Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts

Friday, July 6, 2018

JAZZ Essentials

Where are they Now? - A-Z of Bristol bands - Songwriters - Musicians
Photo  by brizzle born and bred 
I used to tell people I met on airplanes or at parties that I wrote about jazz for a living. Once they got past wondering just what type of "living" that amounted to, they'd smile and say, "I love jazz," then pause, adding, "But I don't know that much about it."

They were leery, thrown off by chart-and-graph references to jazz's development — stuff like how '40s swing begat '50s bebop, which gave rise to '60s free-jazz and all that. As if there was a textbook (well, actually some critic friends of mine are writing one, but that's another story) and there might be a test, you know. Not to mention the political squabbles: why swing was king or bop the thing or how '70s fusion killed it all.

Or maybe they'd been put off by all that technical talk: flatted fifths and extended chords and the numbers behind swing's rhythmic propulsion — like it was rocket science or something.

Then there's the cult aspect: those older guys bending and swaying at the back of the club, making like Jewish elders swaying to an fro at temple, or the generalized bowing down before deities such as Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker and John Coltrane (not to mention the infighting about just who deserves saintly status).

Thing is, jazz isn't any of that — and is all that. Appreciation requires no previous knowledge, yet continued listening offers all constant enrichment. The technical aspects of jazz's musical achievements have both the beauty and complexity of higher math: And the music has genuine religious heft, owing to both time-honored spiritual traditions and in-the-moment meditative thought.

I can't give you a 12-best list, or tell you that what follows tells the story in full. But the following list expresses lineages of thought, instrumental technique, rhythmic ideas and group conception. The dots are easy to connect, the names clearly indicated and the sounds unforgettable.

And this list is like those sponge toys that, placed in water, magically grow overnight. Listen, and you'll find expansive knowledge easily absorbed, not to mention natural links to many more artists and recordings.

Listen Hot Fives And Sevens
Artist: Louis Armstrong
Release Date: 1925
To tell the story of jazz without Louis Armstrong up top is to cut off the head of the living organism that is jazz. Armstrong was a giant of a trumpeter, he was an influential singer and perhaps most important, he transformed jazz from a strictly instrumental music into a complicated blend of solo and ensemble sound. In that sense, nearly all the 20th-century jazz that followed flowed from the innovation of these recordings. Over the course of these sessions, you can hear the transformation in process, from traditional New Orleans collective style to a different blend, with the clarion call of Armstrong's horn pointing the way.

Listen The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume 1
Artist: Art Tatum
Release Date: 2001
Anyone edition drawn from this eight-CD set will do. And anyone is enough to give a sense of the enormity of Tatum's genius and its far-reaching effects on all the music that followed. Tatum simply played more piano — got more out the instrument — than any other musician. He was a direct link from the whorehouse piano men to the classical soloist. Here, late in life, he plays song after song and, beginning with "Too Marvelous for Words," he builds each one into a concerto of melody, harmonics, and improvisation that set the bar high and establish the logic for much of modern jazz.
Listen The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1943
Artist: Duke Ellington
Release Date: 1943
Little in jazz compares with the majesty, finesse, integrity, and spark of Duke Ellington's bands during the '40s. It was a moment when jazz straddled two functions as it never will again: it was popular music, reflective of the nation's heart and mind, and artistic revolution, charting new waters. In Ellington, as perhaps in no musician other than Louis Armstrong, jazz had a leader who understood both drives. It was a dream of Ellington's to play Carnegie Hall, and it anticipated the Lincoln Center achievements of Wynton Marsalis today. This recording contains both shorter tunes (marvelous miniatures of great scope) and Ellington's more ambitious, longer-form work "Black, Brown, and Beige." There are stellar solo statements by players including saxophonists Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges, but really, it's the brilliant cohesion of the full band and Ellington's overall vision that makes this music timeless.



