December 2013 was a busy month. i was out selectively galavanting eschewing the club scene and proving once again that if it doesn’t happen in New York City it just doesn’t happen. herewith some highlights.
ASCAP JAZZ WALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY – December 9
each year the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) hosts an awards show that is unique in that it is dedicated to jazz, exclusively. within its boundaries in the ASCAP Gallery is a wall inscribed with the names of ASCAP and BMI members chosen annually by a select committee. there are living honorees as well as jazz greats from the past. their names appear superimposed on a blowup of a famous photo of King Oliver’s and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven. 2013′s inductees included Cab Calloway, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Arturo Sandoval. also honored were 29 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers, Jazz’s future, introduced by Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart. it brought tears to some in the audience to see jazzers as young as pre-teen and students from other countries who are studying our music with serious intent. gets ya right here. we pray they find places to play and recording companies willing to take a shot.
bassist/vocalist Esperanze Spalding received the ASCAP Vanguard Award. this super bright –and young– player, composer and educator has already received many awards including a controversial major Grammy New Star. her presentation was the initial musical portion of the afternoon.
in what rapidly turned into a bottom-feeding frenzy the bass choir of Boris Kozlov, Leonhart and Rufus Reid saluted Mingus with his widow and activist Sue Graham Mingus accepting. Koslov, incidentally, owns a Mingus bass and plays in the Sue Mingus-propelled aggregations of various sizes of Charles’ music.
Leonhart presented the Calloway Award to son Chris Calloway Brooks, guitarist and vocalist with Reid joining in. there is also a daughter of the same given name, i.e., Chris Calloway. another Calloway was present and happily mingled during the reception. i made sure that the youngsters were properly aware of her presence as we engaged in conversation.
Ornette Coleman is a favorite son of ASCAP. they hosted a special ceremony when the alto saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist and composer won a Pulitzer. he also owns a MacArthur “Genius” Award and a Grammy Lifetime. performing was a band led by son Denardo and featured Roy Campbell, Jr., trumpet, with two (2) more basses this time, an electric bass guitar and an acoustic.
Cuban trumpet star Sandoval dedicated his very moving a cappella selection to his adopted country. i am very proud to say that it was i who first brought his sound via a tape of the Cuban band Irakere to ears here. Dizzy Gillespie, of course, was his sponsor. [see my Cuba blogs]
i look forward to these annual events as ASCAP does them up so specially befitting what jazz represents as the United States’ only…you know the mantra. Paul Williams closed the presentments.
KEITH JARRETT/GARY PEACOCK/JACK DeJONETTE, Carnegie Hall – December 11
so why am i again writing about this jazz icon? haven’t we praised Caesar enough? actually, i wasn’t supposed to be here; i was trying to cadge a ticket to this frenziedly sold out event for a Las Vegas friend, who injured herself, so there i was with a ticket thanks to a colleague at A.P. there were rewards aplenty. (i burned CDs from my Jarrett LP collection as a get well for her.)
in this all acoustic night celebrating the trio’s 30-year anny Jarrett was in rare form. he even answered an audience member calling tunes without going into one of his renowned hissy fits. more noteworthy the New York Times ran a photo of Chick Corea with Jarrett’s name as the caption. Jarrett made light of it, but there is at least one reader who will never forget that gaffe.
the tune fare ran the gamut from “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” for his grandchildren in the audience on through ’50s pop, “Answer Me My Love,” “Fever,” and originals such as “Is It Really The Same,” and Ahmad Jamal’s “One For Majid.” in between there were the rarely played “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “The Masquerade Is Over,” seven in the first half and eight including encores after the interval. all were played sans introductions keeping us on our historical toes guessing titles.
the trio was as loose as ever i’ve seen them even offering some blues, an improv on something called “G Blues,” the finale of five (!) encores. among the encores was an Ornette Coleman piece. “When Will The Blues Leave.” with its harmolodic echoes and overtones it was the penultimate encore and in direct contrast to the others.
i have seen Jarrett at his worst and best: leaving the stage because a patron in the front rows was whispering, or others were coughing; i have seen him ducking under the piano whilst still playing the keys –he did stand up. i have heard him curse at his audience whether in a nightclub or a concert hall. but this night was Keith Jarrett at one with and understanding his music, feeling the ballads, choosing from the Great American Songbook seemingly trying to please us. when we cringed at the heckler steeling ourselves for a Jarrett onslaught it didn’t come. what a pleasure.
“AFTER MIDNIGHT” – Brooks Atkinson Theatre, December 18
there have been a spate of jazz-oriented shows running on and off Broadway in the last quarter of 2013. [see my blog on "Lady Day."] After Midnight is in the form of a revue. there have been others over the years. ”Black and Blue,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” and “Eubie” come immediately to mind. they have been spaced so we tend not to remember the ills of what came before. not being a book show like “Lady Day” this one is lively and filled with musicianship –the band is on stage– and dancing, primarily tap.
(l-r) James Zollar, Art Baron, Alphonso Horne
the title, as indicated, comes from what goes on in Harlem after hours when things get jumpin’. for what it’s worth Nat ‘King’ Cole recorded an LP in the 1950s with the same title. his trio brought in guests to play with them in a jam format. that’s the After Midnight i remember.
the enthusiastic cast includes host emcee Dulé Hill and singers Fantasia Barrino, who sometimes goes by her given name only, and Adriane Lenox, both emotional belters who know their way around black music, the blues, r’n'b and soul.
the band, billed as the Jazz At Lincoln Center All Stars, features some of the finest soloists and section people New York has to offer. and with good reason: Wynton Marsalis is their Artistic Director.
but it’s the dancers who demonstrate the fireworks. Phillip Attmore and Daniel J. Watts duo in “Happy As The Day Is Long, ” a pop tune re-conceived by Duke Ellington as well as Duke’s “The Skrontch” with Domeshia Sumbry-Edward are standouts. David Berger transcribed the Ellingtons for this outstanding aggregation of players. the show, which runs without an intermission, contains 27 numbers with music by some familiar names: Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, Sippie Wallace, Harry James, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh and heaping helpings from the Ellington songbook.
Daniel J. Watts, Dormishia
Sumbry Edward, Phillip Attmore,
based on a presentation at City Center’s Encores! series, which i saw in its limited run a couple of years ago, After Midnight is a veritable romp through 1930s Harlem. there are those who favor one or more of those revue’s mentioned above. as for me it doesn’t matter what came before so long as it comes again.
text © January 2014 by arnold jay smith
photos © Matthew Murphy