Wallace Roney is a non pareil trumpeter par excellence. Since his debut on records in 1975, and being a part of the New York scene since the 70’s, the trumpeter received invaluable tutelage in the bands of Art Blakey, Tony Williams, and Elvin Jones, among many others. He has recorded for Muse, Warner Brothers and High Note, as well as touring and recording with Herbie Hancock and the VSOP Quintet. He has also presented a stimulating big band of Wayne Shorter compositions, written and originally intended for the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet of 1965-1968. Mr. Roney learned from the great masters of the trumpet, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and from 1983-1991 mentored by his idol, the legendary Miles Davis. Roney participated side by side, sharing solos and parts with Davis during the now classic July 8, 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival concert with Davis doing something rare in his innovative career: revisiting classic Gil Evans arrangements, conducted by Quincy Jones. Roney’s respect and admiration for the masters run deep, and in his own quintets, carries on by extending the legacies. Among the lessons Mr. Roney learned were, articulation from Clark Terry, and really, lessons how to play the ultimate horn with Davis. We discuss Roney’s time in the Tony Williams quintet which recorded from 1985-1991, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and the jazz scene of the 1980’s. At Mr. Roney’s request, I would like to clarify a point I misstated in the interview. He had come to New York and he was the big young trumpeter with Wynton Marsalis. As is well known, Mr. Marsalis got major media attention through a massive campaign with Columbia records. As with sports, competing players sometimes get into bitter rivalries, and words fly.
In the jazz scene of the 1980’s, rivals were made, enemies created, with factions existing on either side. Roney and Marsalis, became enemies. Marsalis was soon to begin his massive tenure with Jazz at Lincoln Center so among the major trumpet players of the era, there was competition seen between Roney, Marsalis and Terence Blanchard. The young musicians saw Marsalis’ fame and wanted to hopefully reach that level. Unfortunately Marsalis (who has stated on numerous occasion he regrets certain remarks he made as a young player) said some pretty disparaging remarks to those he did not agree, like Roney, and media fracases were created. This is only breaking the surface and in a future interview this summer where we discuss Roney’s experience with trumpet masters, it would be best to hear it in his words so nothing is lost in translation. Wallace Roney is a wonderful, warm human being and talking with him for this podcast was a history lesson for me and I promise our second interview will be just as rich. I thank him enormously with the utmost respect for his time, and his quintet will be appearing at the Jazz Forum, in Tarrytown, NY from May 24-25, two shows nightly for more information contact www.jazzforumarts.org His latest release on High Note is A Place In Time with Gary Bartz, Ben Solomon, Patrice Rushen, Buster Williams and Lenny White. To get a context of the stylistic traits of Roney and other trumpeters from the 1980’s, there is bebop to hard bop taught by Mark Sherman and Modern Jazz Ensemble at New York Jazz Workshop taught by Sebastian Noelle
Float - YouTube
Live at Moods: Wallace Roney Quintet "Metropolis" - YouTube
Smooth jazz is a bizarre primarily American phenomenon that took root in the mid 1970’s and had it’s peak during the 80’s through the 90’s. While the music of Paul Whiteman in the 20’s and bands like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey could be seen as precedent, what occurred is that the music developed out of more challenging jazz-rock and jazz-funk in the mid 70’s and found an audience with no interest in the form of jazz, as the term “smooth jazz” itself was coined by marketing executives.
Though there is a minor precedent in the music of sweet bands of Miller and Dorsey as stated above, or Charlie Parker With Strings (Verve, 1950) prototypical smooth jazz really took off when Creed Taylor produced Wes Montgomery on Verve with albums like Goin Out Of My Head (1964) and Bumpin’ (1965) flanking the guitarist with horn and string sections, although there was still a fair bit of improvisation involved. His A&M/CTI recordings, among his last, featured tunes in short durations and a focus on melody which would be the hallmark of the genre. Taylor’s CTI label is generally thought to be the beginnings of smooth jazz, but albums like Freddie Hubbard’s First Light (1971) and George Benson’s White Rabbit (1971) still feature meaty, searching improvisation. The criticism of CTI as smooth seems unjust, though Bob James classic 4 albums for the label definitely point to future directions. When George Benson released Breezin’ (Warner Bros, 1976) the dam burst open, everything was there, slick production, strings, and Benson’s vocal on “This Masquerade” which turned him into a crossover R&B star, though there is great soloing on the album, the template would be set: more focus on melody, lightly funky grooves and track durations. Around this time, the production team of Dave Grusin & Larry Rosen emerged out of LA producing guitarist Earl Klugh on Blue Note, and Patti Austin on CTI. Their GRP imprint started as an subsidiary of Arista, and became independent in the early 80’s where their interest in digital recording positioned them as one of the leaders in the audiophile industry, and their recordings of Dave Valentin, and Lee Ritenour as well as the Yellowjackets, Special EFX and The Rippingtons were popular sellers. Chick Corea’s Elektric Band were also incredibly popular, Corea’s first new jazz-rock band since Return To Forever disbanded in 1977. Chuck Mangione’s number one hit “Feels So Good” was massive in the early goings of smooth jazz. The nearly ten minute tune was squashed into a 3:28 single edit that’s still heard on soft rock stations today. What pushed smooth jazz over the edge though was the 1980’s and one Kenneth Gorelick, bertter known as Kenny G.
