Jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon, singer of the Schoolhouse Rock! classics "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction," has died at age 88. With roots in the 1950s West Coast and bebop jazz scene, Sheldon became the longtime musical director of the Merv Griffin Show. In 1973, he became an ongoing contributor to Schoolhouse Rock!, voicing many of the series' most popular tunes.
image: "Jack Sheldon at Palo Alto CA Jazz Festival September 26, 1987" by Brian McMillen (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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David Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name" (1971) is one of my favorite records of all time. I'm excited to watch Cameron Crow's documentary about him, "Remember My Name," especially after seeing this delightful clip of Croz recounting the time he was so high while at a jazz club during a John Coltrane gig that he had to hide in the bathroom. And then -- surprise -- Coltrane himself burst into the bathroom playing his horn. In the video above, Crosby beautifully expresses what it sounded like.
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Jazz genius Thelonious Monk was often known for his laconic mumbling and other idiosyncrasies beside his legendary compositions, technique, and contributions to jazz. But in this short clip, Monk is crystal clear in sharing his thoughts on fellow bandmate saxophonist Johnny Griffin’s new pants.
“Some bad muthafuckers” indeed!
“Thelonious Monk's surreally strange and spartan genius gets its due” The Guardian
“The Secret Life of Thelonious Monk” The Atlantic
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Next month, Impulse! Records will release Blue World, previously unheard recordings that legendary jazz pioneer John Coltrane recorded with his quartet in 1964. Most of the tunes are different versions of known Coltrane songs with the exception of the title track that you can hear above. From Spin:
...Coltrane recorded Blue World between the sessions for his landmark albums Crescent and a Love Supreme, at Van Gelder studio in New Jersey, where he cut many of his albums, including the aforementioned two. He had been approached by a Quebecois filmmaker named Gilles Groulx, who knew Coltrane’s bassist Jimmy Garrison, and asked Coltrane if he would record music for use in an upcoming film called Le chat dans le sac. Coltrane obliged, but Groulx only ended up using 10 minutes of the 37-minute session in the film.
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French singer Cecil L. Recchia's 2018 album The Gumbo is a tribute to New Orleans jazz; I found it while searching for an online stream of Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing, the track that Tom Waits and the Preservation Hall Band released in 2010 as a limited-edition 78RPM album that came with its own gramophone (!); and while Waits's rendition is amazing, Recchia's is spectacular, with just the most amazing vocals. I bought it yesterday and have listened to it at least 50 times since.
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In 1969, Herbie Hancock found the funk for a collection of music he composed for "Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert," a TV special that eventually led to the long-running cartoon "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." Hancock collected those tracks on Fat Albert Rotunda, the band leader's first LP after bailing on the Blue Note label. It's a deeply soulful affair that presaged Hancock's 1973 jazz-funk classic Head Hunters. Now, Fat Albert Rotunda is readily available again as a high-quality vinyl reissue from my friends at the Antarctica Starts Here label. Dig it.
Herbie Hancock - Fat Albert Rotunda LP (Antarctica Starts Here/Superior Viaduct)
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Did you know... Jeff Goldblum plays jazz with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra weekly at an L.A. club called Rockwell (road trip!)? And that, at the age of 66, he has released his debut album? Well, both of those are true. And, during the week of Thanksgiving, that new album of his -- The Capitol Studios Sessions -- got 10 Goldblums out of a possible 10 Goldblums on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.
His weekly gig... is hardly a vanity project — “If I’m not out of town doing something, I’m there every week” — but the 66-year-old actor has taken the idea to its logical, if odd, conclusion: his debut album that recreates the Rockwell vibe in a studio with a live audience.
Bolstered by guest vocalists Haley Reinhart, Imelda May and Sarah Silverman alongside trumpeter Till Bronner, Goldblum’s The Capitol Studios Sessions — which hit Number One on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart — blends standards (Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” Charles Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square”) with the actor’s goofy, whimsical crowd banter. Imagine if Tom Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner swapped a rumpled shirt and newsboy cap for a tuxedo with tails for a start.
Here's a taste:
(I ask you: Could he be any cooler?)
Rolling Stone's Jason Newman interviewed the silver fox about his 50-year musical journey and it's a great read.
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If I weren't in Ontario on assignment right now, I'd be home swearing under my breath at the foot-deep blanket of snow that ambushed Alberta. Jens Lindemann wasn't lucky enough to dodge the storm.
Lindemann, who grew up in Alberta, is a world-class trumpeter who's played for Queen Elizabeth II and soloed at Carnegie Hall. He, along with scores of other travelers, was stranded in the snow on the highway between Calgary and Canmore for close to ten hours with no help from emergency service personnel. It's not that no one in our provincial government gives a shit, rather, they're currently overwhelmed. We were hit so hard and so early by a massive snowstorm that Calgary had to request other cities from around the province to send in plows and personnel to help it dig out. It's that bad.
