This week marks the 100th anniversary of the first jazz record ever released, or rather "jass" record. In a New York City recording studio, five white musicians called the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded the "Livery Stable Blues" backed by the "Dixie Jass One-Step" on a 78 RPM disc. Of course, jazz music was actually "invented" primarily by black musicians in New Orleans as an evolution from ragtime in the 1910s. (But rather than recognize this long musical thread, Original Dixieland Jass Band leader/cornetist Nick LaRocca went on to make racist comments insisting he invented jazz.) At Smithsonian, John Edward Hasse looks at the history of this influential record:
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Some scholars would prefer the honor of the first jazz recording to go to the African-American instrumental quartet the Versatile Four, which on February 3, 1916, recorded Wilbur Sweatman’s "Down Home Rag" (listen below) with swinging rhythms, a strong backbeat and a drive that implies improvisation. Or to Sweatman himself, who in December 1916 recorded his "Down Home Rag," (listen below) playing a solo with an improvisatory feel but a non-jazz accompaniment. Some experts simply say that it’s futile to acknowledge any actual first jazz recording, but rather point to a transition from ragtime to jazz in the years leading up to 1917. As critic Kevin Whitehead put it: “We might do better to think not of one first jazz record but of a few records and piano rolls that track how jazz broke free of its ancestors."
In New Orleans and a few other urban places, jazz was already in the air by the 1910s, and in late 1915 the record companies were starting to discover it.
Dan Colman of Open Culture came across this video featuring an hour of excellent music from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon.
Ray Ellis had a six-decade career as a producer, arranger, and jazz composer. And while he’s best known for arranging music for Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin (1958), he also enjoyed a long career orchestrating music for television. Working under a pseudonym “Yvette Blais” (his wife’s name), Ellis composed background music for the cartoon studio Filmation between 1968 and 1982. And, during the late 60s, he notably created the background and incidental music for the original Spider-Man cartoons.
It reminds me a bit of Jack Nitzsche's great score for the 1965 dud, Village of the Giants: Read the rest
David Axelrod, whose 1960s and 1970s production and compositions melding jazz, soul, and rock had an indelible impact on contemporary hip-hop and R&B, has died at age 83. From Billboard:
Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Axelrod produced his first album in 1959 and went on to become a pioneer in combining jazz, rock and R&B in recorded music. He spent several years working for Capitol Records in production and A&R in the 1960s and went on to release more than a dozen of his own albums.
While a contemporary of, and somewhat analogous to, idiosyncratic composer/arrangers like Van Dyke Parks, Axelrod was much more influenced by jazz, as reflected in his orchestrations and his own compositions. He produced David McCallum's Music: A Bit More of Me, the 1967 release featuring "The Edge," a song that famously turned into the predominant sample in Dr. Dre's 2000 hit "The Next Episode." He also collaborated with the Electric Prunes on their bizarre 1968 album Mass in F# Minor, and when the group splintered in the middle of recording, he finished it with session musicians.
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So sad to hear about the passing of musician/composer #DavidAxelrod. He was so immersed in creativity and so pure with his arrangements he WAS hip hop. And understood and appreciated hip hop culture (most cats would get guarded about time moving on & easily take the "NO!!!!!!!!" disposition if they aren't informed. David embraced and often reached out to producers and beatmakers for cool collabos) he appreciation for music and his ability to recognize musicianship is what I'll take from him.
Publio Delgado provides jazz guitar accompaniment to an advertisement for Jones Big ASS Truck Rental & Storage: "In my yard, I don't care!"
Here's the original, which now seems naked and bereft of wonder:
See also Publio's accompaniment to a lady's unwise attempt to eat a hot pepper raw:
Best, though, is his accompaniment to The Cat That Says No:
Bobby Hutcherson, a pioneering jazz vibraphonist whose style pushed the iconic Blue Note label into more spiritual and experimental directions, died yesterday at age 75. He was under ongoing treatment for emphysema. Along with a phenomenal career as a band leader on dozens of records, Hutchinson famously played on the jazz classics "Out to Lunch," by Eric Dolphy and "Mode for Joe,” by sax player Joe Henderson. From the New York Times:
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The first album (Hutchinson) released as a leader was “Dialogue” (1965), featuring Mr. Hill, the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and the saxophonist and flutist Sam Rivers. Among his notable subsequent albums was “Stick-Up!” (1966), with Mr. Henderson and the pianist McCoy Tyner among his partners. He and Mr. Tyner would forge a close alliance.
