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Jazz Among the Announced Grammy Nominations

The nominations for the Grammy awards were announced last night and among the jazz artists with multiple nominees were Billy Childs, Herbie Hancock, Clayton Brothers, Vince Mendoza and Bobby McFerrin (although his were in classical categories). There are five nominations for category and there are 109 categories. The awards in the jazz category are given out (along with many other categories) during a ceremony held earlier in the day, before the televised broadcast. This year’s Grammy Awards show will air live from Los Angeles on CBS on February 13, 2011 at 8 pm EST.

Bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding was nominated for Best New Artist of the Year, along with Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & the Machine, and Mumford and Sons. Safe to say that Ms. Spalding will be very much the wild card in this category, but as they always say, it’s an honor to be nominated. Indeed, her inclusion in this mainstream category signifies her considerable appeal to a broad audience. No small accomplishment for a jazz bassist, who about six years ago was attending Berkleee College of Music.

Congratulations are also in order to longtime JT contributor Ashley Kahn who was nominated for his liner notes to the John Coltrane Sidestep album on Concord.

Here then are the nominations in jazz categories, as well as some other categories which included jazz artists. For a complete list of nominations, you can go the Grammy website.

Steve Gadd
CD Review

 Steve Gadd and Friends

 LIVE AT VOCE — BFM Jazz 302 062 403-2. Watching the River Flow; Way Back Home; Undecided; Bye Bye Blackbird; Them Changes; Georgia On My Mind; Back at the Chicken Shack; Sister Sadie, Bonus Tracks: Here I Am Now; Down. PERSONNEL: Steve Gadd, drums; Joey DeFrancesco, Hammond B3 organ, trumpet; Ronnie Cuber, baritone saxophone; Paul Bollenbeck, guitar; Special guest on Bonus Tracks: Edie Brickell, vocals.

By Eric Harabadian

Steve Gadd is truly a pioneering musician that broke new ground utilizing inventive soloing and complimentary rhythm techniques with some of rock and pop’s greatest artists like Paul Simon and Steely Dan as well as countless others. He’s the one that unveiled the instantly recognizable snare pattern on Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” and played that insanely abandoned rubato drum part that fueled the title track to Steely Dan’s ‘70s smash “Aja.” From television and film soundtracks to recordings of all genres, the man has done it all. But when he gets together with his “friends” it seems he chooses to go back to where it all began for so many—the blues! This album feels like a familiar old coat or a comfortable pair of shoes—it elicits instant smiles. And from the get go this live disc, recorded at Voce Restaurant in Tempe, Arizona in November 2009, puts you in the front row of the venue and is a delight!

Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” opens the festivities in a swinging and funky manner. Veteran sax man Cuber digs down deep in the visceral registers of his baritone for some truly inspired and gospel-tinged playing. Crusader Wilton Felder’s “Way Back Home” continues the jazzy blues revival, shining the spotlight on playful and soul stirring leads by organist DeFrancesco. The classic bopper “Undecided” swings with a ton of lyrical drive thanks in great part to DeFrancesco’s mighty B3 solos and Gadd’s light and complimentary touch. “Bye Bye Blackbird” puts DeFrancesco front and center, doing double duty on organ and muted trumpet. Gadd’s brush work on drum kit combined with Bollenbeck’s subtle picking and Cuber’s balance of hot and cold melodic detail is superb! A big surprise comes in the form of the Buddy Miles gem “Them Changes.” Although this song has been long associated with Jimi Hendrix, Gadd’s taut and Spartan jazz combo breaks it down to its funky essence. With all due respect to Hendrix and those of his ilk, Bollenbeck takes the song into a completely different and refreshing direction—setting the pace with some chordal elements and then shifting it into overdrive in an exuberant swing vain. Another bluesy classic “Georgia on My Mind” gets a wonderful treatment in the hands of these masters. Again, Gadd’s brush work here is excellent and DeFrancesco delivers the keys in a reserved yet unbridled blend of intensity and reflection. Jimmy Smith’s “Back at the Chicken Shack” is another inspired choice for this date and brings out the best in the entire ensemble. Frankly, the blues never sounded so good! Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” burns with a smoldering and smooth texture. It is a nice and fitting conclusion to the live portion of this disc.