Listen Tomorrow Is The Question
Artist: Ornette Coleman
Release Date: 1959
Ornette Coleman's music has always leaned on tradition — listen to some Charlie Parker and you'll hear echoes of it here — distilled into something new and pointed straight toward the future or curled up like a quizzical phrase. Here, Coleman's title begs both ideas. And the music announced his pianoless quartet setup: the harmonics of chord changes alone would no longer confine Coleman's music, replaced by his own personal science bent on liberation. The way Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry shadow each other's lines and exchange ideas, the process sounds closer to pure joy than hard science. Nearly a half-century later, it still sounds fresh.
Listen Alone In San Francisco
Artist: Thelonious Monk
Release Date: 1959
The hippest, most addictive thing I got turned onto in college was Monk's music. I'd never heard anything like it, and it opened up a whole new idea for me of how the piano could sound and of what music could do: his compositions, his every arpeggio or tone cluster, contained math, R&B, Abstract Expressionism and slapstick humor. I went on to discover a world of jazz musicians, all touched directly or indirectly by Monk, but none who sounded quite like him. And though Monk recorded quite a few notable albums leading stellar bands, though his music led others to play with a special insight and cohesion, it's Monk alone at the piano that I crave: Straight, no chaser. Here, early in his career, by himself, Monk transforms San Francisco's Fugazi Hall with the unique architecture of his piano playing. This isn't what all of the jazz sounds like: It's what the world of jazz after Monk looks like.
Listen Bill Evans Trio: Sunday At The Village Vanguard
Artist: Bill Evans
Release Date: 1961
There's plenty of religious, folkloric and literary evidence to support the idea that three is a magical number: Bill Evans's trio might be jazz's mightiest argument for that case. Evans was one of jazz's most lyrical pianists, and he's at his best here. But it's the nature of this trio that elevates most of all: neither Evans nor bassist Scott LaFaro nor drummer Paul Motian sticks to customary roles. And in the three-pointed cheese slice of a room that is the Village Vanguard (the closest thing to sacred space remaining in jazz today), the music takes on a prayer-like quality.

Listen Live Trane: The European Tours
Artist: John Coltrane
Release Date: 1961
By 1961, Coltrane's soloing style — the free flow through chord changes and scale-based improvisations that critic Ira Gitler dubbed "sheets of sound" — was his signature. His band concept was similarly bent on expanding boundaries and explosive energy. Coltrane may have laid down some of jazz's most memorable studio sessions, but there's really nothing like him caught live. These tracks, drawn from a three-LP set, find him in two powerful contexts over the course of four years: in a 1961 quintet including Eric Dolphy on alto sax, flute and clarinet; and fronting his classic quartet at concerts in 1963 and 1965. The fire and especially the communion between Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones on the later material is a thing to behold.

Listen Spiritual Unity
Artist: Albert Ayler
Release Date: 1964
The first release on Bernard Stollman's ESP label, this is the session that pushed Albert Ayler to the forefront of jazz's avant-garde. He remains a touchstone for any open-minded musician wishing to explore the sonic possibilities of a given instrument, to exploit the aggregate effect of any small group and to mine the spiritual heft of musical expression. To some, the arsenal of sounds Ayler coaxed from his saxophone — screams, squeals, wails, honks and a mile-wide vibrato when he felt like it — represented newfound contortions of sound; to others, they harked back to early jazz evocations, like Sidney Bechet's soprano sax. Ayler's appeal anticipates the current axis that connects punk rockers to free jazz: He took the simplest of song structures and turned them into the most complex of visceral splatters. His "Ghosts," here rendered in two versions, will truly haunt you.

Listen Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
Artist: Dizzy Gillespie And Machito
Release Date: 1975
Back when I edited a jazz magazine, I'd find regular annoyance with writers who thought Latin jazz was a tiny sidebar to American jazz. Jazz is many stories, a central one being the African Diaspora. The music of Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean are cousins to American music (and they contain some rhythmic secrets we've forgotten, I'd say). Cuba, in particular, has a special musical relationship with the United States, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was one among jazz's ranks who honored that truth with depth and style. Though Dizzy made his Big Cuban Bang decades earlier, this 1975 session finds him with the famed band of Frank "Machito" Grillo, featuring the great Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauzá. Composer/arranger Chico O'Farrill's "Oro, Incienso y Mirra" is as modern a fusion of cross-cultural ideas as you'll hear today.
Listen to Raining On The Moon
Artist: William Parker
Release Date: 2002
Born in 1955 [ck], William Parker is just a bit older than the music we know as free jazz. Some say that that musical revolution is dead: They're wrong. The most vital life signs are found on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and at the center of this scene is the loud, insistent sound of Parker's bass. He is something of a father figure, dispensing life lessons as well as musical wisdom, much like legendary bandleaders Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, and Charles Mingus. Among Parker's many bands is the quartet he leads here (with Leena Conquest adding soulful vocals). Among the deep connections, he shares is the one you can feel powerfully throughout this music, with drummer Hamid Drake.




Friday, June 15, 2018

The Many Styles Of JAZZ MUSIC

365-022 - evening in 5/4 time
Jazz MusicPhoto by ** RCB ** 
The essence of the appeal of Jazz music has expanded and became reinvented from the use of elements found in African drumming, spiritual and hymn music, bluegrass hillbilly music, blues, impressionist, and classical traits to newer sounds. Jazz music became popular on radio and underground clubs that influenced other parts of the world. For instance, Europe's French Jazz scene created Gypsy Jazz and South America's Brazilian and Afro-Cuban Jazz sounds.  Not only did make its mark on the world, but it also found its way back to its roots through urban contemporary gospel music of percussion as well as brass instruments.