Kenny G was born in Seattle, Washington, and debuted with Barry White at 17 years old. Gorelick’s notoriety in the jazz community was as a member of The Jeff Lorber Fusion, but he made it huge in 1986 when his second Arista album Duotones was released with the saccharine, smash single “Songbird”. Although Gorelick’s main influence was Grover Washington Jr, he never claimed to be a jazz musician, and record stores’ filing him in the jazz section made him many people’s first exposure to the genre of jazz as a whole. Pat Metheny’s wide dismissal in 2001 which does not bear regurgitation brought Kenny G back into the spotlight.
What exactly is smooth jazz though? Musically it’s derived out of jazz-funk with a back beat, an emphasis on a 2 and 4, sometimes 1 and 3, lots of synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, and drum programming. The harmonies can be complex with seventh and ninth chords added but generally improvisation is fairly basic, usually there is zero rhythm section interaction. Solos are generally closely hewed to the melody, though occasionally there could be some pretty deep tracks atypical of the genre (such as Ronnie Laws’ “From Ronnie With Love”) or stretching into the eight, nine minute range. The introduction of workstations like the Synclavier made smooth jazz easy to produce, and many session aces that appeared on 70’s and 80’s pop records were the rhythm section foundations.
Smooth jazz became a genre through Broadcast Architecture (BA) a process in which a test group of listeners were played thirty second snippets of tunes and decided whether the track would pass. Stations like CD 101.9 in New York City and The Wave 94.7 FM in Los Angeles would pad playlists with Steely Dan, Sade, Anita Baker, Mariah Carey and Phil Collins. The Pat Metheny Group gained large audiences through this format as the stations would edit any musically challenging sections and just play the melodies leading many to mistakenly think Metheny is a smooth jazz artist. In a late 90’s Downbeat article Metheny and PMG co founder Lyle Mays clearly detested the way their music was chopped on these stations. By the late 90’s and early 2000’s any adventure in any 80’s smooth jazz evaporated as formulaic GRP tracks were the norm, and occasionally self produced fare from the likes of violinist Jerald Daemyeon hit the airwaves. By the mid 2000’s smooth jazz as a genre started fading, mainly having a presence at cruises and festivals. There are small pockets in Europe and Japan where the music is big, many CD reissues of GRP albums have been in Japan over the past few years. The genre has been an omnipresent part of jazz for 30+ years. Modern Jazz Ensemble taught by Sebastian Noelle can put these musical trends in context at New York Jazz Workshop.
Jazz has had a place in popular culture for a long time. As dormant as that period may seem currently, jazz was certainly at it’s peak in the swing era. In the swing era through bands such as that as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Paul Whiteman. In the twenties, Whiteman was termed the “king of jazz” (in hindsight much more a marketing move than reality) and was almost that decade’s proto smooth jazz music. His lightly swinging, easy going music placed emphasis on melody, and his hit “Whispering” was the basis for Dizzy Gillespie’s bop anthem, “Groovin’ High”. The sounds of Miller and Dorsey as well as Basie and Ellington were the pulse of America in the pre Beatles era. Jazz found popularity in movies and cartoons but one of the more fascinating examples of jazz in popular culture have been Europe and Japan.
Herbie Hancock’s classic 1965 tune “Maiden Voyage” begun life as music for a British TV ad, and jazz has been used regularly in Japanese television commercials, shows, movies and Japanese animation. In fact one of the more intriguing phenomena in Japanese culture has been the development of the jazz kissa beginning in the 1970’s or jazz cafe. The jazz kissa were spots where Japanese could enjoy jazz records while having coffee or alcoholic beverages, with albums curated by incredibly knowledgeable staff. For whatever reason, pianist Sonny Clark’s Cool Struttin’ (Blue Note, 1958) became the album in these establishments, and in Japan it is the most popular Blue Note album of all time, whereas Blue Train is wildly considered to be the most popular and best selling in other territories. The liner notes to pianist Barry Harris In Tokyo (Xanadu, 1976) written by the esteemed Shoichi Yui contain fascinating insight as to how that record label’s 1976 tour of the country kindled and absolute love affair with the music, and a deep love and respect for the music of Charlie Parker and others. In the 70’s Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” was a major hit, and the trumpeter/flugelhornist was a sort of pre Kenny G. in the American public. He would resurface in the public eye again in the mid 1990’s with absurd appearances on the animated show King Of The Hill. In the show, a cartooned Mangione would make random appearances dressed similarly to the Feels So Good (A&M, 1977) album cover and toot his hit single. One of the funniest instances of this was an episode where at a character’s funeral, Mangione plays “Taps” and spontaneously breaks into “Feels So Good” as a non sequitir. No doubt these show appearances turned the horn man into a laughing stock for people who had no idea of his start with his brother and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
The acid jazz (subject of a future article) boom of the 1980’s which took root in the UK, as well as Japan had much to do with revitalizing jazz in the public eye. Club DJ’s would play recordings from the 60’s and 70’s for dancers, reestablishing jazz’s foundation as a dance music as well as introducing new listeners. It was here that the music from the 70’s of Donald Byrd, Gary Bartz, Bobbi Humphrey and Lonnie Smith among others gained classic cult status, and records from that era, widely out of print began to fetch high prices. Acid jazz energized things the way CTI records had the previous decade, and soon tracks by the likes of Us3, and Ronny Jordan hit popular airwaves. Jordan’s hit 1991 single “After Hours” from the album The Antidote (4th and Bway, 1991) was even heard in department stores, and that track, along with his cover of Miles Davis’ “So What” helped re contextualize the influences of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and George Benson to the new style. Hip hop also had a major impact with Dr. Dre’s classic The Chronic (Death Row, 1991) and A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory (Jive, 1991) sampling classic jazz tracks. ATCQ went even further by recruiting Ron Carter to play bass lines in short bar fragments giving the flavor of a live sample.