The two bonus tracks feature vocalist Edie Brickell and are original sample songs from Gadd’s other recording project The Gaddabouts. “Here I Am Now” features only Gadd’s drums and Brickell’s voice. The former New Bohemians singer is in fine form and delivers a rootsy yet melodically sophisticated piece. The other Brickell penned Cut “Down” is kind of a folky number highlighting Gadd’s famous snare work and the singer’s classic cherubic soulful style.

Jazz Saxophonist James Moody Dies

Saxophonist achieved fame as an associate of Dizzy Gillespie and co-composer of “Moody’s Mood for Love”

His uncle gave him an alto sax when he was 16. After hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band at the Adams Theater in Newark, N.J., Moody switched to the tenor saxophone. He was just 18 years old when he was drafted into the Air Force in 1943 during World War II. Unable to play with the white Air Force band, Moody played in an unofficial Negro Air Force band for three years. He was disturbed by the segregation that was prevalent in the military service at that time. Incredibly, he met Dizzy Gillespie while in the Air Force, as Gillespie came through for a performance on the base. After he got out of the service, in 1946, he joined the recently formed Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, one of the most important jazz groups at that time.

In 1946, Moody was also a member of the Bebop Boys, an all-star group led by Ray Brown and featuring Dizzy and Dave Burns on trumpets, John Brown on alto sax, Moody on tenor, Hank Jones on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Harris on drums. (Moody's first-ever recordings in the studio come from a September 25, 1946, session with the Bebop Boys, which also produced the blazing tenor feature "Moody Speaks").

In February of this year, Moody underwent surgery to have the tumor resected, but according to his wife, Linda, it proved to be impossible without endangering his life. The doctors removed his gallbladder and did a double bypass of his digestive system to remove the blockage. He was in the ICU at UCSD Thornton Hospital for almost eight weeks with life-threatening infections and was finally able to come home in May. Since that time Moody rested at home under the care of his wife and a team of hospice care workers, his time spent watching TV, listening to music and playing occasionally. 

Once the Moody’s announced about a month ago via his website that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and awaiting his fate sans medical intervention, the jazz community flooded his site and his e-mail with their prayers and well-wishes. Above and beyond his impact as a jazz musician, Moody was a man who seemed to make friends everywhere he went.

"There's an old philosophy, and it's been said many times, but people don't heed it," Moody told JT’s Bill Milkowski in 2004. "And that is simply this: 'So a man thinketh, so it is.' I think I'm young. My wife says I'm 78 going on 18, and that's very true in a way. That's how I feel."

Moody, who preferred to be called by his last name, was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 26, 1925. It is little known that Moody was born partially deaf. As a result when he was young and unable to hear the teacher, he was labelled mentally deficient and ordered to attend a school for the mentally disabled. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he attended public school. Eventually, his hearing problem was diagnosed and he was sent to the Bruce Street School for the Deaf He later attended Arts High in Newark, N.J.


Read the complete obituary at

In Dave Brubeck’s Own Sweet Way

New documentary produced by Clint Eastwood and Bruce Ricker to air on TCM channel on Brubeck’s 90th birthday

December 6, 2010 marks the 90th birthday of pianist Dave Brubeck and there are a plethora of projects being released in conjunction with that landmark date. Sony Legacy Recordings has just released Dave Brubeck: Legacy of a Legend, a new 21-track double-CD compilation with every track handpicked by Brubeck. The commemorative collection features extensive annotation and anecdotal liner notes written by his son Darius. And, Concord Music Group is releasing The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz and Telarc, a 2-CD collection featuring some of Brubeck's earliest session work from the ‘40s as well as some of his more recent recordings from the past few decades. That collection's track list was handpicked by Russell Gloyd, Brubeck's manager, producer and conductor for more than 30 years.

However, perhaps the most ambitious product is a new documentary—Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way—executive-produced by Clint Eastwood, and produced and directed by filmmaker and longtime Eastwood colleague Bruce Ricker, whose credits include Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends, Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser, The Last of the Blue Devils and Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me.

The Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel will air the premiere of the Brubeck documentary on his birthday, Monday, December 6. In addition, TCM is making a real jazz day of it, by also airing two classic films featuring Brubeck: All Night Long (1962), a jazz update of Shakespeare's Othello; and the concert film Southern Crossing (1981), a fascinating chronicle of a five-day jazz festival in Sydney, Australia. And, those three Brubeck-related films be preceded by a trio of jazz films: Blues in the Night (1941), Paris Blues (1961) and Young Man with a Horn (1950). The complete schedule is listed below.