Today the contemporary gospel music uses guitars, keyboard, piano, drums and brass instruments for their sound. One can usually tell during the ballads how Jazz chord harmonies are used in the keyboard and piano. The harmony in Barbershop music like Jazz came from the African American Black gospel church community which uses close four-part harmony without accompaniment.  This particular style of music without accompaniment is known as A capella.  The Mills Brothers were popular Jazz musicians who learned how this harmonization in the barbershop owned by their father.

In many Jazz groups such as Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices, Acoustix, Bara Vox, Beach Front, BR6 and more the harmonies are similar to that of barbershop. These harmonies are from the chromatic chordal harmony found in Jazz Music.  The group Take 6 has expanded the traditional four-part harmonies to six tones. Jazz Music did not stop there but grew into an array of different styles that produce different aesthetic appeal.

The aesthetic appeal can be found in how each part of the music makes one feel once heard. All the different elements from the lyrical content to the kaleidoscope of colorful harmony to the depth of the mood provides its own ambiance of sound. To give examples:

On the extent to which Jazz has expanded are listed below as new expressions to the music.

Vocalese - From 1952 to 1962 Eddie Jefferson and Jon Hendricks made their mark by using their vocals as a substitute for the musical instrument in the exact melody. Meaning, the voice imitated the exact solo of a saxophonist solo. It was not widely accepted until the musicians above made it popular.

Cool Jazz-  From the latter 1940's and 1950's a softer more gentle style of Jazz of both bop and swing with arranged harmonies that are present in Jazz ballads today.


Hard Bop-From the middle of 1950's the church's spiritual and gospel roots of African style returned to the Jazz music which assisted in the making of Rhythm and Blues. One example of this music is Davis' work titled "Walkin".

Mainstream- From the 1950's era, Jazz improvisation changed from single line melodic ornamentation to chordal which appeared again as a loose form of Jazz music in the later part of the 1970's and 1980's. This style was influenced by the cool, classical, and hard bop Jazz styles.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

DIZZY GILLESPIE

English: Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988, E...
Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is not one person around who knows jazz music that did not hear the name Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy Gillespie was a composer, singer, jazz trumpet player and bandleader. He along with Charlie Parker was the creator of modern jazz music and bebop. Dizzy also started Afro-Cuban jazz. He had the gift of making new harmonies that were layered and complex. At the time, it was not done in jazz before. He was most remembered for the trumpet he played that was bent. It was accidentally ruined when he was on a job in 1953. Surprisingly, Dizzy liked it  because of the way it changed the tone of the instrument.

Dizzy was born John Birks on October 21, 1917 in South Carolina. He was the youngest in the family of nine children. His father was a horrible man who beat his children all the time, and died when dizzy was 10 years old. He taught himself how to play trumpet when he was twelve years old. He won a scholarship to Laurinburg Institute but, dropped out of school and went to Philadelphia to pursue music full-time. He played with Frankie Fairfax and recorded for the very first time in 1937. He then was a part of Cab Calloway's band, but was criticized for his solos, calling them "Chinese music". He was thrown out because Cab said that he sent a spitball at him, and Dizzy, angrily stabbed him in the leg with a knife.

Dizzy was a part of Duke Ellington's, Woody Herman and many other bands. It was with Billy Eckstine's band where his unique playing fit better than anywhere else. He met again with Charlie Parker. Together they played famous clubs such as Monroe's Uptown House, and Minton's Playhouse. This is where jazz music progressed again and bebop was created. In the beginning a lot of people didn't like bebop. They were used to the old jazz music, and thought the new sound of bebop was a threat and were afraid of it. Dizzy's style had an effect on trumpeters and the younger musicians that he was able to mentor. Examples of bebop music are "Groovin' High", "Salt Peanuts" and "A Night In Tunisia". Musicians that he taught bebop to were Miles Davis and Max Roach.

Eventually, the band departed, as the audience grew wary of the new jazz music. Dizzy wanted to go big, and tried to create his own big band in 1945 but was not successful with it. He started other small groups and finally put a big band together that was a success. He soloed many times with Jazz at the Philharmonic.


Dizzy proved himself overseas in France when he began his third big band, and did several concerts and albums.
During the 1940's Dizzy was composing Afro-Cuban music. Afro-Cuban music is a combination of Latin and African music, pop and salsa. The work that is the most well known are "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca". Dizzy was responsible for finding musician Arturo Sandoval while he was on a tour in Cuba researching music.

Dizzy continued to reach people with his music even on television and film. He was on Sesame Street and The Cosby Show. He died in 1993 from Pancreatic Cancer, he was 75 years old. He had two funerals, one was for friends and family and the other funeral was for the public in Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Dizzy Gillespie was a special innovator in jazz and is continually remembered at the New York Bahai Center.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Jazz Musician: LIONEL HAMPTON

English: Lionel Hampton during a concert in Aa...
Lionel Hampton during a concert in Aachen (Germany)
on May 19th, 1977
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One great jazz musician was Lionel Hampton. Lionel was a bandleader, actor, jazz vibraphonist and percussionist. He has worked with other famous jazz musicians such as Buddy Rich, Quincy Jones, and Charlie Parker. Lionel was raised by his grandmother in the south before he relocated to Chicago. In the 1920's he started playing the xylophone and drums. His first instrument was the fife drum.

