Sunday, December 18, 2016

A biography of Oscar Alemán (in Spanish)



Sergio Pujol
Oscar Alemán: La guitarra embrujada
Planeta; Buenos Aires, 2015
Paperback; 312 pp.

The life of Oscar Alemán (1909-1980) is one of those narratives which tend to end up ditched on the kerbs of history. But how do you fit in the jazz canon a black Argentinian guitar player, who got to be hugely popular in pre-WWII France without ever setting foot in the US?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Electric guitar—Who's on first?

When I blogged about Charlie Christian's centennial last July, I said that discussions about who was first to record a regular, or "Spanish", (not lap-steel or "Hawaiian") electric guitar seemed pointless, given the fortuitous nature of such a feat. Interestingly, literature on early electric guitar is mostly focused on the gear rather than the music. The game-changer that was Charlie Christian may have something to do with that, but let that not stop us from having at least a glance on players from the pre-Christian era.

Gage Brewer (on lap steel). Picture from the
Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

Friday, August 26, 2016

The man who was there

John Coltrane and Rudy Van Gelder, early 1960s

Phonography is one of the motors of jazz. Without recorded sound, the fast evolution of the music would not have happened. A recording allows however many repetitions necessary to assimilate the music. Without recordings, the contact with remote sonic cultures would be much, much harder.

Besides conveniency, phonography has given jazz an aesthetic. And counter to intuition, given the hundreds of thousands of jazz recordings produced and still available, a large of that urbane, sophisticated, aesthetic is due to a single person: Rudy Van Gelder, RVG, who passed away yesterday morning, aged 91.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Notes on Charlie Christian's centennial

Today it's the 100th anniversary of Charlie Christian's birthday. For a special 2h30m programme we've done (in Spanish) in El Club de Jazz, I've spent the last few months re-visiting his complete output (except for a very few items, such as Bill Savory's airchecks housed at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem). My playlist tells me that it's 239 tracks longabout 13 hours straightincluding the ones where Christian's presumed to play with Benny Goodman's orchestra. On top of that, I've listened to other guitar players (Bus Etri doing "Flying Home" in 1940, anyone?), plus a generous helping of string music from Texas and Oklahoma also known as Western Swing.

Charlie Christian at the Metronome All-Star session
February 7, 1940. Courtesy of Leo Valdés.

Because it is unavoidable that some of the same old stories will be regurgitated for the centennial, I've jotted down a few notes about CC:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cifu's legacy

Picture by Jaime Massieu, October 2014
One year has already gone by since Cifu left us. He was the dean of Spanish jazz commentators, still active on national public radio, and his absence is still deeply felt. Time flies, though. Life goes on, there is music, and we are still breathing.

After the rains of sadness and tribute, In the months after Cifu's passing, happier news have been reaching our shores. One is the establishment of the association CifuJazz and its brand new website, to promote his legacy. The other one is the recovery, pushed hard by Cifu's family—his wife and daughters—of the series Jazz entre amigos, which aired from 1984 to 1991, on Spanish national television.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Thad Jones & Mel Lewis All My Yesterdays


THE THAD JONES/MEL LEWIS ORCHESTRA

All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard
(2-CD + 87-page booklet; Resonance HCD-2023)


Thad Jones (tp, flh, arr, con); Jimmy Nottingham, Snooky Young*, Jimmy Owens, Bill Berry, Danny Stiles** (tp);
Bob Brookmeyer* (v-tb); Garnett Brown, Jack Rains, Tom McIntosh** (tb); Cliff Heather (b-tb);
Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion (as, cl, f); Joe Farrell (ts, cl, f); Eddie Daniels (ts, cl);
Marv “Doc” Holliday*, Pepper Adams** (bar-s);

Hank Jones (p); Sam Herman (g, perc); Richard Davis (b); Mel Lewis (d).

Recorded on February 7*, and March 21**, 1966. Total time: 48:49/77:13

Like a lonely dinosaur, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has been appearing at the Village Vanguard for just over 50 years now. Basie, Ellington, Herman, and Kenton still roamed the world when it hatched, on the first Monday of February, 1966.

A good chunk of what was heard in the hallowed room that Monday and the one six weeks later is now available on CD, thanks, twice, to Resonance Records: once, because it's the label which has put it out; twice because its chairman, George Klabin, was the 19-year old who recorded the band then and there.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sinatra at the Sands, at 50

Sinatra at The Sands —  all pictures (except record covers) by John Dominis/Getty Images
“It was probably the most exciting engagement I have ever done in my life, since I started performing.”
Frank Sinatra about playing with Basie at the Sands in January 1966

Last December we celebrated the centennial of Frank Sinatra. I won’t go into why he was important as a crucial part of that moment when American popular music equalled top musicianship, not only from the interpreters, but from the composers and songwriters; let’s just say that if you love music you should have at least two or three of his albums at home.

Among his very prolific output, one of the most popular — not necessarily the “best”, however you measure that — is Sinatra at the Sands, recorded in the last week of a month-long stay at the Copa Room in the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, which ended on Thursday, February 1, 1966, fifty years ago, today.
“The Basie orchestra was a like juggernaut. When they came at you, after the downbeat and the orchestra started to play, you knew that you had to be part of that or you got lost […] We did things that were really jumping […] I tried to stay in the realm of what the orchestra was playing. I hang back just a little bit, in a sense.”
Frank Sinatra about playing with Basie at the Sands

Top row: Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, _____, Marshal Royal, Grover Mitchell.
Front row: Teddy Reig, Al Grey, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, Freddie Green, Bill Hughes,
Sonny Payne, Eric Dixon, Charlie Fowlkes, Al Aarons, Bobby Plater?,
Sonny Cohn?, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, _____.