Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Angela Davis & Carmen McRae

Enjoy an interesting discussion between Angela Davis and Carmen McRae. Topics discussed include jazz, the influence of McRae's upbringing on her pursuit of a musical career, women in the music, and McRae's songwriting, racism, and the sense of "feeling" in jazz vocals.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Papa Loko

Papa Loko
Ou se van
 Wa pouse'n ale
Nou se papiyon 
Na pote nouvel bay Agwe

Monday, April 6, 2020

Canto de Ossanha

Obsessed with Brazilian music this week, and loving the vocals on this track from Baden Powell's Afro-Sambas. Everything sounds better in Brazilian-accented Portuguese. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Mood Indigo for Ellis Marsalis

While I am not deeply familiar with Ellis Marsalis or New Orleans jazz after the 1930, his loss was staggering for jazz. I knew his legacy best through his sons, Wynton and Branford. Sure, I disagree with much of Wynton's statements on jazz (the PBS documentary series was, despite some stronger early episodes, a bit of a disaster). However, his father was an early colleague of Ornette Coleman, proof of how open-minded Ellis was about innovators operating outside bop or New Orleans jazz. Indeed, Coleman's association with Ed Blackwell and Ellis Marsalis establishes his ties to the roots of jazz, if you will. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020

Bahia, Gato Style

Like Coltrane's interpretation of Ary Barroso's immortal composition, "Bahia," Gato Barbieri makes it utterly his own. Accompanied by excellent Latin percussionists and berimbau (Nana Vasconcelos?), Barbieri turns this into a jazz freewheeler without losing touch with the Afro-Brazilian "essence." The use of the upper register of his horn does not clash at all with this melodic number. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz

The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz is not a biography that I was searching for. Nonetheless, Magee's text is a detailed analysis of Henderson's music across the entirety of his career, stretching from the 1920s "society orchestra" phase to swing. While I have long been a fan of Henderson, this text explains how Henderson the musician and arranger established the template for swing and jazz at its height as popular music (the Kingdom of Swing, a cultural symbol of the New Deal). It would seem that Henderson, and particularly skilled arrangers such as Don Redman, were able to breathe life into stock arrangements, incorporate the soloistic virtuosity of instrumentalists like Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, and transform jazz through arrangements of Tin Pan Alley and popular tunes for Benny Goodman.

While Henderson himself is often in the background or his involvement with arranging prior to the 1930s is shrouded in some degree of mystery, it is clear that his orchestra coalesced different influences in jazz and popular music of the era to lay the foundation of became known as swing. Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Benny Carter, Horace Henderson, Leora Henderson were clearly pivotal in the direction of the orchestra, and the number of musicians who were schooled in Henderson proved to be important in the future of the music. Without Don Redman and Fletcher, working collaboratively with excellent musicians, to parody, reinvent, signify, and expand the repertoire of popular song, blues, and jazz with an impeccable swing, the annals of the music's history would look quite different. 

While more details of Henderson's personal life could have shed light on some of his decisions, Magee considers sociological suggestions made by Gunther Schuller and others on the role of class, as well as cultural and ideological factors, in the development of the Henderson "sound." As a product of a "black middle class upbringing", with a respected father in Cuthbert, Georgia as his father, Henderson was a graduate of Atlanta University. College-educated, and reared in the respectability of his background, Henderson learned jazz and blues in New York, where he moved in 1920. His class background, as someone whose formal training in music was classical and church-based, he represents what Gunther Schuller referred to as a shift in jazz as African American musicians with more formal musical training entered the field. Henderson's musical career, analyzed by Magee, is a wonderful example of this trend on a micro-scale as his band's versatility and "symphonic jazz approach" to the blues balanced "hot" and "sweet." Unfortunately, with only the recordings, extant charts, and some personal testimonies, we still lack a full picture of how Henderson electrified live audiences and dancers in legendary clubs and ballrooms of New York...