Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's International Jazz Day

Happy and all that for UNESCO's International Jazz Day, but since I either listen to, think or write (sometimes even dream) about jazz every single day, my celebration will consist of a quiet thought about all the men and women who have spent their lives pursuing beauty in this music, especially those who went against the grain, be it personal problems, illness, financial straits, prison or just the lack of an understanding audience.

As an illustration, I leave you with a live recording in a New York club by a great, happy guitar virtuoso who left us too soon possibly because he worked himself to death, accompanied by an unsung hero of the piano, a true master of swing and the blues who also left way too soon because he lived the life he had to live, despite his epilepsy.

For all those musicians, regardless of gender, skin pigmentation or nationality, "I Remember You" indeed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Denzil Best's "Move"

Denzil Best pictured by Bill Gottlieb
Yesterday was the birthday of Denzil Best (1917-1965) a musician whose life was sadly defined by bad health. He started on trumpet, but had to abandon it when he was very young because of a pulmonary illness. He then went on to play the piano and bass, and finally the drums, on which his brushwork was masterful. Later in life he had problems with his wrists, and finally died after an accident.

Interestingly, in spite of a few good recordings, his place in posterity is secured because of a number of compositions. "Allen's Alley" (a/k/a "Wee"), "Dee Dee's Dance", "45-Degree Angle" (later modified by Herbie Nichols), "Bemsha Swing" (co-signed with Thelonious Monk), and his most famous opus, "Move". Now you'll see why Best deserves all the posterity we can get him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Billie Holiday, Club Bali... and the Internet

It’s funny how some people sometimes long for the great filters of olden days, when there was no internet, from record producers and publicists who had some influence on what music was commercially released or not, to professional journalists and editors who produced well-written, fact-checked copy. Those filters were by no means perfect, but they had their role.

Consider this picture. It was, probably still is, one of the first results when you type “Ray Bauduc”, “Walter Page” or “Claude Hopkins” on the world’s most-used search engine (owners of the blog-platform you’re reading this on). Those are minor names in the great scheme of Western culture. If you type “Billie Holiday”, you’ll probably see this picture too sooner than later.

Thing is, those are not Ray Bauduc, Walter Page or Claude Hopkins.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger: Wedding Music live at Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Festival Hall is hosting an organ season to celebrate the culmination of the three-year long refurbishment works to bring back its organ to life, with its 7,866 pipes laid along the span of the stage.

The organ at Royal Festival Hall, refurbished (© Nick Rochowski)