The tradition of jazz in pop culture today continues through groups like The Roots, and Robert Glasper and video games. Curiously, the soundtracks for Super Street Fighter II and Street Fighter II featured pieces with guitarist Yuji Toriyama, a Japanese session guitarist, using a Roland GR300 guitar synthesizer, made famous by Pat Metheny, with sounds and styles that were an explicit nod to the Pat Metheny Group, something that was lost on many gamers, but not to gamers also familiar with Metheny’s work. These kind of homages ensure that jazz in popular culture remains a vital component of the landscape. The New York Jazz Workshop offers intensives and courses such as the Modern Jazz Ensemble taught by Sebastian Noelle that reinforce jazz’s role in popular culture.
Feels So Good - Chuck Mangione [FULL VERSION] - YouTube
After Hours (The Antidote) - YouTube
Street Fighter 2 Alph-Lyla with Yuji Toriyama OST The Missing Link (Theme of Chun-Li) - YouTube
Struggle to the Death - Street Fighter II The Movie Score Vol. 2 - YouTube
Are bebop and hard bop that dissimilar? For new fans of jazz or jazz history the differences between the two can seem hard to detect. Even back in college when I took a Jazz in American Music course, the professor even said the contrasts could be minimal. There are some similarities and differences of which this article will discuss.
Both styles are distinct expressions of being black American in the United States and filter those expressions through the music. The swing era of the late 1920’s into the early 1930’s emphasized dance able rhythms and memorable melody while bebop shifted things towards the abstract. Melodies were quicksilver flights, with virtuosic improvisation on chord changes, and rhythm section interaction between the soloists. Though some folk in the black community did dance to bebop, it was largely a listening, intellectual music. Hard bop followed around 1954, and unlike the complex melodies and contrapuntal structures of cool jazz, hard bop featured tight unison melodies and a rock solid rhythm section. Also, the 12″ LP introduced in 1948 was a major factor in the development of the music. In the bebop era, the 78 and 10″ vinyl record formats were limitations as the 78 only held about 4 and a half minutes of music per side and 10″ about 12 minutes. The 12″ LP allowed performances to be captured that were similar in length to club performances and the Miles Davis albums Bags Groove and Walkin’ (Prestige, 1954) were important early records in the hard bop movement with extended performances. Hard bop brought a bluesier, funkier element to the music, adding touches from gospel, and R&B, Horace Silver’s hit “The Preacher” being an example. Hard bop found rhythm sections utilizing a lot tighter unison passages in the rhythm section as Blakey and Silver’s groups demonstrated. Both bebop and hard bop utilized the 32 bar AABA song forms, and hard bop recordings such as those from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, still featured many bop era compositions from Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell. Though albums such as Blakey’s A Night At Birdland, Vols. 1&2 (Blue Note, 1954) are considered cornerstones of the emerging hard bop movement, they are mainly rooted in bebop, most tunes taken at racehorse tempos.
Bebop and hard bop shared similar vocabularies. As hard bop grew through modal and eventually adopting some aspects of free jazz, most soloists used bop vocabulary. The New York Jazz Workshop features workshops such as Bebop to Hard bop taught by Mark Sherman that outline some of the concepts discussed above, to give students a more well rounded view point.