Ricker says that the In His Own Sweet Way documentary had its origins in the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival back in 2007. Tim Jackson, the festival’s artistic director, had commissioned Brubeck to do the Cannery Row suite and in the process of gathering material for that event, Ricker realized that there really hadn’t been a full-scale documentary made about Brubeck. Hedrick Smith did a short film about Brubeck but Ricker says that he wanted to do a broader film that included more of Brubeck’s music. “So I came up with the idea that we would follow Dave from the beginning—from the first rehearsal,” says Ricker, “and then eventually through to the premiere at the Monterey Jazz Festival.”

Ricker’s longtime associate (and Carmel resident) Clint Eastwood soon became involved. “Clint has always had a particular fondness for Dave because they both come from Northern California,” explains Ricker. “And Dave was one of the people that Clint used to listen to all the time. I figured we could profile Dave through Clint’s eyes as a storyteller and make Clint Johnny Appleseed or something.”

Eastwood has been working with Ricker in various capacities since 1987. Ricker says their relationship stemmed from the period when Eastwood was working on Bird his movie about Charlie Parker, starring Forest Whitaker. “Somebody on his staff had seen or heard about the Last of the Blue Devils [Ricker’s 1979 film about Kansas City jazz] because they were contemplating whether to shoot on location in Kansas City. So someone told him, ‘You know, there is this movie about Kansas City Jazz and Count Basie and all that and maybe you should go look at it.’ And Clint looked at it and he thought it was great. At the same time I was struggling with Charlotte Zwerin trying to get the Thelonious Monk movie, Straight No Chaser finished. At that time he was getting a lot of flack from Spike Lee and others. The idea was that he would get Warner Brothers to put up money for Straight No Chaser because this would reinforce the idea that Clint was supporting jazz and if you’re going to really support jazz, there’s nobody more important than Thelonious Monk in jazz. So that gave Clint great cachet.” However, Eastwood’s involvement soon evolved into more than that of just a patron. “I decided I would work with him, and we would find projects and then as they came along, and he would go along with it. Somehow it seems that we’re doing things more quickly lately.”

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 Javon Jackson & Les McCann: Two for the Road

Legendary pianist and singer performs shows with Javon Jackson’s band at clubs and festivals throughout the U.S

Many times in jazz the personnel that comes together in a special way is the result of second choices or just plain serendipity. So too with the pairing of Javon Jackson and Les McCann who have been performing together at clubs and festivals, including a recent concert at the Cape May Jazz Festival. Seeing the two mesh onstage, it would be hard to imagine that the legendary McCann was originally a sub or fill-in
















About three years ago, Jackson had an upcoming performance for his soul-jazz group scheduled at John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room in San Francisco and his organist, the great Dr. Lonnie Smith, was unable to make it. Acting on a whim as much as anything, Jackson called Eddie Harris’s widow and mentioned that he was in a bind and did she think Les McCann might be interesting in subbing for Smith in that gig in the Bay area. She encouraged him to call McCann at his home in Southern California and, as Hooker himself sang, “Boom Boom Boom” the two hit it off onstage and were soon performing other shows together and connecting across generations. Since that show in 2007, they’ve done about fifty shows together and jazz audiences are getting another look at the 75-year-old McCann, who appears rejuvenated by the collaboration.

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Ho Ho Hum: Holiday Jazz Albums of 2010

Lee Mergner reviews this year’s batch of holiday music albums with jazz connections

Christmas music, let me just say that you are in the sure and steady hands of a holiday music connoisseur—a man who every year sends out an eclectic CD sampler in lieu of a card or boasting newsletter. However, I can boast here that in narcissistic preparation for this column, I counted my collection of Xmas CDs and it came to just under 800 albums. What that really means is that I can start playing holiday music on November 22 and go 24/7 until Christmas morning without repeating one cut. So I got that going for me, which is nice. But enough about me and my collection. The holiday season is about giving and today I give you a rundown of holiday CDs released this year, adding another two dozen to the aforementioned total. Oops, not about me. Right. And since we can’t go in reverse order of age like at the Mergner house, we’ll stick to alphabetical order here. One at a time, kids.

JT’s editor-in-chief and resident expert on holiday music, Lee Mergner, reviews the latest releases in the Xmas genre, including albums from Wynton Marsalis, Matt Wilson, Dan Hicks and Take 6.

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