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Donald Harrison played at The Jack London Revue Sunday, November 19, 2017, and PDX Jazz Board Member, Deborah DeMoss Smith was in attendance.

Read Deborah’s review of the New Orleans Saxophone master’s Portland performance:

Sunday night, finally made my way with Board member Marcia Hocker to the new Jack London Revue. Liked the space and undoubtedly the band on stage: NOLA’s (New Orleans, LA) Nouveau Swing creator, alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader, educator and mentor Donald Harrison. (Harrison played at the PDX Jazz Festival this year with Javon Jackson – Harrison was Jackson’s mentor in the Art Blakey Band). Joining Harrison on stage Sunday were three young (20s) musicians whose sublime skills and understanding of the music was impressive – and fun: Zecharia Curtis, piano; Jason Weaver, bass and Daryl Staves, drums. Weaver and Staves are NOLA natives. The full-capacity audience of all ages, many young, didn’t want the music to stop. This was a Soul’d Out Productions event, one of PDX JAZZ’s partners.  Promising to see a jazz club like Jack London Revue added to the city’s venues.

Photo by Deborah DeMoss Smith at KMHD Jazz Radio 

The post Donald Harrison at the Jack London Revue appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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Last week, we presented a PDX Jazz “For Members Only” house party concert featuring Grammy Award winning pianist Bill Charlap.  It was a very special evening of incredible jazz, food, beverage, friendship and conversation.

Mr. Charlap has the ability to reach into the “old world” and play the music of great composers like Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, and Ellington in a way few can – sensitive, respectful and innovative.  Prior to the musical performance, local radio legend George Fendel talked with Bill about his childhood memories in New York – we learned that Bill grew up in a musical household, and his father wrote much of the music to the musical “Peter Pan”!

The event was performed in a beautiful inner southeast Portland residence, and featured food by noted local chef (and PDX Jazz  board member/past president) David Machado, and beverage by Argyle Wines and North Coast Brewing.

This event is an example of the kind of PDX Jazz Member’s experience we hope to create more of in the future.  For information on how you can become a member of PDX Jazz – which helps support our mission to present jazz music in the northwest, and to educate and develop future audiences for it – please click here

Thank you to everyone who attended, and to our gracious hosts!

– PDX Jazz Board President, Joe Maita

The post A Special House Concert w/ Bill Charlap appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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By KMHD Radio’s Mark Montesano

There are so many underrated piano players in jazz history that one could spend a lifetime listening to them all. As a continuation of last month’s blog on underrated tenor sax players I want to give some recognition to four of my favorite hard bop jazz pianists. Give a listen!

Elmo Hope (1923-1967): Born in New York City to parents who emigrated from the Caribbean. One of his childhood friends was Bud Powell. Both met Thelonious Monk in 1942 and they  began exchanging ideas and experimenting with new kinds of harmonies and melodies. His style was blues- based, with jagged lines and unexpected twists. He avoided virtuosity and speed in favor of subtle and complex choice of notes. Hope left for California where he lived from 1957-1961. Dissatisfied with the scene there, he moved back to New York where troubles with health and drugs hampered his career and led to an early death at 43. Here are some of his finest recordings and compositions:

“De-Dah”: composition and piano solo Clifford Brown’s “Memorial” album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L85u2GxgWA

“Sims-a-plenty”: composition and piano solo on Harold Land’s “The Fox”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAg2XEFm_xQ

“Carvin’ the Rock” played with a trio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fnz9FJr69w8

Wynton Kelly (1931-1971): One of the great accompanists in jazz. Born of Jamaican immigrant parents, he started playing in R&B bands when he was 15. Throughout his career he played with some of the greats Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, and John Coltrane among many others. After leaving Miles’ group he had trouble finding work and died broke from an epileptic fit in Canada. He had a tremendous sense of swing. Using complex harmonies with bluesy feel. Wynton Marsalis was named after him. Some examples of his accompanying and solo prowess:

“Get Out of Town” with Rahsaan Roland Kirk “: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEdZL2Mczcs

“Freddy the Freeloader” from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (Kelly’s only appearance on this album): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPfFhfSuUZ4

“Blue and Boogie” with Wes Montgomery plus tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krWZIyNvvXc

Phineas Newborn, Jr. (1931-1989): Played with his family’s rhythm and blues band in Tennessee and was on B.B King’s first recordings. Criticized for having ‘too much technique’. This criticism helped trigger his mental illness and for the rest of his life he was in and out of mental hospitals. By the mid-60’s-mid-70’s his career faded. At his peak, he played with great sensitivity and swing along with impeccable technique.

