I have a lot to thank Grant Green for.
As a fan of soul and funk music I have always loved the guitarist’s funkier sides for many years without knowing much about him or his story. But, after reading Richard Cook’s Blue Note Records- the Biography I now have a much fuller picture of the “Great Green” as I call him. I learned how Blue Note founder Alfred Lion had given the young Green an opportunity to lead his first debut session in November 1960 – but then rejected the session as unsatisfactory even though it included the pianist Wynton Kelly and drummer Philly Joe Jones. It would be left on the shelf gathering dust for forty years. By the time it was released in 2001, Green had recorded thirty solo albums for the label, was recognised as a genius and had been dead for over twenty years.
It was Grant Green’s story that was partly my inspiration for a series of radio shows currently being broadcast on Ipswich Community Radio (105.7FM and www.icrfm.co.uk) on Monday between 5-6pm. They tell the story of this much loved record label, started by two German immigrants (Alfred Lion and Max Margulis) which was to become one the greatest and most recognisable brands in musical history.
All that happened seventy years ago and in 2009 Blue Note will celebrate 70 years of inspirational jazz music. Today – after many transitions, trials and musical fashions – the label remains a powerful force in jazz.
Of course its roster of artists is very different. In Alfred Lion’s day you wouldn’t see a single vocalist but instead the instrumental talents of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Kenny Burrell and the ubiquitous Art Blakey‘s Messengers were at the heart of Blue Note.
Today the label is home to the most diverse range of artists a label could have – from vocalist Norah Jones to hip hop producer Madlib. Hundreds of rap artists have sampled Blue Note grooves over recent years, giving the label a hip profile with a new younger generation.
Within months of its launch, in May 1939, an early flyer described Blue Note as “a musical and social manifestation”. And that’s the spirit that current Director Bruce Lundval has skilfully managed to maintain. Blue Note lives!
[Blue Note covers by Reid Miles – graphic artist]
Tune into Cosmic Jazz every Thursday between 8 and 10pm on www.icrfm.co.uk
Our first ever best of the year show with some great tracks from 2008.
We started with the new CD from Harry Beckett, produced by dub maestro Adrian Sherwood. This is a really contemporary sound for the great Barbadian/British trumpeter and worked well followed by Nigeria’s Seun Kuti and the Ethiopian dub of the Dub Colossus project, led by Nick Page. Derek and I have really enjoyed a couple of the cover mount CDs from Jazzwise magazine this year – vocalist Ruby Wood’s version of Coltrane’s Africa featured on the latest one and so it seemed appropriate to follow with a contemporary classic – Jack deJohnette’s unique take on ‘trane’s India from one of the many ECM Touchstone reissues which came out this year.
New music from rising stars like Arun Ghosh and Jamil Sheriff was matched by brilliant new material from Holland and Arve Henriksen but there just wasn’t time for all our favourites in this two hour special. So, there will be more in our first live show of 2009 – including EST’s amazing Leucocyte, the live CDs from Charles Lloyd and Kenny Garrett and the dubstep collection Steppa’s Delight.
Listen in on 08 January for great new music from 2008, and on New Year’s Day extend the party mood with a jazz dance special!
1. Harry Beckett – Ultimate Tribute
2. Seun Kuti – Mosquito Song
3. Dub Colossus – Azmari Dub
4. Ruby Wood – Africa
5. Jack deJohnette’s Special Edition – India
6. Arun Ghosh – Bondhu
7. Zoe and Idris Rahman – Sanctuary
8. Claudia and Brazilian Octopus – Gosto de Ser Como Sou
9. Arve Henriksen – Migration
10. Tabu Ley with Onaza – Likambo ya Mokanda
11. Sleep Walker – Brotherhood
12. Quasimode – Raw Cotton Field (live)
13. Joe Zawinul – Scarlet Woman (live)
14. Celestine Ukwu and his Philosophers National – Okwukwe Na Nchekwube
15. Dave Holland – Pass It On
16. Jamil Sheriff Octet – The Happy Ending
17. Dave Douglas – Tough (live)
18. Hajime Yoshizawa – Yoake -Dawn-
When we discovered that it was McCoy Tyner’s 70th birthday today we had to do a feature. We’ve featured Tyner since the show began and his muscular, pounding style (especially in his Milestone recordings of the 70s) is always a great sound.
1. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
2. McCoy Tyner – Sahara
3. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
4. McCoy Tyner – Horizon
5. McCoy Tyner – Indo-Serenade
6. John Coltrane – Song of the Underground Railroad
7. McCoy Tyner – Mode for Dulcimer
8. John Coltrane – Olé
9. McCoy Tyner – Groove Waltz
10. McCoy Tyner – Fly With The Wind
11. McCoy Tyner – Man From Tanganyika
12. McCoy Tyner – T ‘n’ A Blues
13. John Coltrane – The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost
This was a solo show from Derek, with some help from Jacob. There were two themes to the show tonight. Firstly, tracks from jazz CD compilations including A Sense of Direction, African Spirits and the CD that comes with the current December/January edition of Jazzwise – The Yamaha New Jazz Sessions. I have only just received my copy, but from the first few samples that I have heard, I can tell you that it is definitely worth the cost of Jazzwise. I played the Gwilym Simcock tune A Typical Affair that mixes intricate piano with strong drumming – reminiscent of EST [Yes – adds Neil – a great track and a great example of the best of the new British jazz]. There was a brief introduction, also, to the long track by the Julian Joseph Trio at the end of the show.
The second feature was an intense five track extended feature on Japanese jazz. The brief for Jacob was to find me five tunes that he liked at the moment, but they still included some old favourites. The beginning of the mix was slower in tempo than we have come to associate with the genre, but by the end things were up tempo and hot. Japanese jazz as we have come to know and love it. Good, though, to have that time for calmer reflection at the start.
Tune in next week (4 December) for our Blue Note record exchange special with Alan Bramwell, who is currently presenting a series of programmes on ICR between 17.00 – 18.00 hrs on Monday nights. This series covers the story of Blue Note to celebrate the label’s 70th birthday. On 11 December we celebrate another 70th birthday – that of the pianist and jazz legend McCoy Tyner – which happens to be on that very day!!!
1. Sathima B. Benjamin – Africa
2. Michael White – Blessing Song
3. Grant Green – Ain’t it Funky Now
4. Brecker Brothers – Jacknife
5. Don Byron – “Auf einer Burg”
6. Gwilym Simcock – A Typical Affair
7. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Hahen
8. Quasimode – Raw Cotton Field (Live at Liquidroom)
9. Fumio Itabashi – Symphonic Poem “Watarase” with Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra feat. Yuki Kaneko
10. Sleep Walker – Kaze
11. What’s Up? – Telemundo
12. Abram Wilson – Pedal Herlin
13. Sabrina Malheiros – Terra De Ninguem
14. Cocoa Tea – Barack Obama
15. Azar Lawrence – Theme for a New Day
16. Julian Joseph Trio – The Reverend Back Home to Glory
Neil adds: Look out for our best of 2008 Christmas party show broadcast on Christmas Day with a bonus of more great music from 2008 on our New Year’s Day show. What were the best new releases and reissues you heard this year? Use the comment feature on the blog to let us know – then listen in and compare!
There’s been a lot of hype about the British jazz group Empirical. The entire front line of Nat Facey, Jay Phelps and Kit Downes were each nominated in the rising star category in the recent BBC jazz awards – what are the chances of that happening again? A quartet tonight (no Phelps on trumpet) – with alto saxophone, piano, bass, and drums – Empirical are young and sharply dressed in a post-Wynton kind of way. Does that affect the music? Answers on a postcard or better still comment in a blog – preferably ours…
So, with such rising reputations, I had high expectations of their visit to Ipswich. Were they fulfilled? Not entirely, but the longer the performance went on, the better it got. They are accomplished musicians and play collectively, a welcome change from the all too frequent and predictable head-solo-applause-solo-applause pattern which can lessen one’s appreciation of some jazz clubs. They play original compositions and they play tunes by Eric Dolphy. There is nothing wrong with that, especially when you have an intriguingly deep alto player like Nathaniel Facey in the band. In fact, a tribute album to Eric Dolphy is planned for release next month.
The size of the crowd was encouraging for a Sunday night in Ipswich and although playing in a theatre, the rapport between audience and band felt good. The band at the start of the night commented on the quality of the sound following sound checks and their enthusiasm for playing. And yet, the first set left me disappointed. Was it good in individual parts rather than a whole, was it disjointed, was it too academic and clever? Not sure, maybe it was all of these things – but it left me unsure.
But what a transformation for the second set! More extended tunes, fire instead of ice, involvement replacing distance, emotion where there had been coldness. I felt engaged. The audience were happy and their applause brought an Eric Dolphy’ tune as an encore.
For me, this had been a night of two halves rescued by an enhanced and more unified team performance after the break. Must have been those half time oranges… We will be checking them out again in the New Year when they come to Fleece Jazz – this time with young vibes star Lewis Wright in tow.
With Jazz FM’s relaunch there’s a little more jazz on the radio. Most of it is smooth rather than cosmic but worth listening to are Mike Chadwick’s weekend programmes – Latin Party (Friday 19-00 to 21-00), Saturday Night Experience (Saturday 20.00 – 23.00) and Cutting Edge (Sunday 22.00 – 00.00).
Check out Jazz FM at www.jazzfm.com
For more jazz on radio try BBC R3 and Jez Nelson’s excellent Jazz on 3 programme.
More details here.