School is almost out for the summer for a lot of kids in the U.S., but they can still learn! And what better topic to learn about than jazz? That's what Julian "Cannonball" Adderley must've thought, as he narrated a 1961 album called A Child's Introduction to Jazz. It was released on Riverside Records (RLP 1435) as part of their "Wonderland" series, designed to teach kids about a variety of topics in an entertaining way. Throughout, Adderley narrates the history of jazz and talks about the genre's roots in work songs, blues, and ragtime, and brings the listener through Dixieland, Swing, and Bebop. He also explains the instrumental makeup and musical structure of jazz. Numerous songs and clips back up his lessons, which makes the whole experience rather rich and informative. Some of t
Jazz drumming legend Paul Motian died last Tuesday at age 80 due to complications of a bone marrow disorder. My first exposure to Motian was through his output with Bill Evans in the late '50s and early '60s. Motian was a member of Evans' trio when they recorded a pair of immortal albums at New York's Village Vanguard in 1961 -- Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. Motian recorded and performed almost up until his death, although to be honest it's his Evans stint I remember the most. But hey, there are worse things to be remembered for, right? For my humble remembrance of Motian, then, a selection from Waltz for Debby. It's the Miles David modal workout "Milestones." Listen to Motian carry the tune along as Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro play off each other brilliantl
More than 30 years after pianist Bill Evans' death, his legacy still towers over the jazz landscape. I can't imagine a pianist worth their salt who hasn't had their playing informed by his style in one way or another, even if subconsciously. Ample evidence of this exists, in particular the double whammy of classic 1961 live albums, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. Evans led a number of fantastic trios over the years, and this is one of the better ones. It features Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums. This clip is from a March 19, 1965 performance in London, broadcast on the legendary BBC program Jazz 625. It's the Bill Evans Trio performing the Miles Davis composition "Nardis." Related articles Music Diary Notes: A Golden Anniversary of Jazz Trium...
Music is - or at least used to be - at once a very shared and a very personal thing. And truth be told the only thing I've spent more time doing in my life than listening to music is sleeping. Music has informed my life since I was a kid and continues to do so, although to a lesser degree now that I'm a family man. So it's time for me to give credit where credit is due, and list the 20 albums that had a bigger impact on me than any others. Some of these records opened my eyes to a new style of music. Some of them resonated on a deep, emotional level. Some were just too good to be ignored. Some are wrapped in nostalgia now and nothing more. But they are all critical to my development as a music lover in one way or another. #20 - Queen, The Game Memory is a tricky thing, espe
Although I knew this day would come, it doesn't make it any easier to handle. Hank Jones, the man most responsible for sparking my love of jazz, has died at age 91. Jones' always tasteful and elegant brand of swing may not have blazed any musical trails, but it always made for good listening. The music was a reflection of the man - gentle, thoughtful with a touch of humor, and never self-important. Jones was the last surviving member of an immensely gifted trio of brothers - Thad (1923-1986) made a name for himself as much for his trumpeting acumen as for his compositional skills, and Elvin (1927-2004) was one of the most respected drummers in the genre. Hank's understated style made him the least flashy or famous of his brothers, but he was always my favorite. You can find an
It is tempting and easy to interpret the meaning behind the track order and title of Robert Glasper's latest album, Double Booked, as being a presentation of the artist's two separate sides - jazz and hip hop/R&B. Certainly, given that the first half of the record is billed to the Robert Glasper Trio while the second is credited to the Robert Glasper Experiment, that conclusion seems inescapable. But to look at it this way would be to miss the statement that Glasper has been making with his music since his 2003 recorded debut, Mood - jazz, R&B, and hip hop are not disparate elements to be combined or mixed by Glasper for mere novelty or effect; they are both integral and inseparable parts of his artistic vision. It's that vision, combined with his prodigious talent, that mak
Less than a month after playing a series of shows at New York's fabled Village Vanguard jazz club in June 1961 - that would be immortalized with a pair of live albums, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby - Bill Evans was rocked by tragedy when his bassist and musical partner, Scott LaFaro, died in a car accident at age 25. Devastated, Evans recorded and performed very little for the rest of 1961 and the beginning of 1962. In April and May of that year he entered the studio with guitarist Jim Hall and recorded the first album with his name on it since LaFaro's death - Undercurrent. This is the original album cover as released on the Blue Note label. It's a very simple shot and yet a very powerful one. The original image was taken in 1947 by famed photographer Ton
While he doesn't get the widespread acclaim of jazz pianists like Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, or Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones has nonetheless been producing music of a high caliber for decades. 1978's Tiptoe Tapdance, originally released on the Galaxy Records imprint (a subsidiary of the more well-known Fantasy label) came out when Hank was 60 years old, and as of this writing he's been playing pretty consistently for the 30 years since its release. Alas, the best image I could find (meaning the largest image that was also in decent shape) was from a used record site. For those under 30, those light circles on the cover are not part of the image; they're what's known in the business as ring wear. Admittedly, the clumsy cropping job at the wrist indicates that Galaxy probably didn't
Creating and maintaining an iPod playlist with my favorite songs has been an interesting experience for me. I call the playlist "The Best" not because I really think these are the best songs ever, but because they are the ones that resonate the most with me. As the playlist has grown (it's now at 46 songs) some items of note have emerged. The first is that two of my all-time favorite bands, Kiss and Rush, are not represented once on the list. The second is that although I'm a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, I seem to respond the most to songs that are more subdued or melancholy. The third is that if a song has strong vocal harmonies it automatically wins points with me.So with that, here is the current list of The Best, with some commentary. As a side note, at least a few of these c...