Friday, September 27, 2013

Matt Slocum Picks Five Jazz Drummers - OC Weekly

Tom Uferl
Drummer/composer Matt Slocum isn't from Los Angeles, but he has certainly made a mark here. Arriving from Minnesota in the early aughts, Slocum attended USC, studying jazz and playing with musicians like Walter Smith III and Gerald Clayton along the way. He is now one of America's pre-eminent young jazz drummers.
Slocum's impeccable sense of time and knowledge of jazz history is impressive. He has returned to Southern California for a few dates, most notably performing with his trio and hosting a jam session as part of this weekend's Soka International Jazz Festival in Aliso Viejo. Here, he tells about his favorite jazz drummers of all time.
Max Roach
A Study In Brown (1955)

Slocum: When I first started playing jazz, I had three recordings: Clifford Brown's A Study in Brown, Miles Davis' Cookin' and Buddy Rich and Max Roach's Rich vs Roach. Max Roach was on two of those three recordings. He was my first big influence on the drums. I listened a lot to A Study in Brown especially for the way Roach would tune his drums and solo. The ideas that he was playing, I don't hear anyone before him playing similar stuff. There are other recordings where with Clifford's group is stretching more than this one but for whatever reason, hearing A Study in Brown first stuck with me.
Elvin Jones
Crescent (1964)

Slocum: If I had to pick one Elvin Jones recording, it would have to be Coltrane's Crescent. I feel that it's somewhat overlooked. There is so much focus on A Love Supreme. Hearing Elvin and bassist Jimmy Garrison swing on those mid tempos is my favorite. Hearing Elvin solo, at first I didn't understand it at all. It sounded like it was totally free. When I was taking lessons with Peter Erskine, we'd listen to Elvin's solos. Only at that point did I start to get a sense for his elastic feel. The way that he would play unaccompanied drum pieces had almost no precedent. You have to adjust to the Elvin factor.
Roy Haynes
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968)

Slocum: Roy Haynes is my all time favorite drummer although Roach was the drummer that I got into first. I don't know...shit, I take that back. I can't take Roy over Elvin Jones or Max Roach. I love Roy Haynes. It's really hard to pick one record with him too. I like the trio with bassist Miroslav Vitous and pianist Chick Corea. Just the sound of the cymbal seemed very different than the other things that I was hearing from that time period. He was using the hi-hat as its own comping voice and taking extended periods where he is not even playing it, just chilling with his cowboy boots on. The hookup between Roy and Chick is one of the greatest hookups between pianist and drummer ever.
Bill Stewart
Think Before You Think (1998)

Slocum: I have to put Bill Stewart in here. Bill Stewart has been a major influence. Think Before You Think is just genius as far as I'm concerned. The first tune is a trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist Dave Holland. Stewart is young on that recording, not that he doesn't take chances now, but I really hear him developing there. It's very exciting for me to listen to because later I started to hear his ideas more clearly. On these two recordings it was just very fresh. I think he was very excited for his session. It might have been his first session as a leader.
Jack DeJohnette
Saudades (2006)

Slocum: I really like that Trio Beyond recording Jack did about eight years ago with Larry Goldings and John Scofield. I got to hear him play in two situations recently. A year ago we were both doing this festival in Saratoga and then six months ago I heard him with Keith Jarrett's trio. It was night and day difference. It was some of the most incredible fusion stuff and then when he played with Keith it was so subtle. You would've never known that this guy would fit in both of those musical worlds. I read an interview where Jack said "it's like a dryer in a laundromat - it's cycling at the same speed but the clothes are going to fall in different spots at all times." That really stuck with me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Free Nirvana Tattoos - LA Weekly