To make being stuck on the road and, in some cases, in the ditch, a little less miserable, Lindemann popped out of his car with a trumpet and plastic mouthpiece (lips sticking to metal are no fun) to serenade his fellow travelers. If the honking horns are any indication, the performance was appreciated. Read the rest
This was not a good week.
I visited Montreal as it was kissed by the ass end of a major Atlantic storm system and attended my first industry-related function where, because of my diet, I was unable to drink. Upon returning home, I went under the knife for a vasectomy – I've been icing my bits for days. Fortunately, I don't have to go far for ice: the area of Alberta that we're currently living in has been experiencing freakishly cold weather for the past few days. It's not even fall yet and there's snow falling outside my window.
The ONLY thing that I took delight in was catching Lady Rouge live while I was in Quebec. While they typically play weddings, corporate events and the like, their sound and the friendly energy they project while they're on stage would be well suited to a venue of any size. Taking in their set made what was otherwise an absolute shit week feel like it was almost salvageable. Read the rest
Cory Councill writes, "Musician, inventor, and visionary Raymond Scott (1908-1994) (previously) will be feted on September 8 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, CA. As influential today as he ever has been, Scott’s musical and technological achievements have become more widely known over the past 20 years."
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If you love New Orleans-style piano or simply subscribe to joy, the music of Henry Butler would be welcome in your home. Gospel, old school rhythm and blues, Caribbean-tinged jazz and, of course, that signature syncopated New Orleans sound made renowned by musical luminaries like Jellyroll Morton and Professor Longhair--Butler could play it all.
And he did.
His playing challenges the ears, turning well-known standards up on their ends to show listeners what's inside of them. Sadly, we're all given our time to go. There'll be no more Henry Butler for us to enjoy, save what has already been recorded. Butler died in a hospice facility this week, in Brooklyn. He was 69 years old.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Butler commanded the syncopated power and splashy filigree of boogie-woogie and gospel and the rolling polyrhythms of Afro-Caribbean music. He could also summon the elegant delicacy of classical piano or hurtle toward the dissonances and atonal clusters of modern jazz. He could play in convincing vintage styles and sustain multileveled counterpoint, then demolish it all in a whirlwind of genre-smashing virtuosity.
As The New York Times' obituary of Butler points out, Dr. John once called Butler “the pride of New Orleans and a visionistical down-home cat and a hellified piano plunker to boot.”
Knowing that his playing will inspire generations of musicians in the decades to come feels like cold comfort in the wake of the loss of such a talent.
The older I get, the stranger it feels to watch as the musicians who inspire me fall to the ravages of time. Read the rest
Cosmic saxophonist, composer, and spiritual jazz revivalist Kamasi Washington has released a new jam inspired by his teenage experiences at the videogame arcade. "Street Fighter Mas" will appear on Washington's forthcoming album "Heaven and Earth" out June 22. Listen:
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When I was younger, I was in between the end of the arcade generation and the beginning of the console generation. We used to go to this place called Rexall to play Street Fighter. At Rexall, there would be different people from different hoods there playing the game. It was the one place that was like an equalizer. It was just about how good you were at Street Fighter...for the most part. In other places, you were afraid of these dudes; there, you would just play the game and it was what it was, you know? I was really good at Street Fighter, so where the song really came from was me jokingly saying I was going to have my own theme song so that when I showed up to play Street Fighter they’d play my theme song before I came in, like a boxer. In the context of the album, it was the connection that we got with those guys in our neighborhood. We used to call them OGs, the older guys that we looked up to.
In a lot of ways, for me, video games was the way I connected with them because I was never affiliated with any gangs, but I knew them and I was cool with them and that was mainly through the video games.
In the early 1970s, Levi's ran these fantastic psychedelic TV commercials with narration by Ken Nordine, the beat creator of the pioneering Word Jazz albums of the 1950s that melded far-out poetry with hip musical accompaniment. Far fucking out.
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Marcin Nowrotek filmed a jazz quartet with a Kinect, then ran the recording through volumetric processors to give NEBULA an otherworldly 3D look and feel. Read the rest
Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox band teamed up with Wayne Brady (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) to bring us this 1930s jazz style cover of Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "Thriller," complete with zombie tap dancers.
The band is currently on a worldwide tour.
For nostalgia's sake, here's the music video for the original:
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Wonderful 1980 video of Sesame Street's visit to a saxophone factory, complete with a free jazz sax soundtrack. (via Laughing Squid)
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