When he was a teenager he played drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboy's band. When he lived in California, he played for the Dixieland Blue-Blowers. The first band that he recorded with was The Quality Serenaders, then he left again to go play with another band, Les Hite band. It was here that he began studying the vibraphone. Louis Armstrong asked Lionel to play the vibraphones on two songs. That is when he made the vibraphone a popular instrument.

While still with the Les Hite band, Lionel went to the University of Southern California taking music. He also worked with the Nat Shilkrer orchestra. In 1936 he was in the film Pennies From Heaven, starring Bing Crosby. He was next to Louis Armstrong but hid by wearing a mask when he was playing the drums.

In 1936 he was fortunate to meet Benny Goodman who came to watch him perform. Benny asked him to join his trio which consisted of Benny, Gene Krupa, and Teddy Wilson. It was then renamed the Benny Goodman Quartet. The year before, Lionel worked with Billie Holiday with Benny's orchestra. This group of artists was one of the first integrated jazz groups that performed openly in society.

Lionel recorded with several groups while still with Benny Goodman, but in 1940 he left to create his own big band. Lionel's orchestra was a hit in the 40's and 50's. "Flying Home" featured an Illinois Jacquet solo that began a new style of music, R&B. The song was so popular that he did another version called "Flying Home, Number Two", with Arnett Cobb. Lionel's music was a mixture of jazz music and R&B during this time. Some great jazz musicians that worked with him during this time were Johnny Griffin, Dinah Washington, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie.



As time went on, in the 1960's and after, his success lessened. He was still performing hits from the 1930's-1950's. In the 1970's he recorded with the Who's Who Record label, but still did not do as well as he could have.

Going the college route seemed to help a bit. His band played at University of Idaho's jazz concert regularly. In 1985, the named it the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Two years later, they named the music school the Lionel Hampton School of Music. It was the only music school at a university that was named after a jazz musician. Lionel kept playing until he had a stroke in 1991 in Paris. Even though he had to stop performing as much, he did a performance at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001, not long before he died. This jazz music legend will never be forgotten.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Portuguse Fado Music and American Jazz Saxophone - Is There a Connection? Oh Yeah

Mário Henriques: "Fado Sem Tempo" Hamburg
Photo by Glyn Lowe Photoworks.
Fado music reveals the heart and soul of Portugal

Fado is a style of music that originated in Portugal in the early 1800's. Influences possibly came from the Moors, Arabia, and Africa, all of which the Portuguese had contact with. The Moors were North African Muslims who occupied Portugal and Spain from the 700's to the 1500's. They were eventually driven out by crusaders but left great influences in food, cooking, architecture and music.

Many North Americans have never heard of fado, not surprising since it's not being played on your local commercial radio station. Those that I've met and have had a chance to hear it usually fall in love with it. Musically, it's very pleasing to the ears and follows a predictable musical pattern. I think it has similarities to the Blues in America. Not so much in the harmonic chord progression of the 1, 1V, V that the blues is based on but the way the music itself came into existence and what it means and represents to its people and country today.The lyrical content of the Fado is usually about longing, lost love, hardships, the same things a blues song is usually about. Sonically it sounds much different.

I hated this music when I was a kid! Sitting in the back seat of my parent's car, being forced to listen to it, not understanding the lyrics, and it sounded so foreign next to the pop radio stations I listened to on my own time. I avoided it when I could and basically forgot about it as I grew up.

One day, in my 20's and off and away on the saxophone I heard a recording by the Portuguese jazz saxophonist Rao Kyao playing Fado music on his sax, no singing, just beautiful melodies played on a tenor. This put it in a whole new light for me. I guess I started to hear it differently since it was a sax speaking to me rather than some old Portuguese singer singing about stuff I couldn't understand, I could understand this though... Listen to Rao Kyao

The typical instrumentation is 2 Portuguese guitars which in Portuguese is called a guitara and 2 regular acoustic nylon string guitars which the Portuguese call a viola.

The biggest star of Fado was Amalia Rodrigues who died a few years ago but was active for most of the second half of the 20th century. She was known and appreciated internationally and brought the fado of Portugal to the world. There have been Plays and films written about her...



She also brought one of the great American tenor saxophonists into the studio with her group to lay some sax down on a few tracks. Don Byas was a contemporary of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, the great saxophonists of the early jazz swing era in America around 1940. But Byas moved to Europe, living in France, Holland, and Denmark in the mid 40's and remained there for the rest of his life. Fortunately, while in Portugal for a brief moment he was called into a studio session with the great Amalia and so history was made with one of the greatest American jazz tenor saxophonists together with the greatest Portuguese fado singer.