That was the slogan emblazoned on the back of the first Nirvana t-shirt. The front depicted a simplistic drunken smiley face. Kurt Cobain's blotto logo has popped up everywhere: bumper stickers, clothing, candy. Now, twenty years after the release of their final studio album In Utero and nineteen years after Cobain's passing, fans had the opportunity to sear the iconic image into their skin, for free, with the purchase of a remastered copy of the album or live DVD, compliments of Universal Music Group.
Tattoo artists Matt Marcus (Three Kings Tattoo, Brooklyn) and Jason Schroder (Incognito Tattoo, Los Feliz) spent six hours in the window of Long Beach's Fingerprints Records, putting the small image on the various body parts of over fifty people. Many enthusiastic kids under twenty-one were denied, while several more youngsters with accountability waivers in hand chickened out at the last minute, thus saving themselves from having to hide the tattoo from their parents.
Here are a few of the folks who were united by their love of Nirvana and permanent body art.
SJ O'Connell
Dirty Rich Kidd26
"This is my first non mom-related tattoo."

SJ O'Connell
"This is definitely not my first tattoo."

SJ O'Connell
"This is my first tattoo. Sometimes you just want to do something reckless."

SJ O'Connell
"This is my second tattoo. I was going to get one in honor of my son but he'll have to wait. At least here he can watch me get it." (Her teenage son stood quietly nearby.)

SJ O'Connell
"This is my first tattoo. I love Nirvana. And it's free!"

SJ O'Connell
"I've got a bunch of tattoos. This is actually my second Nirvana tattoo."

SJ O'Connell
"I had always wanted to get a Nirvana tattoo. So why not now?"

SJ O'Connell
"This is my third tattoo. I work next door so I came over. Plus, they're my favorite band. It will always remind me of Long Beach."

Nirvana tattoos @ LA Weekly

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ten Coltrane Tunes to Celebrate His Birthday - OC Weekly

Saxophonist John Coltrane would have been 87 years old today, had he not passed away from liver cancer in 1967. This untimely death means the icon is preserved at the peak of his artistic powers. As both a fiery tenorman and a sensitive balladeer, Coltrane inspired hundreds of thousands of musicians, from Kenny G to Iggy Pop, to do vastly different things in his name.
That dichotomy is often ignored in tributes because few musicians can successfully bridge that breadth of emotion, and even fewer listeners are willing to entertain such variety. In honor of his birthday, here's a list of ten recordings (in chronological order) that show why Coltrane has few equals, despite the fact that his recording career that lasted less than twenty years.
"Ah Leu Cha"
Round About Midnight (1955)
Coltrane joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1955. This partnership would lead to many classic records, culminating with Kind of Blue in 1959. Here, the young tenor saxophonist is confident on the Charlie Parker tune, bouncing a series of well-spaced phrases and biting riffs. He is a complimentary sparring partner with Davis on the melody. Coltrane was still grappling with the bop sound, trying to find his place in the scene but relative to many other musicians, it didn't take him that long.
"Tenor Madness"
Tenor Madness (1956)
This 13 minute track marks the only time Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane recorded together. The song finds the two tenors interested in sharing ideas, sussing each other out with immense respect and curiosity. This landmark recording only makes the listener wish Coltrane had stuck around the studio for a few more numbers.
"Trinkle Tinkle"
Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (1957)
Monk's off-kilter tune served as a launching pad for Coltrane's famous sheets of sound. Breath seems to be a low priority as Coltrane rages through his solo with a flight of cascading notes. Monk mostly stays out of the way and lets Coltrane do his thing. The younger saxophonist spent six months on the bandstand with Monk in 1957 and managed to soak up a decade's worth of knowledge.

"Why Was I Born?"
Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (1958)

Coltrane didn't work with many guitarists. Kenny Burrell was an exception. Here the two men duet on the obscure Jerome Kern melody that is a master class in economy and interplay. Burrell slowly strums the changes as a bed for Coltrane to lay his measured tones upon. Coltrane got a lot of flack for his spiraling sheets. Here he proves that he had no trouble dropping the pulse.

