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Clark TerryClark Terry, (December 14, 1920–February 21, 2015), jazz trumpet player, scat singer, composer, educator

Clark Terry was one of the major swing soloists on the trumpet and a godfather of jazz to thousands. He was born in St. Louis and took up trumpet and valve trombone. He started out playing in local jazz clubs before moving to New York.

Terry is one of a handful of musicians that played in the bands of both Count Basie and Duke Ellington. He was known for a smooth, warm sound and imaginative solo work, complemented by a joyous, outgoing personality and keen sense of humor. He pioneered the use of the flügelhorn in jazz and developed a legato approach to swing with the use of his “doodle” tonguing. He later became the first African-American staff musician at NBC when he joined the Tonight Show Band. During Johnny Carson’s tenure, the popular “Stump the Band” segment would often feature Terry’s conversational scat singing in a routine that later turned into his best-known song, Mumbles, which he first recorded with Oscar Peterson.

Besides recording with various groups with such as Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Bob Brookmeyer, Red Holloway, and Louie Bellson, he also fronted an orchestra known as the Big B-A-D Band, which featured performers such as Phil Woods, Jimmy Heath, and Duke Jordan, as well as the arrangements of Ernie Wilkins. He continued to perform in his later years and appears on almost 1,000 recordings as a leader or sideman. He also served as a jazz ambassador for the United Nations

In addition to his work as a performing artist, Terry was deeply interested in jazz education and helping out young musicians. This began early in life when he mentored fellow St. Louis trumpet player Miles Davis, as well as musician and producer Quincy Jones. Terry played an important role with Dr. Billy Taylor in the development of jazz education and later taught at William Paterson University. He later helped discover and promote a new generation of leading jazz stars, such as Dianne Reeves and Wynton Marsalis. This side of his professional life is featured in the critically acclaimed 2014 documentary Keep On Keepin’ On,” which showcases Terry helping and encouraging the young blind jazz pianist, Justin Kauflin. Diabetes may have slowed him down in his 90’s , but he continued to teach and inspire visiting musicians from around the world at his home in Arkansas. He also published his autobiography in 2011.

His numerous honors include a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an NEA Jazz Master, and over a dozen honorary doctorates. He also had the distinction of performing for eight U.S. Presidents. Clark Terry died from diabetes at the age of 94.

Visit the official Clark Terry website here.

On a personal note, one of the biggest highlights of my professional career was sharing the stage with CT during my college years at the University of Montana. Not only was he one of the most gifted musicians I’ve ever known, but he remains in my memory as one of the kindest and encouraging, as well. An amateur photographer friend took a couple of pictures of the two of us on stage. I had one blown up into a poster and years later, when our paths crossed again here in Wichita, I had him autograph it for me. It is one of my most prized possessions.

Playing "Take The 'A' Train"

Playing “Take The ‘A’ Train”

CT& Me (Feb. 2, 1985)

CT & Me (Feb. 2, 1985)

My sincere condolences to his dear wife, Gwen. I am looking forward to a great jam session with him again in the presence of God, who Clark affectionately referred to as “Big Prez.” His humility, graciousness, and generosity of spirit remain as an example of a life well lived. As CT himself said in a recent blog post:

“To all of you who are still on this side of the grass with me, I want you to know that I appreciate everything that you have done and are doing for me. I thank Big Prez for all of your kindness and encouragement every single day. I love you with all of my heart. Let’s keep praying for each other, and keep on keepin’ on!”

 

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Miles Davis: Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet

WorkinThe Songs:

  1. It Never Entered My Mind
  2. Four
  3. In Your Own Sweet Way
  4. The Theme [Take 1]
  5. Trane’s Blues
  6. Ahmad’s Blues
  7. Half Nelson
  8. The Theme [Take 2]

Personnel:

  • Miles Davis – trumpet
  • John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
  • Red Garland – piano
  • Paul Chambers – bass
  • Philly Joe Jones – drums

Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet was recorded at the same two marathon sessions in May and October 1956 that also produced the albums Cookin’, Relaxin’, and Steamin’Since Miles had signed a long-term deal with Columbia Records in 1955, the 1956 sessions were done to fulfill his contract requirements for Prestige Records. Workin’ is a laid back collection of bluesy tunes and ballads. With the exception of “Half Nelson,” (which was recorded on the October date), the rest of the album was done at the May session.