“Lush Life” solo piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vwDgm3iMLk

“Daahoud” – blazing speed; unexpected, lyrical phrasing; driving swing; two-handed runs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t3EUYHNKUk

Sonny Clark (1931 – 1963):  Born in Pennsylvania. Moved to California at 20. He spent time developing his career there. Eventually he moved to NYC in 1957 as Dinah Washington’s pianist. Clark played on many classic hard bop albums too numerous to mention. He had a lyrical solo style with clean touch and unfailing swing. Clark is also recognized as an outstanding composer. He became heroin addict and died of an overdose at 31.

Title cut from his Cool Struttin’ album. Great example of his precise, lyrical and fluent style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llPQnwDAIVU

An example of his trio style on the jazz standard “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cek1cBMMHQ

One of his finest albums Leapin’ and Lopin’ in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDahmRx5ClQ

Mark Montesano is a retired professor at Arizona State University. While at ASU, he developed a one-credit honors course called “Listening to the History of Jazz: The First 50 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917-1967)”. Montesano plays amateur woodwinds and percussion, and is currently the host of KMHD’s hard bop show “Hard Choices” on Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm where he has fun sharing his favorite jazz from the 50’s and 60’s.

The post Listening to the History of Jazz: Unsung Pianists appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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By KMHD Radio’s Mark Montesano

The history of jazz is full of great musicians that inspired and led the way for future generations. Their names are well known even to people who don’t know much about jazz: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane are household names. For every one of these popular figures there many more wonderful players who, for one reason or another, never gained much popularity or name recognition during or even after their lifetime. Nonetheless, their recordings reveal a unique voice, intense creativity, and they deserve a place in the history of this music. This piece is the first in a series of blogs about musicians who are relatively ‘unsung’ and that I believe deserve greater recognition and praise. This particular piece is about the unsung tenor jazz saxophonists. 

Don Byas (1912-1972): Byas was so highly thought of that he took Lester Young’s place in Count Basie’s band when Young left the band. Because of his advanced use of harmony and rhythm he was able to it in with and play with early bebop musicians like Dizzy Gillespie. In spite of his sophistication he continued to be categorized as a ‘swing’ musicians. Byas once said, “I don’t have a style, I just try to play like Art Tatum.” Notice his speed, beautiful tone, and complex ideas on “Riffin’ and Jivin’” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqQsKMwsZJ8) and on his signature song, “Laura(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-vgA3V8O30&list=RDeg5094yeaMc&index=6).

Lucky Thompson (1924-2005): Thompson was one of the first tenor players to incorporate bebop into his playing. He played on some of Charlie Parker’s early recordings in the late 1940’s and later with Miles Davis. Searching for a way to continue to make a living in music, Thompson lived for a time in Europe. While there he picked up the soprano sax; one of the first to play that horn in modern jazz. Disillusioned with the business of jazz, he quit music completely in the early 1970’s. Lived as a hermit for a while in Seattle and died indigent in an assisted living home at 81 years old. Check out Thompson’s solo on “Walkin’” beginning at the 6:14 mark in a session led by Miles Davis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMW3RloxEyA), and on “Invitation” from Thompson’s album Lucky Strikes. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkKneiZNNXs).

Booker Ervin (1930-1970): Ervin began playing trombone. He later taught himself to play tenor while in the army. As a featured soloist on many of Charles Mingus’ greatest recordings, he was admired for his unique style: harmonically advanced with a hard-edged sound and a swinging sense of rhythm. Because Ervin played with such focused intensity when he soloed, Mingus said Ervin went into “The Trance”. Some great examples of Ervin’s soloing prowess can be heard on “Theme for Lester Young (Goodbye, Porkpie Hat)” from Mingus, Mingus, Mingus… (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIqcU2WmqFQ) and “Speak Low” from Ervin’s album That’s It! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sywrb0KhZSY).

George Coleman (1935–): Coleman was from Memphis where he learned to play jazz with other extraordinary musicians like Booker Little, Charles Lloyd, Harold Mabern, Hank Crawford, and Frank Strozier. He was briefly Miles Davis’ tenor player, just before Wayne Shorter joined the group. Some in Davis’ band didn’t think Coleman’s style was ‘far out’ enough for the direction they wanted to pursue, so he was let go. Yet Miles, who was notoriously stingy with praise, said of Coleman: “He’s a hell of musician… almost perfect.” Notice his clean execution and his smooth and beautiful tone. His tone is perhaps best exemplified at the 7:00 mark on the title track of Miles’ live album My Funny Valentine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdrAzpYdOYs) and on “Eye of a Hurricane” from Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage album beginning at 1:58 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ9V22hnYyQ).