Giant Steps (1959)
Sometimes you just gotta blow. This two and half minute jaunt was the extreme end of Coltrane's experiments in cramming as many relevant notes into a measure as possible. Tunes like "Giant Steps" and "Mr. P.C." tested the limits of tempo and the brain's ability to process sound. Coltrane's own band was often left winded, absorbing many of these new concepts while in the recording studio.

"My Favorite Things"
My Favorite Things (1960)
Coltrane changed the game when it came to interpreting popular songs. The Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things" went through the Coltrane grinder before Julie Andrews even got a shot at it. The result was an almost entirely different tune, soaked in modal landscapes and bashing drums. His use of the soprano saxophone also drastically changed the role of the instrument, giving it muscle over the course of this nearly fourteen minute song.

Live at the Village Vanguard (1961) 

New York's Village Vanguard jazz club became intertwined with the Coltrane legend in the early 1960s. The box set that came out of this run is indispensible. In a live setting, Coltrane was free to explore ideas to their limits. This was his first pairing with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. Eric Dolphy guests on this track on bass clarinet. Together, the Coltrane quartet blazed new trails with a display of force, experimentation and productivity unrivaled at the time.

"In A Sentimental Mood"
Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1962)

In the 1960s, Duke Ellington was happily accepting his place as one of the most important composers in American music history. Here, he was paired up with Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones. Ellington's more conservative approach to the tune, including the iconic piano introduction, meshes well with Coltrane and Jones' styles. Together, it's a once-in-a-lifetime sound.

"Lush Life"
Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane (1963)

Coltrane's quartet was paired with baritone crooner Johnny Hartman the following year. This interpretation of this standard by Ellington's composing partner Billy Strayhorn feels like the convergence of two different worlds. The straight, McCoy Tyner-accompanied melody shows no indication of the Coltrane solo to come. Jones pounds along with a pair of brushes, implying a host of rhythmic complexities as Coltrane offers a spine tingling flutter above him. Coltrane may have been deep into a spiritual and artistic journey at the time, but he never forgot his ability to swing a tune.

A Love Supreme (1964)

Recorded in one day in December of 1964, A Love Supreme is Coltrane's most lasting spiritual statement. Where he had been and where he was heading here collide with an unparalleled resonance, combining a wealth of bare emotion with a band that was in peak form. Those unfamiliar with the tune might recognize it as intro to the news on KCRW. Sorry. Coltrane was aiming much higher than donor sponsorships and traffic reports; he was pursuing the stratosphere. Here, he finally touched it.

Coltrane @ OC Weekly (with audio clips)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Brief History of Five World Music Trends - OC Weekly

Nonesuch Records
"World Music" has always been a strange catch-all term for American music buyers. The category lazily pits K-Pop singer Psy against French chanteuse Carla Bruni as though there were only a dozen musical genres outside of the United States.
Every now and then one of those musical genres becomes trendy, and for a few months it appears we all might start wearing guyaberas to work. In honor of the appearance by members of the Buena Vista Social Club at the Segerstrom Center this Tuesday, here are five world music trends that momentarily boosted the tourism in their home countries.
1. Bossa Nova
Who to thank:
 Stan Getz
It is a little too convenient that the term "bossa nova" is Brazilian for "new trend." American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz already had a twenty year career when he teamed up with vocalist Astrud Gilberto and guitarist Joao Gilberto to record Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Girl From Ipanema" in 1964. The wispy tune instantly entered into the cocktail lounge book of standards and opened the door for countless other artists to try their hand at the craze. Surely the "tall and tan and young and lovely" roaming the beaches of Rio picked up a few choice English phrases in the mid 1960s.
2. Indian Sitar
Who to thank:
 George Harrison 
After George Harrison added a sitar to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" in 1965, a lot of recording studios had to invest in the lengthy lute for future sessions. The Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Mamas & the Papas and the Animals all put the Indian instrument to use on their pop hits, which really helped sitarist Ravi Shankar book some higher profile gigs. Shankar was the ambassador of Indian classical music, introducing the unique droning sounds of the sitar along with the melodic sounds of the tabla drums to a generation of stoners looking to just mellow out.