Miles Davis - Walkin' - YouTube
Miles Davis Bag's Groove (Take 1) Bag's Groove 1954 - YouTube
Antonio Sanchez has been one of the leading lights of the drum scene for 20 years, having made his debut with Danilo Perez and in 2001 joining current employer, Pat Metheny. Sanchez has made his mark as a composer having won a Golden Globe for the score to the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed, Oscar winning Birdman, scoring the TV series Get Shorty, and as a sonic explorer recording Bad Hombre. On January 26th, Sanchez releases Lines In The Sand on CamJazz featuring a revamped Migration with Thana Alexa on voice and effects, Chase Baird (replacing Seamus Blake) on tenor and EWI, keyboardist John Escreet and bassist Matt Brewer. The album is a powerful lament on being an immigrant, in which Sanchez brings his instrumental, composition and production skills to a unified whole in a brilliant album length display. We discuss the album, it’s production, compositions and future direction of his music. My thanks to Antonio Sanchez for scheduling time in the midst of a busy schedule and Gille Amaral at Dog And Pony Industries for coordinating it. Additional thanks to Jason Isaac for assistance in post production. Remember that this podcast is just part of what the New York Jazz Workshop does to create jazz education opportunities in the metro New York area. Part 2 of the podcast below
Recorded by CJ Shearn at Jazz Views with CJ Shearn Studios, New York, on December 11, 2018
Mixed and edited by Jason Isaac at WNYC Studios, New York, January 2019
Produced by CJ Shearn
Antonio Sanchez & Migration - Bad Hombres Y Mujeres - YouTube
Welcome to the latest edition of the New York Jazz Workshop Podcast, I’m CJ Shearn. Over the years on this podcast I’ve been fortunate to interview some of the up and coming talents on the jazz scene such as vocalist Thana Alexa, and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. This trend continues in this episode where I feature a conversation with the phenomenal Los Angeles born and bred 22 year old pianist Connie Han, who released her critically acclaimed Mack Avenue debut Crime Zone back in October. The album extends a narrative created by the young lions movement of the mid 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s. The young lions were a cadre of players including Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, James Williams, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Kenny Kirkland, Ralph Peterson, Steve Coleman, Geri Allen, and Jeff “Tain” Watts that gleaned inspiration from the music of both mid 60’s Miles Davis and John Coltrane combined with influences from jazz rock and jazz funk of the seventies. The result was muscular, gritty, music that could have only have happened in that period of time. The music on records such as Black Codes (From The Underground) (Columbia, 1985) and Live At Blues Alley (Columbia, 1988) by Wynton Marsalis, Scenes From The City (Columbia, 1983) and Bloomington (Columbia, 1993) by Branford Marsalis and Triology (Warner Brothers, 1995) by Kenny Garrett influenced several generations of players including Joshua Redman, the late Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, among many others.
Ms. Han brings forth a powerful mix of catchy originals, standards and classic jazz tunes with the support of her working trio featuring Edwin Livingston: bass; Crime Zone co writer, co producer and musical director, Bill Wysaske on drums, and on selected tracks tenor saxophonist Walter Smith, III and trumpeter Brian Swartz. Among the topics in this interview include synthesizing Han’s influences of McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland, and Mulgrew Miller, the pieces on the record, the importance of understanding jazz history, and her feelings on the straight ahead jazz idiom. My thanks to Connie Han for taking time out of a busy schedule for this interview and collaborating with me and producing it, and also Gabrielle Howarth at DLMedia.
Recorded and edited: by CJ Shearn
Produced by: CJ Shearn
Co-produced by: Connie Han
Recorded at Jazz Views with CJ Shearn Studios, New York, December 19, 2018
Jazz and hip hop are two of America’s native art forms. Both have had immeasurable impact on the cultural fabric of American society and life expressing the plight of African Americans. While jazz came from the combination of African, Latin and European elements, hip hop arose in the 70’s to express the dissatisfaction of social conditions that plagued blacks in the inner cities, and because music had been pulled out of schools, the instruments thus became turntables and microphones. Perhaps that is an over simplification of the general methodology, but the use of sampling from R&B, funk and jazz recordings provided grist for the mill of musical accompaniment. There have been some arguments that jazz provided precedents for hip hop in the form of scat singing in terms of the aspect of rhythmical speech patterns, but a much closer pre cursor to modern hip hop would be pioneering pieces such as “N***ers are Scared of Revolution” by The Last Poets (1970) Gil Scott Heron’s groundbreaking “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1970) and the stream of consciousness lyrics found in many James Brown anthems of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This may lead to the question what are the connections between jazz and hip hop? The fact that both tell the story of blacks in America is one kinship, and another is how they have shared practices such as cutting contests, that gave birth to the emcee battle.
Jazz has always been fascinated with hip hop, although the gradual evolution of mainstream jazz being connected to the genre has been slow. Hip hop artists used jazz as a jumping off point particularly as sampling became prevalent because hip hoppers were fascinated by the grooves, funky breaks, horn and bass lines from jazz recordings particularly from the 70’s. Jazz was always a presence in the homes of rappers like Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip, so their exposure and appreciation came from items stored in the record collections of their families. Legendary free jazz saxophonist Luther Thomas delivered “Yo Mama”, the first jazz-rap recording in 1981, and the general tone and spirit captured the vibrancy of the early hip hop scene conveyed on classic tracks like “Rappers Delight” (1979) from the Sugarhill Gang. Tom Browne’s “Funkin’ For Jamaica” also captured the party vibe of early hip hop. Bebop pioneer Max Roach, always encouraging of new developments in black music collaborated with MTV VJ Fab Five Freddy in 1982, but the following year Herbie Hancock would release the shot heard round the world with “Rockit” on his album Future Shock (Columbia, 1983).