Next month look for some other unsung musicians playing another instrument.

Mark Montesano is a retired professor at Arizona State University. While at ASU, he developed a one-credit honors course called “Listening to the History of Jazz: The First 50 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917-1967)”. Montesano plays amateur woodwinds and percussion, and is currently the host of KMHD’s hard bop show “Hard Choices” on Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm where he has fun sharing his favorite jazz from the 50’s and 60’s.

The post Listening to the History of Jazz: Unsung Tenors appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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By PDX Jazz Board Member Deborah DeMoss Smith

I’m proud that PDX Jazz supported (and received recognition on stage more than once) the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival in North Portland this past weekend. With the large audience peppering the grass and the bright, summer-warm weather, the 37th annual event was one of the most successful to date. There’s nothing like supporting other jazz organizations. The music deserves that.

The post Working together in the name of Jazz appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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By KMHD Radio’s Mark Montesano

Last month’s column ended with Miles Davis’ “first great quintet” (John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and “Philly Joe” Jones). The next step was to add Cannonball Adderley for some powerful sextet sides like this one here…“Milestones” (1958): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k94zDsJ-JMU

Bill Evans soon collaborated with this group to produce one of the most popular jazz albums of all-time: Kind of Blue. Here’s a link to that entire landmark recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbxtYqA6ypM

Aside from his cutting-edge small group sessions, Miles made a number of orchestral albums with Gil Evans who wrote the arrangements for his haunting horn solos. Here’s “Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio),” one of the more famous recordings from the album Sketches of Spainhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSGUPsAeL34

Though most of Davis’ most influential albums were made in the studio, to understand the depth and power of his music one had to see him in person. Here are two great live recordings from two of his less celebrated groups. The first is “If Were a Bell” from 1961’s “Live at the Blackhawk” (Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; and Jimmy Cobb, drums). The excitement and sensitive interchange among the group members puts you right there where the creativity is happening. The solos are longer and the interplay more dynamic. This is ‘live’ jazz. Especially pay attention to the call and response between Miles and his pianist, Wynton Kelly; one of the great piano accompanists in jazz history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEMxZCRGa58

Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter.

Three years later with a wholly new group (George Coleman, tenor sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; and Tony Williams, drums) he recorded this benefit concert, Live 1964. His group reached new heights of creative interaction on a song he’d played many times, “My Funny Valentine”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc3CXMjeV-8

The missing piece for Miles’ “Second Great Quintet” was Wayne Shorter. When Wayne finally joined the group he brought his adventurous spirit to playing saxophone and composition. Miles wanted to abandon playing standards and focus more on cutting edge innovations that his new, young group of musicians were exploring. “E.S.P.” was the first studio recording recorded documenting this new direction. Here’s that album’s title track:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRhqn21-xeg

With this group, Davis took a new interest in exploring rhythm. He once claimed that his young drummer, Tony Williams—one of the most innovative drummers of his generation—was the real leader of his group. Eventually Miles would steer his groups into rock and R&B rhythms and abandon ‘’straight ahead’ jazz.  This particular piece, “Freedom Jazz Dance” from the Miles Smiles opus, however, is a harbinger of things to come rhythmically. Listen to how Tony Williams inserts a hint of a backbeat on this otherwise jazz sounding composition by Eddie Harris (also known for his use of rhythm and blues influence into jazz): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ11cArknek

On one of his last traditional jazz albums before the rock-influenced “In a Silent Way” (1969) was Neferititi (1967).  The title song, cuts Tony Williams loose to improvise continually while the horns played the melody over and over as if to announce how rhythm had now become central: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAHCg4w3TKs

After this album Miles would insist that his groups delve deeper and deeper into electronics and dance rhythms to greater and greater criticism by those who felt that he had abandoned them and jazz. He didn’t care. Throughout his career, the urge to continually create something new was all that mattered.

Mark Montesano is a retired professor at Arizona State University. While at ASU, he developed a one-credit honors course called “Listening to the History of Jazz: The First 50 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917-1967)”. Montesano plays amateur woodwinds and percussion, and is currently the host of KMHD’s hard bop show “Hard Choices” on Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm where he has fun sharing his favorite jazz from the 50’s and 60’s.