If you've never heard fado music, do yourself a favour and check it out!

*Note: For the complete article with audio samples go to JohnnyFerreira.com



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

LENNY PICKETT TENOR SAXOPHONE Virtuoso

Yes, that's the great Lenny Pickett next to Chester Thompson for "Squib Cakes"!
Photo  by Ethan Prater 
Lenny Pickett is best known as the tenor saxophonist of the Saturday Night Live Band, he is one of the virtuosos of altissimo saxophone. The altissimo register is a technique that almost seems like a requirement for saxophonists today. It's based on harmonics and enables you to achieve notes above the normal range of the saxophone.

For example, it is possible to finger a low Bb (the lowest note on the instrument) and by changing the embouchure and air stream to blow the full overtone series of the low Bb (middle Bb, middle F, high Bb, high D, high F, and so on.) This technique can be heard clearly in the well-known opening theme to Saturday Night Live.

Lenny passes says this about his equipment, in response to numerous inquiries:  "I play a Selmer Paris Mark VI tenor (circa 1970) with a Berg Larsen 130 over 0 (SMS) mouthpiece and a number 3 Vandoren (blue box) bass clarinet reed."

Pickett, born in New Mexico in 1954, is competent not only with saxophone but also on flute and clarinet. After dropping out of high school in Berkeley, he spent a brief period studying under Bert Wilson, but amazingly, other than that instruction is entirely self-taught on the saxophone. Not viewed as a traditional jazz player, he is best showcased in short bursts of color bringing the life of his horn to center stage in R&B and rock arrangements. He is well known for his funky style, and his ability to make the sax "scream."



Pickett played with the Tower of Power horns from 1972 to 1981 and toured the world with them. Tower of Power still tours extensively today, though without Pickett. They released multiple Top 100 albums over the course of Pickett's career with them. Tower of Power played in many styles, from soul to funk to disco, and Pickett's virtuoso playing felt at home in all of them.

Tower of Power's horns section has performed with a variety of other artists including Santana, Heart, Poison, Phish, and more. He has since performed live and recorded with Rod Stewart, Elton John, Little Feat, Peter Gordon's Love of Life Orchestra, Doc Kupka's Strokeland Superband, and many rock and jazz albums and film and television soundtracks. Pickett's management's bio describes his music as "polyphonic extravaganzas which manage to touch base with R&B, funk, swing, Latin influence, and the avant-garde; horn lines twist around one another, shifting and building in intensity."

He has worked as a saxophonist and arranger for David Bowie, the Talking heads, and Laurie Anderson. As a composer, he has been commissioned to write works mixing classical and popular ideas for a variety of ensembles including the New Century Saxophone Quartet. Due to his strange and wild self-taught style, his techniques are endlessly discussed on Internet forums, where players speculate on his fingering, whether or not he's using double or triple tonguing, often asking each other "What is Pickett doing?!??!"

He is currently a professor of jazz saxophone at New York University.

    Author: Neal Battaglia 
     Are you into sax improvisation? Learn more about Saxophone Improv at Sax Station! 


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Development of BLUES MUSIC

John Lee Hooker at the Long Beach Blues Festival
John Lee Hooker at the Long Beach Blues Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jazz, rock music and country and western are just some of the styles that owe a lot of their progression from the original blues. The contribution of Blues music to the development of many other genres of music is very significant. Blues was originally grown out of the hardships endured by many generations of African Americans and first arose from the rural Mississippi region, around about the time of the dawn of the 20th century. The style developed from work shouts (known as Arhoolie) and became the vocal narrative style that we associate with blues music today.

The industry was progressing, and by the 1920's Blues music was also developing - affecting the everyday lives of people involved. There was by this time a very particular style, based around a three-line stanza. The stanza contained just one line of verse, repeated, and then finished with a final line of rhyming verse.

The style also included a repeating blues chord progression, which was the basis of the harmony. The usual rule of thumb was a 12-bar pattern utilizing the 3 major chords of a scale. The text was set to a 12-bar chorus, and typically was between four and eight stanzas in length.

In typical cases, the melody is formed by flattened third, fifth and seventh notes of the major scale. The outcome is the 'bent' notes that lend Blues music that distinctive sound - the bittersweet emotional impact that lacks in other genres. For the majority of blues music, the focus is on the vocals - contradicting the fact that performers will often improvise instrumental solos over the Blues chord progressions.

Many itinerant musicians (the majority of which were men), traveled from one community to the next, singing songs that focused on love, freedom, sex and the general sorrows of life. Often referred to as 'Delta Blues' (in tribute to the Mississippi Delta were they first originated), country blues arose from the Southern rural experience, particularly influenced by the impact of emancipation.