3. Gregorian Chant
Who to thank:
 Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos

In 1994, a 20-year-old recording of Spanish monks sold over three million copies in the United States. Was America finally ready to embrace a monastic lifestyle? Had they finally found inner peace and true purpose? No. They found something that helped make a massage more relaxing and was easier to obtain than anti-depressants. The anonymous monks never did hit the tour circuit and were probably unaware that their interpretation on a thousand year old tradition was so popular in mall gift shops. 
4. Irish Folk Music
Who to thank: The Chieftains
The Chieftains had been plugging away since the early 1960s but didn't come to define traditional Irish folk music until Stanley Kubrick hired them to record the score for Barry Lyndon in 1975. They've subsequently been solidly booked for Christmas and St. Patrick's Day through the rest of the century. Their Guiness-friendly sound mirrors a lot of American folk music and has provided many an excuse to spend four hours in a pub on a Sunday night. But, the odds are that anyone you know with a Chieftains record likely doesn't have any other Irish music in their collection. Except for maybe U2.
Buena Vista Social Club
Who to thank:
 Ry Cooder
When musician Ry Cooder came back with a record of Cuban old timers in 1997, he instantly provided the soundtrack for any Spanish-speaking eatery with a CD player. The acoustic boleros and guajiras were omnipresent in this sound. However you feel about Cooder receiving as much credit as he gets for "discovering" this group of musicians, he was instrumental in helping these Cuban artists secure gigs, (a lot of gigs) simply by attaching the phrase "Buena Vista Social Club" to show posters.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tootie's Tempo review - NYC Jazz Record

Al Tootie Heath/Ben Street/Ethan Iverson
Tootie's Tempo

If there was one word to describe this album, it would
be ‘sweet’. Most musicians would probably kick a cat
or write a regrettable Facebook post in order to regain
a more muscular reputation but even the cover of
Tootie’s Tempo is undeniably sweet: pianist Ethan
Iverson and bassist Ben Street flank drummer Albert
“Tootie” Heath wearing bowties, suit jackets, campaign
buttons and stubbly smiles.

Heath established himself as major mover in the
jazz world long before Iverson and Street were born.
He, along with brothers Percy (bass) and Jimmy
(saxophone), made their collective mark on hundreds
of essential jazz recordings starting in the ‘50s while
Street and The Bad Plus’ Iverson are in the midst of
forging their own legacies. The younger duo shows a
great and well-deserved reverence for their percussive
leader in this new recording of old standards.

The band open by going way back with a tune
dating to a dozen years before Heath was born - “The
Charleston”. Heath gives it a second-line pop as
Iverson bounces the familiar chestnut with both hands.
The trio dispenses an effortless swing at various speeds
over 11 tracks, from a funereal “How Insensitive” to a
simmering “Fire Waltz”, with Heath to the fore on
most every track. Iverson gets to stretch out on an
easygoing stroll through “Stompin’ At the Savoy”,
expanding and contracting across the keyboard with a
jagged edge while Street shines on a duet with Heath
on Neil Hefti’s “Cute”, carrying the melody with a sly
briskness. Appropriately, Heath has the last word with
the title track, an economic solo rendition of Frank
Foster’s “Shiny Stockings”.

Despite the throwback aspect, cross-generational
collaborations are invaluable both to preserving and
progressing jazz and this trio has done a terrific job of
making it fun. Let’s hope there is more to come.