Much like his former employer, Miles Davis, Hancock had been riding the crest of innovation, not only musically, embracing jazz-funk, R&B and disco, but technically. Hancock’s work on synthesizers explored a new sound palette, and courtesy of his technician Bryan Bell developed a MIDI like interface years before it was in vogue to control his battery of keyboards. In 1980, Hancock released the rock focused Monster, and straight ahead acoustic outing Quartet the next year with Wynton Marsalis, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, with the funk of Magic Windows to follow the same year, and the late Rod Temperton produced Lite Me Up in 1982. In his 2015 auto biography Possibilities the pianist described the latter two albums as seeming like he was a sideman on his own recordings, and he had been looking for the next development musically to latch onto. While Hancock’s fan base do consider Magic Windows and Lite Me Up to be classics from the R&B and funk side, critics predictably slammed the keyboardist for these efforts, much like they had been dismissing Davis’ efforts around the same time. Hancock was informed by his manager Tony Meilandt about Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn, two musicians who had working under the band name, Material and that they had been working with artists creating a new sound. Hancock asked Meilandt to connect him to the duo who sent him two songs with the possibility the keyboardist could contribute. He then asked his godson Krishna Booker, the son of bassist Walter Booker, to create a cassette for him with new music that young people had been listening to. Hancock was enthralled with Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Girls” containing the sound of turntable scratching, and when Laswell brought him the demo tracks, once the scratching of “Rockit” began, he knew that’s what he wanted to do, and they started to assemble other musicians, from which Hancock would then layer his keyboards on top at his LA studio. When the Columbia offices heard the new single and album, they were mortified. Much like the keyboardist’s 1973 Headhunters, the label had no idea how to sell the recording because Future Shock was such a radical departure from anything Hancock had done before. The surreal, visionary video featuring dancing robots put the song on the map and people everywhere were break dancing to the new track. Hancock as a jazz artist gained mainstream acceptance in a way that was quite unexpected although there was a hurdle: his face being shown in a monitor was due to MTV’s insistence a black artist should not be out front in a video– an assertion quite callous since Michael Jackson had been a phenomenon on the new network. Despite follow up attempts like “Hardrock” on Sound System (Columbia, 1984) Hancock failed to capture the hip hop and mainstream audience in quite the same way.
It would be quite a few years before jazz and hip hop crossed paths in a meaningful way in the 90’s. Miles Davis’ Doo Bop (Warner Brothers, 1993) was the first to cross that bridge. Featuring the production work of Easy Mo Bee, the album used earlier recordings from the trumpeter made before his death flanked by popular loops, grooves and samples of the time. Alto saxophonist blended his unique rhythmic concepts with underground rappers on A Tale Of Three Cities (RCA, 1993) using some gritty New York production, but changes in hip hop were moving on a grand scale. Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets were drawing heavily among classic jazz recordings for sampling. A Tribe Called Quest brought organist Lonnie Smith back to the spotlight through a sample of “Spinning Wheel” from the album Drives (Blue Note, 1970) and also Ronnie Foster by sampling “Mystic Brew” from Two Headed Freap (Blue Note, 1972). Through these samples, hip hop listeners became curious and sought out the original albums, which were quite rare and hard to find at the time. Club culture and jazz being played for the dance floor in the UK during the 80’s had a major effect on jazz being integrated into hip hop. Digable Planets’ sample of an obscure Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers track was a clever way to insert great jazz within a hip hop track. Us3 a London based group released Cantaloop in 1993 on Blue Note, a track sampling Herbie Hancock’s “Canteloupe Island” became a major hit thrusting the label back on major airwaves. The most important aspect of Us3 was that they were the first artists to be given legal permission to sample the Blue Note catalog. In hip hop the production styles displayed on albums by Wu-Tang Clan, the blunted sounds of Cypress Hill as well as the above mentioned A Tribe Called Quest displayed sonic leaps similar to jazz in the late 60’s and early 70’s and rappers like Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were analogous to the bebop revolution in terms of their contribution to East Coast and West Coast rap respectively. Nas’ classic Illmatic furthered a link to jazz not only through samples of Donald Byrd and Joe Chambers, but his father is Olu Dara a great trumpeter, so the music was in his upbringing. A Tribe Called Quest’s classic Low End Theory (RCA, 1991) is a landmark because Q-Tip was able to get Ron Carter to appear on the album. Carter’s son was an avid hip hop fan and was assured that their content was a bit more conscious than some of the hip hop coming out at the time, and he agreed to appear on the album. Carter’s sampled bass lines from various CTI albums had been a staple of the genre and the Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours” famously sampled Carter’s solo from “Impressions” by McCoy Tyner’s Trident (Milestone, 1978). Carter’s married his rhythmic clarity and harmonic acuity to two tracks on Low End Theory to play lines that blurred the lines between live playing and a sample. His steadiness on “Buggin’ Out” mimicked the mechanical quality of a sampler, but with a distinct organic quality that’s been his signature.
Guru’s Jazzmatazz series of recordings beginning in 1994 was the beginning of hip hop really beginning to cross the jazz mainstream, featuring Donald Byrd and Branford Marsalis among others. Marsalis crossed that divide as well with Buckshot LeFonque, and the reason that project was successful was because the saxophonist was one of the few that really “got it”, sounding quite a bit more authentic than even Doo Bop in it’s beats and production style. However the massive shift of hip hop and jazz truly becoming inextricably linked was through the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s album Hardgroove (Verve, 2005) which featured Common and Erykah Badu. For really the first time big name rappers were collaborating on a jazz artist’s recording, and creating a level of crossover. Hargrove, in addition to being the standard bearer for the jazz tradition had his ear to the ground and was just as much a part of contemporary funk, R&B and hip hop going on at the time, having appeared with Badu, and later D’Angelo. Robert Glasper’s Black Radio series of records really proved through appearances by Badu, Snoop Dogg, Common, and others proved without a doubt that hip hop is permanently a part of the jazz landscape. Glasper, Chris Dave, Mark Giuliana, and Ben Williams all grew up during hip hop’s golden age, and that music was part of what they grew up with. In turn, Glasper, and drummers Dave and Giuliana have taken the production innovations of the late JDilla in hip hop and applied his rhythmic concepts to acoustic instruments. Though the topic is controversial for some, hip hop is a huge part of the modern jazz language. The New York Jazz Workshop offers workshops such as Modern Jazz Ensemble taught by Sebastian Noelle that can aid in understanding the incorporation of how hip hop connects to jazz.