Classic Blues
African Americans began to migrate, mainly looking for work. Areas such as Memphis and New Orleans began to become more populated, and these people brought their own brand of music with them. As they settled in these areas, it led to Blues music becoming much more urban-orientated. The music evolved as their way of life evolved. Male or female vocalists began to appear more regularly, and there was now the addition of a single piano.


The audience also grew, and Blues became more mainstream. Throughout the country as a whole, Blues music could now be heard in dancehalls and barrooms. The music industry as a whole started to take note, and more and more compositions and marketing arrangements emerged, as people began to take notice. The popularity of this kind of music grew exponentially. What would become known as Classic Blues became so popular that many songs were released with the word 'blues' in the title to capitalize on this, even though they bared little or no relation to the style of music.

Its center, previously clustered around Memphis and New Orleans, began to migrate, and soon cities such as Chicago became the central point of much of the music. The appetite for the style of music known as the Blues was quite voracious.

The end of the Second World War brought a new revival into the genre, and artists began to develop the music, primarily through adding a bit of extra emphasis on the bass drums and cranking up the guitar sounds. Artists like Elvis and Bill Haley began to incorporate the Blues methods into their own unique brand of rock n roll. By the 1950's this style was no longer centered around the African American community and was universally practiced across all races.

The influence that Blues music has had on the music industry as a whole is undisputed, and yet Blues music is still evolving, still developing, and still evoking the stirrings of the soul to anyone who cares to listen! The incorporation of the Blues style into different genres still exists today, and Blues music in its own right continues to go from strength to strength - many top-selling artists maintain the original styles.




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: Transformation From Reform School to Infamous Trumpets

Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician L...
Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician Louis Armstrong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Trumpets have been in existence since primitive times, but they did not really gain the recognition they deserved until the infiltration of jazz into the music world. When Buddy Bolden altered his own music style in the 1890's, it had the first inklings of what jazz music would become with its hearty spirit and spontaneity. He eventually leads the first genuine New Orleans jazz band. Continuing to invent jazz music was Freddie Keppard and Joe "King" Oliver playing the cornet as the lead instrument.

Then along came Louis Armstrong from a poor section of New Orleans where the heroes of the neighborhood were gamblers and pimps. His first musical instrument, within the family of trumpets, was a long, tin horn that he would blast while working on a coal delivery wagon to let clients know the wagon was coming. At age 10 Louis Armstrong had earned enough money to buy a battered cornet in a pawnshop. By age 11 he had left school, left his job, and organized a street corner quartet. Unfortunately, while on the street he committed some minor crimes and was sent to reform school at the age of 12. While in reform school Louis Armstrong joined the band and developed his talent. He became the leader of the band which changed his reputation. By the age of 13, he was back on the street and found small jobs to keep himself out of trouble.

As a teenager, Louis Armstrong worked with professional musicians and joined Fate Marable's band playing on a riverboat in Mississippi. By his early twenties, he could outplay any trumpets at cutting contests where soloists improvised until one was clearly outperforming the others. With the addition of 23-year-old Lois Armstrong to the Fletcher Henderson band in New York, the band began to really swing with their new featured soloist. A year later he formed his own group in Chicago called the Hot Five. He organized the band and music around the solos which became one of the key characteristics of modern jazz.


Louis Armstrong became known as the father of modern jazz trumpets and the first modern jazz soloist. He greatly extended the range of trumpets as he could hit high notes that none of his peers could reach. His main contribution to jazz was his sense of rhythm which had a natural beat that made anyone listening want to get up and dance. Louis Armstrong taught the world how to really swing. He also taught jazz musicians how to extend the melodic line with improvisations on trumpets. Louis Armstrong used trumpets to belt out loud, sharp cutting sounds that commanded his listeners to pay attention. He had made trumpets the leading instruments with cornets virtually disappearing from the jazz scene.

Trumpets were not the only driving force in Louis Armstrong's career. Not only did he extend the range of trumpets, but he also showcased the extension of his own range of talents. He had a unique compositional and vocal ability, he was comedic, he had charisma, and he had charm. All of these talents wrapped up together made for a famously popular musician and showman.

    By Dianna Joseph
    Dianna Joseph is the owner of DJ Music Store. She is a saxophonist, novice pianist, and novice guitarist. In addition, she is an occupational therapist who works with a host of disabilities utilizing sensory integration and neurodevelopmental therapy in combination with music and a variety of other techniques to assist these persons in achieving the highest level of function and quality of life possible.
    Article Source: EzineArticles



Monday, January 8, 2018

The Great RAGTIME Pianists Through the Years

English: Copy of sheet music for Maple Leaf Ra...
 Maple Leaf Rag, published in US pre-1923.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ragtime is a style that developed from the roughest of neighborhoods and was originally performed in brothels. A precursor to jazz, it is enjoying a resurgence in popularity today. There are quite a few famous ragtime pianists, though many of the originators of the genre died before audio recording was widely available.