Tootie's Tempo @ NYC Jazz Record

Willie Jones III review - NYC Jazz Record

Willie Jones II Sextet
Plays the Max Roach Songbook

Drummer Max Roach was one of the most influential
drummers of the 20th century but his legacy of
songwriting is not nearly as widespread. He certainly
wrote and recorded some powerful statements but his
tunes are not a large part of the standard jazz repertoire.
Drummer Willie Jones III’s live tribute to his songbook
doesn’t focus strictly on his pen; in fact there are only
two tunes credited to Roach, with one of them a
collaboration. Instead, the band rips through tunes
associated with a 15-year span of Roach’s career as a
leader from the early ‘50s to the late ‘60s.

The sextet starts off with a crisp, extended version
of “Ezz-Thetic”, one of two tunes from Max Roach +4
featured on this recording. Everyone but bassist
Dezron Douglas takes ecstatic solos on the upbeat tune
before Jones trades eights with the soloists. Eventually
he takes over the stage with a thundering spotlight.
The band maintains their energy for Gary Bartz’
“Libra”, which lets saxophonist Stacy Dillard throw a
few daggers before trumpeter Jeremy Pelt explodes
over the furious rhythm section.

Leon Mitchell’s “To Lady” briefly slows the tempo
with beautiful interaction between the horns and a
lilting touch from pianist Eric Reed. The band closes
with a nod to Roach’s days with Clifford Brown,
working through the 1954 rendition of Cole Porter’s “I
Get A Kick Out of You”, Pelt leaping out of the gate,
amiably tackling the Brown role.

Although the sound of the audience has a minimal
presence on the recording, the live aspect allowed the
band to stretch out quite a bit. The first four of seven
tracks account for over 45 minutes of running time.
Everyone is in top form, Reed especially memorable
with a swinging arsenal of lightning-quick ideas. Jones
has a crisp feel and drives the band expertly, rumbling
along with barely enough room to catch his breath in a
fitting homage to the much-missed master.

Willie Jones III @ NYC Jazz Record

Slumgum review - NYC Jazz Record

The Sky His Own

Los Angeles-based Slumgum’s newest album cover
features a hexagonal patchwork. The mostly ivory
toned landscape is dotted with a few scattered blasts of
paisley, checkers and stripes. It’s an apt fabric-based
representation of the contents of the album. The
youthful quartet (drummer Trevor Anderies,
saxophonist Jon Armstrong, pianist Rory Cowal,
bassist David Tranchina) is joined by cornet veteran
Hugh Ragin, who contributes many of those abrupt
swatches amid the band’s groove.

The setlist is a group effort with each member
contributing at least one apiece. Tranchina gets the
first shot with “Zoyoki Gnoki”, a satisfying feature for
his rhythmically-inclined support. He bounces around
the changes alongside Cowal as an engaging backdrop
for Armstrong’s muscular solo.

Ragin’s lone compositional contribution, “Silver
Cornet News”, opens as a straightahead swinger, the
cornetist pushing things further out as the track
progresses, with Armstrong joining him on a fluttering
soprano saxophone until Cowal digs right back into
the swing pushed heartily by Anderies and Tranchina.
The extended opus provides everyone with a generous
solo spotlight.

A long swath of sleepiness travels from Tranchina’s
“Mayday” to Anderies’ “Kyo” before making way for
Armstrong’s expansive “Inherent Vibrations”, which
runs the gamut of styles over a quarter of an hour. The
tune opens with a dreamlike sway before rolling into a
solid backbeat for Ragin’s spastic horn and then
Cowal’s flirtatious rolls. None of the vibes last too long
as the quintet gradually segues from peace into a
rumbling dissonance. Cowal gets the last word with
his “Minuet”. Ragin and Armstrong briefly don their
ragged parlor wigs through the time-signature-free
interactions. The bandmembers sputter and jolt each
other to a demure close.

Through it all the band takes many sharp turns,
covering a fair amount of real estate. It is hard to tell
whether the avant garde or the straightahead moments
are more unexpected but the band tackles both with
aplomb. This is a thoroughly modern record that
successfully ties together multiple generations, genres
and sensations into a wide-reaching whole.

Slumgum @ NYC Jazz Record