Miles and the rhythm section were in excellent form throughout the session; however, John Coltrane seems to have struggled some on this date. At this point in Coltrane’s career, (before his apprenticeship with Thelonious Monk before returning to Miles), he was battling drug addiction and still searching for an adequate personal style of expression. His output on Prestige was inconsistent, and this particular material did not yet seem to suit him. (Coltrane’s enormous growth, particularly on slower songs, is in evidence on a pair of 1963 Impulse albums: Ballads and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.)

Nonetheless, this album and its three companions still showcase one of the most legendary groups in jazz covering some classic material. Miles revisits his own classic “Four,” trading licks with the powerhouse percussion of Philly Joe Jones, while offering a quicker take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.”  In performance at clubs, Miles would frequently take a break and allow the rhythm section a featured number or two. Workin’ reflects that practice with the trio performance of “Ahmad’s Blues,” with Red Garland both imitating and later contrasting Ahmad Jamal’s own style which was such an influence on Miles. Each side of the original album ended with the quintet’s signature tune, “The Theme,” which remained Miles’ set closer clear up into his jazz-rock period in the early 1970’s. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Frank Alkyer (ed.). The Miles Davis Reader (Downbeat Hall Of Fame).

Herbie Hancock: The Piano

The Songs:Hancock-The Piano

  1. My Funny Valentine
  2. On Green Dolphin Street
  3. Someday My Prince Will Come
  4. Harvest Time
  5. Sonrisa
  6. Manhattan Island
  7. Blue Otani
  8. My Funny Valentine (Bonus Alternate Take)
  9. On Green Dolphin Street (Bonus Alternate Take)
  10. Someday My Prince Will Come (Bonus Alternate Take)
  11. Harvest Time (Bonus Alternate Take)

Personnel:

  • Herbie Hancock – acoustic piano

In October of 1978, Herbie Hancock was in Japan to record two audiophile direct-to-disc recordings. The first album, Directstep, featured his Headhunters band. The second album, The Piano, was recorded one week later. In the direct-to-disc recording process, an entire side of a vinyl album was recorded in one take and simultaneously transcribed onto a lacquer master, avoiding the use of magnetic tape. Because of this, no overdubbing is possible and if a mistake is made, the entire set must be re-recorded. This disc was released in early 1979 and was originally available only in Japan. It did not see a U.S. release until a CD was issued in 2004, 25 years after the original session. The CD includes 4 alternate takes, which constituted one recording set in the studio for the direct-to-disc engineering.

Hancock had been pioneering the use of electronic keyboards in jazz for several years up until this time, but 1978 saw a resurgence of interest for him in the acoustic piano. Other highlights of the year include a tour and recording with the Miles Davis tribute band V.S.O.P. and a highly acclaimed duet tour with fellow pianist Chick Corea, his successor in Miles’ band and another innovator on synthesizers.

The album consists of 3 ballads closely associated with Miles Davis, who Herbie performed them with frequently as a member of the classic “Second Quintet“. The remaining songs are all Hancock originals. The Piano remains unique among the dozens of albums in Hancock’s discography, as it is the only one to consist entirely of solo acoustic piano performances. As the most important and influential pianist since Bill Evans, Herbie is known for being a sensitive and creative accompanist, as well as for his dynamic interplay with other members of a typical rhythm section. This collection of powerful, yet understated solo outings offer a rare opportunity to hear his melodic inventiveness without any backdrop. In the words of the promotional material that accompanied the CD release, this is “an absolute lost gem in the dazzling discography of this master.” (Buy it here.)

This week’s post is dedicated to the memory of my dear college friend, Jamie Kelly, who was a talented jazz pianist and gifted writer. We had similar personalities and shared many interests. I have fond memories of playing some of the same standards found on this album with him. His love and compassion for others will remain as a great legacy to the family and friends he leaves behind. Rest in peace, kiddo.

Jamie

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