After being arrested for marijuana possession in Central Park in 1967, Mr. Hutcherson lost his cabaret card, required of any musician working in New York clubs. He returned to California and struck a rapport with the tenor saxophonist Harold Land. Among the recordings they made together was “Ummh,” a funk shuffle that became a crossover hit in 1970. (It was later sampled by the rapper Ice Cube.)
In the early ’70s Mr. Hutcherson bought an acre of land along the coast in Montara, where he built a house. He lived there with his wife, the former Rosemary Zuniga, whom he married in 1972. She survives him, along with their son, Teddy Hutcherson, a marketing production manager for the organization SFJazz, as does his older son, Barry Hutcherson, a jazz drummer.
David W Niven began collecting jazz records in 1925, when he was 10 years old. He continued to collect until 1991, amassing a nearly unparalleled collection of 78s and LPs, whose highlights he eventually transferred to cassette, boiling down 10,000 hours of music to 1,000 hours of tape with his spoken commentary, each cassette meticulously annotated with handwritten liner-notes. Read the rest
Few artists in the history of jazz have played piano with the expression and soul of Fred Kaz.
The master spent over 30 years as the musical director for the Second City, and was the most magical improvisational musician you could ever have heard perform. Fred's piano led both the audience, and the ensemble through adventures, tragedies and beautifully mundane moments. Fred made sure all was clear. The piano was his voice.
While his work on stage, as a composer and as a director, is amazing, Fred's jazz touches the heart. Sadly, it has been hard to find recordings of his music, however since Fred's passing in 2014 his wife Helen has been steadily producing his previously unreleased works.
This album was recorded in 1997, at the Ash Grove on the Pier, in Santa Monica, California.
I recently found this poem Fred wrote for me, after he and Helen visited my daughter and I, at our home in Muir Beach.
Where the river feeds the ocean
And the dry land meets the sea
And the hungry, saw-toothed coastline
Chews the gasping, high-tide surf,
I am harbored with my life-mate
By a sharing, gentle man;
And we all imagine futures
In the ever-present tense,
Letting friendship fertilize
each other's souls.
Fred Kaz 6/18/2013
We miss him very much.
Some years ago, when Kamasi Washington was a teenager, Birdman Records owner David Katznelson heard about his band, The Young Jazz Giants, signed them and took them into the studio. The self-titled debut record came out the following year and the four members of the group still play together today, in fact were featured on THE EPIC. The interview would discuss the founding of the Young Jazz Giants, with focus on Billy Higgins, the recording of that record and the path from there to the Epic.
I wasn't expecting much from jazz bagpipe, but this is great.
Don Cheadle directed and stars in Miles Ahead, the film portrait of the jazz legend that opens in theaters April 1. How did Cheadle get the role? Well, he never auditioned or even talked to anyone about it before he was cast. Rather, Miles's nephew Vince Wilburn declared that Cheadle would play his uncle. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Cheadle:
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The film jumps around, but the main thread of the plot is set around 1979. Why did you chose to focus on that time period? Just the fact that he wasn’t playing. The fact that he hadn’t played for five years, up to that point, and in a way, was either chomping at the bit to figure out what to say again, if to say again, or he was going down towards death very quickly. He was standing on that knife’s edge at that point, and I don’t think he even know which way it was gonna go. So for us, when we got to the period in all the research about how Miles didn’t play for five years, we were like, “What?” [Laughs] That was the part that was the most interesting from a human being standpoint to me. Musically and what he did with his art form was amazing to me all the time, for the most part. But for me, as a human and an artist and someone who’s a creative person, what happens when you just stop for five years? That’s why we picked that moment to sort of be the departure point: him on the verge of talking again, basically.
Famed titular voice of Archer, and Bob of Bob's Burgers, Jon Benjamin has recorded a jazz album. Interestingly, Benjamin can't play piano, and really doesn't like jazz.
Benjamin brought a ton of great jazz musicians into the studio and recorded an album, but he can't play at all. What happens is really pretty cool! NPR has a great interview.
I'm certainly finding the album fun. Jazz daredevil indeed!