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Archive for the tag “jazz”

celebrating jazz appreciation month

jazz appreciation monthJazz Appreciation Month was created 13 years ago at the Smithsonian, which considerately provides this list of 112 ways to celebrate jazz. My own appreciation for jazz developed late in life. Although my partner of 30 years was a professional jazz musician, I’m just a little bit resistant and considered jazz to be his music. I didn’t listen to much of it at all.

But a character in a story I was writing turned out to be a big jazz fan. I knew enough to make the guy’s interest in jazz believable, but somewhere along the re-write route—a few years after my partner died—I started along my own path to becoming an actual jazz fan.

If my partner were around to compare notes (sorry!) now, we would probably discover some shared interests, although he might be a bit surprised to learn that I named the cat I have now Naima, after the John Coltrane tune of the same name.

I’m sure we would also find that our preferences don’t completely overlap. For example, I’m a huge Sonny Rollins fan, and I can’t recall ever seeing a Sonny Rollins LP or CD among my partner’s music collection.

Jazz has all kinds of moods, high and low, fast and slow, sunny and blue. But this post is about celebration, so I give you the most celebratory Sonny Rollins tune of all, Don’t Stop the Carnival, performed live at the International Jazz Festival in Montreal in 1982. Simply joyous! So please enjoy it.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

happy birthday, John Coltrane

Born 87 years ago today; died too young at 40. This is my favorite of his songs–and one of my all-time favorite songs period, Naima, from the album Giant Steps.

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5 takes on Take Five

Jazz really is a universal language. If you don’t think that’s true, listen to these renditions of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” from around the world–beginning with, of course, the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Dave Brubeck Quartet (live in Belgium 1964)

Igor Presnyakov (Russia)

Bolyki Brothers (Poland)

Sachal Studios Orchestra (Pakistan)

Diego Figueiredo (Brazil)

it’s still Newk’s time

I didn’t have much exposure to either jazz or classical music until I graduated from high school into the wider world (one town over from mine). Among the group of friends I made in college, it was almost a requirement to own certain jazz LPs, among them Quiet Nights by Miles Davis, Song for my Father by Horace Silver, and My Favorite Things by John Coltrane. They provided the backdrop for the many serious discussions we held in each other’s apartments  ’round midnight and well into the early morning.

When I got together with my partner, R.C., who was 14 years older than me and had for a time been a professional jazz musician (keyboards), we merged our music collections. His was much more extensive and diverse than mine, but those three albums were some of the few we both owned copies of.

Classical music made more of an impression on me than the jazz did, and somehow I didn’t let 30 years of living with a jazz musician impact my lack of appreciation for the music. That was his thing, not mine. When he died seven and a half years ago, I picked out a few CDs from his collection, let his son take all that he wanted, and donated the rest to the public library. I did play Kind of Blue by Miles over and over for months, but then I put it away.

Sonny Rollins

I developed my current love of modern jazz pretty much on my own several years ago by borrowing CDs from the library to listen to. After deciding who and what I liked, I built up my own modest jazz collection. I still don’t appreciate Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, or (don’t strike me dead, Lord, I did purchase one of his CDs) Thelonious Monk. I dug deeper into Coltrane, added to the Miles collection, and welcomed back Oscar Peterson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Gerry Mulligan. I also “discovered,” among others, Art Blakey, Lester Young, Teddy Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, and wonder-of-wonders, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Better late than never.

saxophone colossus

Sonny Rollins is one of the minority of his peers, it seems, who not only hasn’t succumbed to drug and/or alcohol addiction or otherwise died too young, but who is also still creating, composing, and performing. At 82, he just this month performed a 90-minute set at Davies Symphony Hall for the 30th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival. A few years ago, he headlined the New Mexico Jazz Festival, and I was severely disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend. (Wherever he is, I’m sure R.C. was shaking his head over that.)

One of my favorite albums of his is Don’t Stop the Carnival, recorded live at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in April 1978. I was actually living there, but in complete oblivion, at the time, so I missed that, too.

Two of his best-known albums are Saxophone Colossus and The Bridge. I happen to like Sonny Side Up with Sonny Stitt and Dizzy Gillespie quite a lot, too.

His signature song is “St. Thomas,” from Saxophone Colossus:

And here’s “The Bridge,” from The Bridge:

One more: the title tune from Tenor Madness, with John Coltrane:

Everyone should have a little Sonny Rollins around for times that are already good (to make them even better) and times that are not so good (to smooth out the bumps or at least make you want to get up and move). Go, Sonny! Long may you run.

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Note: Newk’s Time is the title of an album released in 1958. Rollins got the nickname because he resembled–and was once mistaken for–a major league baseball player named Donald Newcombe, whose nickname was Newk.

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