The post Listening to the History of Jazz: Miles Davis, Pre-Electric (1958-67) appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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Vortex Magazine recently published an interview with Donny McCaslin in advance of his performance this Friday at The Mission Theater. It’s an insightful read wherein McCaslin discusses working with David Bowie, his newest album Beyond Now, and much more. You can check it out at the link below. Tickets are selling fast for his show Friday night, so if you still need to buy them you can do so by clicking here. Enjoy, and we hope to see you this weekend!

http://www.vrtxmag.com/articles/the-sorcerers-apprentice-donny-mccaslin-on-beyond-now-blackstar-and-bowie/

The post Interview with Donny McCaslin appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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By KMHD Radio’s Mark Montesano

Charlie Parker & Miles Davis

Miles Davis was one of the most compelling figures in 20th century music. The range of his influence is amazingly broad: his trumpet style, his compositions, his gift for spotting and nurturing young talent, his personal style. His musical career was a story of restless change and innovation. As an eager young man barely out of his teens, beginning to play with Charlie Parker; to the birth of cool jazz; to the development of hard bop; to his flirtation with free jazz; to incorporating rock, funk, and hip hop. Miles was on the cutting edge of music during his entire 45 year career. I will use this two-part blog to explore that first 20 years phase of Miles’ creative output ‘before’ he ‘went electric’. Here are the first 10 years…

In the mid-40’s, Miles convinced his father to send him to Julliard School of Music in New York City. He spent his first weeks and his entire allowance to find Charlie Parker and gain entrance to the inner circle of the bebop revolution. Here are two examples from the wonderful group Parker had with Davis.

Though he was just over 20, notice his controlled and deliberate lyricism that would become his trademark. He sings a song, rather than runs scales on “My Old Flame”: https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&hsimp=yhs-SF01&hspart=Lkry&p=charlie+parker+my+old+flame#id=1&vid=eff8d6b09ef90515faea414cbafbb70c&action=click

Miles deliberately chose to play without vibrato and in the middle range of his horn. Because of this he was accused of not being very skillful, but he was in the process of establishing a style of his own. Check it out in “Ornithology”: http://tinyurl.com/ybva2efc

Davis always had an interest in advanced harmonies. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, he worked with like-minded musicians, composers and arrangers to produce some of the earliest cool jazz. The music had complex orchestrations and even, light rhythms and tones. Though the band didn’t play in public much, it was highly influential in what became known as “West Coast” or “Cool jazz”. Here’s a couple of good examples from the album “The Birth of the Cool”:

“Move”: http://tinyurl.com/y8xe2tes

“Israel: http://tinyurl.com/y9cmy7rh

In reaction to the emotional restraint of cool jazz many musicians and fans called for a return to the blues and soul origins of jazz. Just coming off his heroin addiction, he was considered, at 27, a has-been. Miles began to collaborate with some of the younger, more roots-based musicians like Horace Silver to initiate a new kind of jazz called ‘hard bop’. Miles was back in town.

Here’s a sample of his work from 1954. Though Miles’ playing is still rather cool and laid back, Silver’s piano introduces some funky and simple blues phrases into his playing in the track “Lazy Susan”:http://tinyurl.com/y9wk8zjl

Walkin’” is an example of a song Miles recorded with an all-star group. Listen to the simple blues phrases in the melody and many of the solos. Miles used this song to help launch a whole new version called ‘hard bop’. http://tinyurl.com/y8ncb5oc

After his recovery from heroin, Miles needed a regular working band. He found, first, Philly Joe Jones, then Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and the journeyman tenor player John Coltrane (who many thought was not up to Miles’ standards). They played often and jelled into what is known as Miles Davis’ “First Great Quintet”. You can hear how Miles’ playing was energized to a whole new and more aggressive manner, playing with these musicians. Here are two songs from their marathon recording sessions for Prestige designed to fulfill his contract and move on to Columbia records.

A Sonny Rollins tune, “Airegin”: http://tinyurl.com/y95vjulc, and the ballad he favored, “My Funny Valentine”: http://tinyurl.com/y8l5v6vp

Next month hear examples of the next 10 years of Miles Davis’ musical journey.

Mark Montesano is a retired professor at Arizona State University. While at ASU, he developed a one-credit honors course called “Listening to the History of Jazz: The First 50 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917-1967)”. Montesano plays amateur woodwinds and percussion, and is currently the host of KMHD’s hard bop show “Hard Choices” on Saturdays from 11 am to 1 pm where he has fun sharing his favorite jazz from the 50’s and 60’s.

The post Listening to the History of Jazz: Miles Davis, Pre-Electric (1947-57) appeared first on PDX Jazz.

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