A FLG Maurepas upload - Luther Thomas & Dizzazz - Yo' Momma - Soul Funk - YouTube
Funkin' for Jamaica - YouTube
Max Roach & Fab 5 Freddy - Live at The Kitchen (1983) - YouTube
Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) - YouTube
Herbie Hancock - Rockit - YouTube
Steve Coleman and Metrics - Slow Burn feat. Black Thought of The Roots & Najma Akhtar - YouTube
The jazz world is mourning the all too soon loss of the great trumpeter Roy Hargrove (Oct 18, 1969-November 3, 2018) at the age of 49. It’s well known in the jazz that Hargrove had been on dialysis and suffered from health issues related to substance abuse. I saw a recent interview with him in France where he did not look well, but his playing had always been top notch. Indeed, for the last 24 years or so Hargrove had been one of my favorite trumpet players—I had heard him for the first time when I was 13 or 14 years old on RCA/Novus recordings like The Vibe, The Tokyo Sessions with Antonio Hart, Of Kindred Souls, and Live In Concert by the Jazz Futures. Hargrove benefited early on from the record collection of his parents, shifting from an interest in Motown, and P Funk among others, but those early interests formed his musically omnivorous path. His early encouragement from Wynton Marsalis while a student at Booker T. Washington Performing Arts School led to him studying for a year at Berklee from 1988-89 before the trumpeter made the move to New York. Upon Hargrove’s arrival on the scene, his powerful bright tone was immediately apparent, as was his maturity to ballads and standards. The album that really sold me on Hargrove was The Jazz Futures: Live In Concert which was the first recording I heard him on.
The Jazz Futures was what would now be considered an all star group, consisting of musicians that had for lack of a better term been the first wave of neo boppers following the Marsalis brothers rekindling the flame of acoustic jazz on major record labels. The band featured Hargrove, Tim Warfield on tenor, the relatively obscure trumpeter Marlon Jordan (who adopted a relatively low profile after three albums on Columbia), Mark Whitfield, guitar; and veterans of the ensembles of Freddie Hubbard and Art Blakey, Benny Green, piano; Christian McBride, bass; and Carl Allen; drums. It was pretty common for major labels back then to have young super groups, Blue Note had Out of the Blue and Superblue, a band Hargrove participated in. Verve had their roster that added Hargrove in 1994 alongside McBride and Whitfield and of course the Warner Brothers stable with Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman, with the four men recording together on Warner Jams, Vol. 1 a throwback to the Prestige era blowing date albums of the 50’s. Not to belabor the original point, it was the Jazz Futures album that really made me think that Hargrove was going to be a name to watch. At that time I was in my Blue Note hard bop snob phase at the age of 14, and I loved Hubbard and Lee Morgan. For me, Hargrove brought that fire and swagger that those guys possessed,and to my ear, he embodied that swagger of Morgan to the point I had told my mentor in the high school’s music department, Mr. Jerry Bachman, Hargrove was my generation’s Lee Morgan. Knowing my passion for jazz he did not disagree. That characterization seems apt on more than level, both playing wise and for, the personal demons that affected him and my very naive, bold assessment could not have possibly considered that possibility at the time. What made me a Hargrove fan from this recording was a smoldering rendition of his original “Public Eye” featuring a ridiculous high speed trumpet duel with Marlon Jordan. This is what it must have been like for those to witness Dizzy Gillespie battling with his idol Roy Eldridge in the 40’s, or Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan jousting on “Pensativa” from Night Of The Cookers (Blue Note, 1965) Hargrove displayed in his trades with Jordan an absolute fearlessness, a clarity of ideas, and warm, brassy tone that was just astonishing. About a year later after I heard that, he released his Verve debut With The Tenors Of Our Time and I picked it up quickly. In retrospect the album is a very big label kind of a thing, featuring the royalty of Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin alongside Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman and Ron Blake but the album showed a real confidence and maturity in Hargrove’s playing and compositions. Hargrove’s performances on Damn! by my hero, organist Jimmy Smith the following year and it’s companion CD Angel Eyes were just as stunning as his appearance on Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters for Verve’s 50th Anniversary in released 1994.
In my junior year of high school a kid that I knew was a drummer had picked up Habana by Hargrove’s band Crisol, which was a big thing at the time because it featured legends like pianist Chucho Valdez and Miguel “Anga” Diaz who were unable to perform in America due to the U.S.’s political situation with Cuba at the time. The band merged some of the best in New York with some of Cuba’s finest. The record is absolutely on fire, literally some of the best Hargrove I ever heard, a deep look into the African and Latin origins of jazz, and not in a revisionist way either, but something living and breathing. Years later I had picked up a copy of this album and it instantly became a favorite. The takes on Kenny Dorham’s “Una Mas” and the opening “O My Seh Yeh” are incredible.
