he wasn’t alive long enough to reap the benefits of his genius and his works went largely forgotten. It’s time to pull this album from the vaults and rediscover the warmth, imagination and spirit of his long overlooked brilliance.
– Jessica Rand, Host of Takin’ Off, Mon-Thurs, 3-6pm.
Bassist David Friesen is one of our city’s many musical treasures. His newest CD, “Brilliant Heart” is a memorial album, recorded in tribute to his son Scott. I caught up with Friesen ahead of his CD release concert this weekend, listen below:
For over a decade, the group known as The Bad Plus has been redefining what a Jazz piano trio sounds like. KMHD’s Derek Smith caught up with drummer/composer Dave King to talk about the group’s history, their approach to music and what the live experience is all about.
You can catch the Bad Plus in two performances in Portland this weekend at the Mission Theater, at 3PM and 7 PM. Part of KMHD’s sponsorship of PDX Jazz at the Mission. Listen to our interview below:
With three full length albums under their belt and a reputation throughout the Northwest, 2013 is looking like the year that Blue Cranes get the opportunity to spread their songs to the uninitiated. Having signed to East Coast indie label, Cuneiform Records, the group has a new album waiting in the wings that has already generated excited speculation and much deserved attention (take a look/listen here). They also were chosen to headline a show in collaboration with Seattle jazz innovator Wayne Horvitz during the opening weekend of the 10th Annual Portland Jazz Festival in February.
What transpired on the stage of the Mission Theater that night brought the audience a swift sighting of lightning in a bottle. Both Blue Cranes and Wayne Horvitz are innovators in terms both of how they play and write, so a collaboration seemed inevitable and long overdue. Joining the band on piano and keys, Horvitz brought an elegant experimentalism to the proceedings as he played their tunes and Blue Cranes eagerly tackled his own compositions. The audience howled out for more when all was said and done.
part of KMHD’s celebration of Public Radio Music Month
For the twelfth consecutive year, April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) presented by the Smithsonian. The Spirit and Rhythms of Jazz is the 2013 theme highlighting the music, cultural history, performances, stories, programs and productions.
JAM and UNESCO’s International Jazz Day on April 30 provide rich platforms for people to explore principles and creativity of jazz by studying music, attending live performances in the community, conversing and learning more about this great American art form.
There are many ways that you can appreciate jazz month including:
- Go out and see jazz live! April is a great month in Portland with lots of music all around town and interesting venues to explore. April 10 – 21 is the Soul’d Out Music Festival or check out the Jazz Society of Oregon’s day-by-day calendar for a list of local and touring acts.
- Support your local independent record stores by buying music. Jazz sounds great on vinyl on a rainy day while you plug away at that novel you’ve been meaning to read for awhile.
- Learn about jazz by visiting your local library. There’s lots of engaging books and documentaries about jazz music to enjoy.
- Listen to KMHD all month long as we celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month with guest appearances, commentary, and of course, lots of music!
To learn more about JAM visit the Smithsonian’s page here.
Here’s some concerts from KMHD to check out:
April 3 – Mel Brown Quartet feat. Chuck Redd @ Jimmy Mak’s
April 3 – Joel Harrison’s Spirit House feat. Brian Blande & Blue Cranes @ Mississippi Studios
April 12 – East Meets West Meets East V: Lew Soloff w/ Peter Bow and Trio East @ Jimmy Mak’s
April 14 – Booker T. Jones & Charlie Hunter w/ Carlton Jackson @ Dante’s
April 16 – Piano Jazz Night w/ Weber Iago @ Ivorie’s Jazz Lounge
April 17 – Burton Greene @ Camillia Lounge
April 18 – Medeski, Martin & Wood – Roseland
April 18 – Jazz Society of Oregon Honoring Shirley Nanette
April 19 – Burton Greene @ Piano Fort
April 20 – Ezra Weiss Sextet @ Ivorie’s Jazz Lounge
April 21 – Dr. Lonnie Smith – Star Theater
April 22 – A Benefit for the American Music Program w/Thara Memory @ Jimmy Mak’s
April 26 – The Shanghai Woolies w/ Reggie Houston and Janice Scroggins @ Jimmy Mak’s
April 28 – The Bad Plus – PDX Jazz at the Mission @ The Mission Theater
Every Sunday Night Pelican Brewing Presents: Jazz @ the Blue Monk
Every Tuesday in April: Artists in Residence: Superjazzers @ Shaker and Vine
And to add one more thing to the month of April, it’s also Public Radio Music Month
In honor of Women’s History Month, KMHD is celebrating women in jazz music from popular vocalists to female instrumentalists lost in the shuffle of time. We’re diving back through the vaults to rediscover the contributions women have made to the jazz world, while looking ahead to the ever-increasing accomplished female artists today. Check out an audio piece below for a historical glance at female instrumentalists in jazz music.