Though not famous purely for his piano playing, Scott Joplin remains the most influential ragtime composer. Joplin wrote the first instrumental ("Maple Leaf Rag") to sell over one million copies. Though he never recorded a note, famous friends bore witness to his skills, saying that he played slowly but with perfect execution.

Joplin created several piano rolls for companies, some of which survive today. Unfortunately, the illness that eventually killed him also caused his later playing to suffer, which is why there is debate as to his technical skill. Still, Joplin's mastery of ragtime composition laid the groundwork upon which later pianists would embellish.

Another ragtime composer noted for his piano skills was Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. Beginning his training at a young age in a local brothel, Morton developed both great technical skills and a rather infamous ego. He brought the techniques he had learned from playing ragtime piano to Chicago, where he wrote the first jazz song, "Jelly Roll Blues." Morton brought traditions from New Orleans to the rest of the world and turned piano playing, and music in general, completely upside down.

The image of composer, Eubie Blake (1887-1983).
Eubie Blake (1887-1983).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eubie Blake was yet another practitioner of the style, though he incorporated other musical genres into his playing. As a boy of four or five, he climbed onto an organ bench while shopping with his mother. Blake started fooling around with the instrument, causing the store owner to proclaim him a genius. His parents bought a pump organ, and he received lessons from his neighbor. He also played in a bordello before moving on to play in proper bands.

Blake composed the song Charleston Rag, which became a huge crossover hit. He went on to write one of the first Broadway musicals written and directed by African Americans.

Sometimes referred to as New York Ragtime, stride piano developed from traditional styles into its own form of playing. Developed during World War I by Luckey Roberts and James Johnson, it relies heavily on the left hand playing a bass line and the right hand playing chords on alternating beats. Though it is often related more to jazz playing, stride was given birth through ragtime.

Modern pianists continue to keep ragtime in the public eye. Butch Thompson was an integral part of A Prairie Home Companion between 1974 and 1986, serving as both the house pianist and band leader. Thompson began playing at the age of three, taking up lessons a few years later. After playing the clarinet in high school, he went to college and joined a local jazz group. After this, he traveled to New Orleans to learn from the masters of jazz and ragtime. He currently tours the world and hosts a jazz program on the radio in Minneapolis.




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Joy Of PIANO Improvisation

Jesus "Chuchito" Valdes - Detroit Jazz Festival 2009
Photo  by Brian Callahan (Luxgnos.com) 
If you have never experienced the fun and joy of improvising on the piano, then you are missing out on a great experience. Imagine an artist who does not know how to draw or paint without tracing or copying another’s work.

That is unheard of. Yet, many piano players lack the ability to improvise on the piano! This is caused by years of rigid piano lesson/structure and a lack of proper guidance.

Many piano players rely on sheet music to be able to play, which would be like an artist only copying another’s artwork and never creating something unique. Improvisation is a fun process. It enables the pianist to bring out the latent potential of creativity and expression inside them.

One thing that will help any piano player to improve on the art of improvisation is to allow unstructured creative time during one's piano practice hours.

Time to just sit down and make up music on the piano is crucial. No agenda, no structure, no goals to accomplish. This process is extremely important in the world of piano playing.

In order to allow the inner expression to come out, one needs to let it reveal itself. A good example of this is how young children play the piano. If you can observe a child learning the piano do so. Very often, young children are able to reach a creative and fun play "scheme" without any guidance at all. Similarly, any piano player should allow 15-30 minutes of "free play" without worrying about hitting the wrong notes.

Traditional piano lessons emphasize the ability to read notes. Reading ability is no doubt one of the most important skills any piano player can possess. This emphasis, however, has created some "lopsided" players who can only play piano by reading. Eventually, this type of player will lose their interest and passion for music.

Many young children drop out of piano lessons as a result of struggling with music reading. Children who are younger than 5 or 6 are discouraged from traditional piano lessons due to the fact that they cannot yet read musical notes properly.

Music is commonly referred to as a "language." There are many ways of learning a language. Young children master the language skill by frequently talking and interacting with their peers and caretakers as well as imitating other people. The ability to read comes a little later in their life. A similar approach needs to be taken to foster the love of piano music among young children. Sometimes by just allowing young children to make up music on the piano without placing emphasis on playing the correct notes can be just as important.




Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ELLA FITZGERALD: American Jazz Singer, Queen of Jazz, The First Lady of Song and a 50 Year Career

Ella Fitzgerald in 1968
Ella Fitzgerald in 1968 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ella Fitzgerald was classified as a Jazz singer but this talented lady singer was so much more than that. She could sing Jazz, Ballads, Swing, and Pop. And she had the special talent of being able to sing Scat. She started singing scat while working with Dizzy Gillespie's band. In reference to this Ella said, "I just tried to do with my voice what I heard the horns in the band doing". The New York Times described her Scat recording of "Flying Home" as one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade."