Then there was Hargrove’s ability to tackle other genre’s like pop, neo soul and hip hop. Which makes this a perfect tie in to the previous blog on what has jazz innovated since the 1980’s. As was mentioned in that article the young lions movement was a massive glitzy campaign among the record labels and media to present young jazz musicians playing acoustic jazz, almost reverting to another era and presenting them in a clean cut way. The music on these records was slickly produced but there was a go for broke attitude, on par with the kind of heightened masculinity that has marked jazz history since the beginning or as Ethan Iverson referred to it, an “icy machisimo”. The intensity that runs on albums such as Triology (Warner Brothers, 1995) by Kenny Garrett, or the burn outs of Branford Marsalis on an album like The Dark Keys (Columbia, 1996) is quite pronounced, and makes for exciting fun listening. However, when artists like Hargrove or Christian McBride started including funk on their records, the critics went haywire. They were going on the same way when Miles Davis or Bob Dylan went electric, but in reality what was going on was these musicians were playing the music they grew up with.
In the early 90’s even as a teenage jazz fan it was impossible to avoid what was coming out in hip hop circles amongst the likes of Cypress Hill, Wu Tang Clan or a Tribe Called Quest, so espcially in the latter’s case the melding of jazz and hip hop was natural. Guru did it with Jazzmatazz on the hip hop side, Greg Osby had an album like 3D Lifestyles, and Steve Coleman did A Tale of Three Cities but they didn’t catch on with mainstream hip hop fans. When Hargrove released Hardgroove in 2005, he set a precedent by doing something that Robert Glasper has been acknowledged for with his Black Radio series of albums, and in the process brought new audiences to jazz. Hargrove’s appearance on D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu, and the great Continuum by John Mayer cemented him as a fearless genre hopper adding his uniquely singular voice to the proceedings. The “What’s Going On” type bridge on Mayer’s hit single “Waiting For The World Change” with Hargrove’s multi tracked open and Harmon muted horn was something so identifiable as him, that for those in the know made it something so special. On top of that he fostered so many great young players and taught them in the apprenticeship system the way Art Blakey or Miles Davis used to. Despite his wide ranging musical interests he was always a fierce keeper of the jazz tradition, and his influence is felt amongst trumpeters like Darren Barrett, Sean Jones and Freddie Hendrix. He was one of the supernovas in trumpet royalty alongside Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, his recordings and sound will continue to give me pleasure for years to come. Thank you Mr. Hargrove.
What has jazz innovated since the decade of the 1980’s? Back in July when legendary drummer Lenny White interviewed for the New York Jazz Workshop podcast that was a query he had asked in the course of discussion. The question was rhetorical: Has the most significant jazz already been created? For White, a living master of music as a whole, he was around during the most significant shifts in jazz history. He was 19 years old when he participated with Miles Davis going full scale electric on Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969) his own involvement in rock groups with jazz influence like Azteca, and the pioneering jazz rock outfit featuring Chick Corea Return to Forever. The drummer also produced R&B/pop super hits like Bernard Wright’s “Who Do You Love”. The drummer was around when crucial changes in the music occurred such as the change of so called “fusion” music morphing to smooth jazz, and the rise of neo bop headed by the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, and in the 90’s the major label recordings of Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and Joshua Redman. His assertion was that the definition of jazz was compromised. One could certainly understand his position, because so much jazz today does go back to what had come before, but there are important innovations that have occurred in the music since the bustling creativity of the 60’s and 70’s.
The desire to return to acoustic playing in the early 80’s was spearheaded by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Though his views on jazz itself and other forms of music like hip hop are deemed controversial by some, he is unquestionably a great educator and has done a lot as the head of Jazz At Lincoln Center to enhance jazz’s cultural and societal significance. Though playing acoustic straight ahead jazz in the mold of the mid sixties Miles Davis Quintet was not exactly a new idea as musicians like Woody Shaw made significant contributions in that arena, what Marsalis did was add his own wrinkles to the style on albums like the classic Black Codes From The Underground (Columbia, 1985) and brought it to an entirely new generation and that music could not have existed in a sense without what happened in the 70’s. The powerhouse drumming on that recording by Jeff “Tain” Watts owed as much to Art Blakey and Tony Williams as it did to the jazz rock innovations of Billy Cobham, and the aforementioned Lenny White. As Ethan Iverson noted in his article The J Word
“Unquestionably, Jeff Watts owes something to the best fusion. This is, just to be clear, a good thing. Watts sounds like his era and his place in history, which all great artists must do. That immortal fill behind the trumpet break on “Black Codes”? That is surely not just post-Elvin Jones, but post-Billy Cobham, too.
Something mildly fusion-esque about Watts’ playing is how his rhythms always fit on a grid, no matter how fast or complicated. This is not like Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones, or Tony Williams, all aggressive drummers far less concerned with landing every downbeat in exactly the right place.”
Music such as the albums from Marsalis those by Kenny Kirkland and Mulgrew Miller paved the way for musicians like the precocious LA based Connie Han who has been making waves with her major label debut Crime Scene (Mack Avenue, 2018)
Concurrent with neo bop was smooth jazz. By the mid 1980’s radio stations that had played a lot of easy listening music were able to enhance their listener base by including artists like George Benson and heavily edited versions of Pat Metheny Group songs in their rotation. The practice of listeners hearing 30 second snippets of pieces dictated much of the type of music put on. Stations like CD 101.9 were king offen playing the type of smooth jazz popularized by artists such as Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton. Smooth jazz was more of an American phenomenon, but it has enjoyed success in Europe and Japan although the smooth jazz radio format began to lose steam around the early 2000’s.