This year, the Portland Jazz Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with one of its most diverse and ambitious line-ups to date. From Kurt Rosenwinkel to Kenny Garrett, Patricia Barber to Esperanza Spalding, Portland’s Blue Cranes to New York’s Matt Wilson – the 10-day event represented a cross section of what’s happening “now” in Jazz. And, with an array of Jazz legends including bop pianist Barry Harris, 94-year old conductor Gerald Wilson, and drummer Jack Dejohnette, (all NEA Jazz Masters) the festival certainly had its share of big names as well.
The Festival opened up with a sold out show from The Afro Cuban All-stars. Shortly after the band’s pulsating latin rhythms flooded the interior the packed house at Portland’s Aladdin Theater, the audience was up out of their seats and dancing in the isles. The show continued in this manner for two raucous hours, until the (sweaty, grinning ear to ear) audience flooded the streets of southeast Portland.
On night two, it was Portland’s own Blue Cranes with a special guest – Seattle-based composer Wayne Horvitz. With Horvitz on keys, the band worked through a set of music from their upcoming release on Cuneiform Records (due in April), and original Horvitz compositions. This was one of a handful of shows put together specifically “for Portland only” one of the festival’s new themes.
On the second Friday of the festival, another “for Portland only” show took place when 6 members of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers reunited for a performance under the musical direction of saxophonist Javon Jackson. The band worked through a range of messengers tunes, including a special rendition of Curtis Fuller’s “Alamode” which allowed the 78 year old trombonist to show off his chops a bit. Other members of the cast included Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Bobby Watson, Buster Williams, and taking the place of Art Blakey, drummer Lewis Nash.
Of course, the Portland Jazz Festival doesn’t happen in one place, it’s a city-wide happening and this year, the festival moved into a new venue for a special show. The Kurt Rosenwinkel quartet took the stage at Lewis and Clark College in front of a sold-out audience and played songs from Kurt’s new record “Star of Jupiter.” As always, Kurt’s playing was transcendent, but for me, the real magic took place between two new members of the quartet, drummer Justin Faulkner and bassist Eric Revis (both known for their playing time with Branford Marsalis).
NEA Jazz Master Jack Dejohnette delivered a set that left the sold out audience of Portland’s Newmark theater in awe of the drummer’s skill for playing, and for highlighting the players in his quartet. That quartet usually includes saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, but due to a shoulder injury, Coltrane couldn’t make the gig. Don Byron replaced Coltrane in the band (making this his third appearance at the festival) and melded seamlessly into the quartet switching between saxophone and clarinet. Pianist George Colligan delivered an exciting performance that demonstrated his fantastic abilities on electric and acoustic piano. Matthew Garrison (the son of the late Jimmy Garrison) played a 5 string electric bass augmented with effects pedals. The band moved between free improvisation and written music, but the biggest surprise of the evening was the final tune – Dejohnette’s rendition of the late Jim Pepper’s “Wichi tai to.” Pepper was a fixture in the Portland music scene and it felt as if his spirit was in the building that night.
Legendary conductor/arranger/composer Gerald Wilson led two groups at Portland’s premiere Jazz Club, Jimmy Mak’s, in the middle of the festival schedule. What was most impressive was to watch the 94 year old’s vigor as he brought out the best of an orchestra comprised of students from Portland State University and then a cadre of local professional musicians. Wilson is as sharp as a tack, and one of the best musical intellects that I’ve had the pleasure of talking to on the air.
Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts stood out as one of the most fun performances of the festival. They played two different to receptive, goading audiences at Jimmy Mak’s, and, an afternoon set at KMHD’s studios sponsored by PDX Jazz. Wilson’s ability to “interpret” what the band is doing to the audience is a rare gift in Jazz, as is his tasteful and exciting playing style. The fun these four musicians have together on stage is palpable.
The West coast premier of ACS (Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri-Lyne Carrington) was the “curtains” for the 10-day event…and these three skilled musicians ensured that the it closed on a high note. Allen’s nuanced piano technique, coupled with the tasteful drumming style of Carrington meshed excellently. Portland residents are used to watching Esperanza Spalding’s skill on stage, but her virtuousic talents were especially on display in this setting. The trio moved between standards and a few original Allen compositions. At the end of their set, they were rewarded with not one, but two – standing ovations.
As a fan, and someone on the ground floor – the 10th anniversary of the Portland Jazz Festival lived up to the hype. Almost every show was sold out, and the audiences and musicians interacted with each other in a way that demonstrated the true power and the special nature of live Jazz. This festival also demonstrated that, in a time when festivals are supposed to be in decline, how the diverse sounds of this music can be presented, and celebrated by equally diverse audiences. While the 10 days of the festival are rigorous for those of us involved, I’m always a bit sad to see them go….but there’s always next year, and for that, I cannot wait!
Not too long ago, we had a little chit chat with saxophonist Kenny Garrett just prior to his appearance at the Portland Jazz Festival. The heralded musician and composer spoke of his tenure with Miles Davis and recounted some solid advice received from Cootie Williams. Check it out below.