Ella started her professional singing career in 1935 with Big-bands such as Chuck Webb's Orchestra. At the time they were playing at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. She recorded several hit song such as "Love and Kisses", and "If You Can't Sing It You'll Have to Swing It." She recorded over 150 songs while with the orchestra.

In 1942, Ella left the band scene to begin a career as a solo singer. She signed with the Decca label and she had several hit songs while working with Jazz producer Norman Granz. In the mid-1940s following swing music, jazz began to take on a different style called Bebop.

In 1955 Ella left Decca to sing on Norman Granz's new record label, Verve Records. Ella said that Granz produced her album of The Cole Porter Songbook and it was a turning point in her life. It was the first of eight multi-album "Songbook" sets that she would record for Verve until 1964.

Another album production of Granz was "Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook." It was the only Songbook that the composer of the songs actually played with her.

During the years that she was recording the Songbooks, she also toured 40-45 weeks per year in the United States and internationally which helped her to become one of the most important live jazz performers.

In her later life, Ella kept busy touring but her health began to decline. She had heart surgery in 1986. She also had diabetes, her eyesight was failing, and both of her legs were amputated below the knee. She was unable to perform and she never completely recovered. She died in 1996 at her home in Beverly Hills, California.

One can tell much about a person by some of the comments she has made over the years.

She said, "I sing like I feel." That comment shows that a singer has to have emotion about the song she is recording. Without emotion, it is pretty bland.

She also said "A lot of singers think all they have to do is exercise their tonsils to get ahead. They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside". With those words, she is so right. Anyone that just does what she is referring to has no concept what it is to develop as a singer and indeed would not have a clue as to why they are not progressing.

And finally, she stated, "The only thing better than singing, is more singing". By that, she is saying she just loves to sing. She is passionate about singing. It's what makes her successful.



Read what others had to say about Ella.

Arthur Fielder "Ella's voice becomes the orchestra's richest and most versatile sound."

Bing Crosby "Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all."

Richard Rogers "Whatever she does to my songs, she always makes them sound better."

Perry Como "She has been one of my all-time favorite singers for many years and still is - she's terrific."

Johnny Mathis "She was the best. She was the best there ever was. Amongst all of us who sing, she was the best."

Vincente Minnelli "If you want to learn how to sing, listen to Ella Fitzgerald".

Pearl Bailey "Ella is simply the greatest singer of them all."

She won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million records. In 1987 President Ronald Regan awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

We are so blessed to have this talented lady singer be a part of our music profession. The one thing I want to say about this superb singer is "Swing Ella, Swing!"




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Homage to LOUIS ARMSTRONG

English: Head and shoulders portrait of jazz m...
Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician Louis Armstrong.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
For the last 15 years, I have been living in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee has its HQ, and where the writer (most famously for A Many-Splendoured Thing) and controversial "provocative" Han Suyin lived before she passed away on 2 November this year, among other things. It is also where the world-famous business school IMD is located where I have been working. I love this world, and when one is in love with the world Lausanne is not a bad place to be.

It is by the lake Léman, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with most of the time blue skies, no pollution, and riotous colors of nature in the city as well as around. My flat is about 15 minutes' walk to IMD. I am often away and travel perhaps 75% of my time. But when I am here, I invariably walk to work and in so doing pass by gardens, hear birds, see squirrels, sometimes, if it's especially early, a fox or two, all depending on the season of course, but always splendid. I get to my office and hum Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World!

As far as I can remember, I have always loved the world. But not just the flowers, lakes, trees and hills, nor just the birds, squirrels, and deer, but also the men and the women - or at least many of them, the tremendous variety of languages, cultures, histories, literature, painting, music, topographies, architecture, food and drink, and so on. Of course, there is a lot of evil in this world, there is misery, which needs to be combated; there are lots of jerks; but in aggregate, what a wonderful world indeed.

Danger to the wonderful world
But the world is in grave danger of losing its splendor, its identity, and its diversity. On the last, diversity, I refer not only to biodiversity, but also to cultural diversity and indeed cultural identity. The world has never been so interconnected and so open. Yet, as an educator, I am constantly struck by how little people actually know or learn about not only other countries but often even their own!
An illustration: A few days ago I took a flight from Dhaka to Istanbul. 



Just before departure an announcement came on that the audio/visual system was not functioning, hence there would be no "entertainment". The business class was full. With very, very few exceptions (I was one), the passengers, when not sleeping, spent the nine hours flight staring into emptiness. They had no books with them, nothing to read, nothing from which to learn, nothing to challenge their minds. They are traveling physically, but not intellectually.

In his brilliant book Collapse, author Jared Diamond has shown how societies can commit ecocide and indeed have committed ecocide. That is a major threat this wonderful world faces. Another major threat is the destruction of civilization due to excessive materialism and absence of curiosity.