On the other side of the spectrum was the creation of the M Base collective spearheaded by Steve Coleman, and also including Greg Osby Gary Thomas and Geri Allen. Coleman’s unique conception of multiple polyrhythm based music very much tied to African roots and incorporating hip hop elements has influenced musicians like Vijay Iyer. In the current era, European jazz musicians incorporating electronic elements in the music and more melodic streams has been especially prevalent since the mid 90’s with the late Esbjorn Svensson, pianists Bugge Wesseltoft,and Nik Bartsch have all added very compelling twists to their music. Bartsch’s style of “ritual groove music” combines minimalism with techniques found in a lot of electronic music played acoustically. There will be future articles on the blog that explore the way jazz has grown since the sixties and seventies particularly in the area jazz has integrated hip hop.
For more on the contemporary trends in jazz check out the Funk Fusion Workshop taught by Andrea Veneziani that can aide in a deeper understanding of the innovations in jazz that came about in the 1980’s
Black Codes - YouTube
Lee Ritenour - Night Rhythms - YouTube
Steve Coleman And Five Elements - Attila 02 (Dawning Ritual) - YouTube
Welcome to the latest edition of the New York Jazz Workshop podcast, I’m your host CJ Shearn. Today’s topic: where jazz is now in the present era? There are a lot of different opinions on where jazz is now, but it is in a healthier and more varied place than it’s ever been. On one level, the current era is almost a throwback to the seventies where jazz was melding with everything– funk, world music, European folk, Indian music, classical, progressive rock, but there are things going on musically today that were not possible during the decades of the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s. In particular with artists like Robert Glasper, Mark Giuliana, Chris Dave, Thana Alexa, Antonio Sanchez, and veterans like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, jazz is going in exciting places beyond just the straight ahead. While jazz has always used pop songs or show tunes as a base, in terms of the current era of jazz a sense, we can see a harbinger of things to come in the late 1960’s when guitarist Wes Montgomery recorded three of his most successful albums before his death Road Song, A Day In The Life and Down Here On The Ground for Creed Taylor’s fledgling CTI imprint under A&M that would become independent in 1970. Montgomery had recorded albums like Bumpin’ for Verve, that drew upon a formula for crossover success. CTI recordings blended top flight musicians like Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, with all star rhythm sections playing originals, pop and soul tunes enhanced by the addition of string sections arranged by Don Sebesky, Bob James or David Matthews.
In 1978, producers Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen founded GRP records, and they created a slick LA based sound, that married some of the important elements of jazz like swing and improvisation, with Latin, funk, and rock rhythms. Grusin and Rosen had done production work outside of their own company, producing records on Blue Note from artists like Earl Klugh and Noel Pointer and Patti Austin on CTI. When they became a subsidiary of Arista, albums from their roster such as those of keyboardist Bernard Wright, and trumpeter Tom Browne contained all sorts of different tunes like straight ahead, funk and early hip hop. The issue this presented was that for those in the marketing side of the record industry they categorized the music, thus limiting the potential. In 1969 with Bitches BrewMiles Davis was at the fore front of combining rock, funk and jazz, and the album broke all templates of what was considered acceptable commercially. GRP, became an independent label in 1982, and shaped by the tastes of listeners, they became a force in what was considered the eventual “smooth jazz” movement. In audiophile realms the label was groundbreaking in it’s use of digital recording.
The reason why explaining this background is so important is because for those investigating the rich history of jazz, those kind of precedents are directly related to where jazz artists are now. Every type of jazz from New Orleans style to avant garde is still played around the world, but there are exciting new things occurring in jazz that are too numerous to discuss in a brief podcast. The fact that many jazz musicians who grew up in the late 80’s and the 90’s are incorporating what they grew up listening to is so encouraging and further proof jazz doesn’t stand still. For example Robert Glasper and Ben Williams including “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana on their respective albums shows how vital it is that this generation of jazzers include the sounds that influenced them. Hip hop is a big component as well, with drummers like Chris Dave and Mark Giuliana adding to the jazz drumming vocabulary beyond the innovations of Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Tony Williams. Thana Alexa, Tia Fuller, and Camille Thurman are some of many leading the charge and inspiring young women with Thana Alexa’s forthcoming album promising to be a powerful exposition on the history and current issues facing women in contemporary society. Jazz is reflecting a trend back towards the social and political spectrum of which it is inextricably linked,–whereas in the 80’s and 90’s the “young lion” movement was more centered on a projected label image of an artist, today young jazz musicians are making profound statements. On trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s latest recording “Origami Harvest”, he continues his detailed investigation of social issues, by creating a balance between string quartet, contemporary classical writing, hip hop and stretches of improvisation. The track “Free, White and 21” is one of the most powerful, as he continues to investigate a theme of mentioning the names of African Americans unjustly killed by police and gun violence. Akinmusire’s use of a voice screaming the antebellum hymn “Blood Stained Flag” is at once absurd, but also quite pervasive because it shouts of a much greater issue lurking undern Terence Blanchard’s recent “Live” with his group the E-Collective tackles some of these same issues related to gun violence.