Monday, April 29, 2013

A Re-posting -LATIN ESCAPADE - George Shearing



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sometimes I wonder if fans of Jazz who grew-up listening to the music in the 1940’s and 50’s realize how fortunate we are that so much of it has been re-issued in CD and Mp3 formats.

Since Jazz, in general, accounts for less than 5% of all recordings sold, it is amazing how much of it has been subsequently released in digital formats.

And yet, for a variety of reasons, more than occasionally we find that a favorite LP regrettably hasn’t been included in this transition.

One such album is Latin Escapade [Capitol T737] which features pianist George Shearing and his quintet. In addition to George, the quintet is made up of a guitarist, vibraphonist, bassist and drummer. Although these are all instruments that must be struck or plucked, George’s group has managed to achieve one of the more beautiful and easily identifiable sounds in Jazz.


The uniqueness of “the Shearing Sound” comes from the way the group states the melody of each tune. This is formed by Shearing playing blocked chords around the notes of the melody with each hand an octave apart and the vibes playing in unison up an octave from the piano’s right hand and the guitar playing in unison down and octave from the piano’s left hand.

When hearing "The Shearing Sound," essentially the listener is experiencing a melody that is harmonized into four-parts in which Shearing's upper melody note is doubled on vibes and the lower note is doubled on guitar.

You can hear this four octave span quite distinctly on every track of Latin Escapade.

The JazzProfiles editorial staff  has developed YouTubes featuring four [4] tracks from Latin Escapade and embed them throughout this feature to enable a Shearing Sound sampling of the music from the album.

The first of these uses Cuban Travel Poster Art with the Shearing Quintet’s version of “Yours.”


Along with vibraphonist, Cal Tjader, who had occupied the vibes chair in George’s quintet before forming his own combo, Shearing was one of the earliest adapters of Latin rhythms in a small group setting.  Many of his 1950’s album contained Latin Jazz tracks or were thematically based on Latin Jazz themes as was the case with Latin Escapade.

George developed such a deep interest in Latin rhythms that he went so far as to insert a segment in his club sets or concert performances that highlighted tunes with a Latin-flavor. During these Latin features, Shearing would augment his quintet with conga drums and timbales with the Jazz drummer in the group playing various Latin percussion instruments, thus creating the instrumentation for authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Of course, George was always a very commercial-minded musician [in other words, he liked to eat regularly and pay his rent on time] and it certainly didn’t escape his attention that dancing to the [then, newly-introduced] Mambo rhythm was a craze that was sweeping the US in the 1950’s.

Hence, the following Mambo with Me cut from Latin Escapade which serves as the audio track to this YouTube tribute to the Mambo:


The long-playing record provided Jazz groups with room to “stretch-out” [i.e.:take longer solos] and it was not uncommon for Jazz LP’s to have 2 or 3 tracks that produced 18-20 minutes of music per side.

During his career, Shearing did make some LP’s with fewer cuts per side, especially with the quintet in performance, but he made many more with the more commercial or popular music format of 12 tracks per LP.

Although Latin Escapade belongs in the latter category, its finely crafted and well-executed arrangements, while easy on the ear, are anything but commercial.

With none lasting longer than 3:35 minutes, each of the album’s twelve tracks is a miniature musical masterpiece.

George is the only soloist and during his solos he reveals a thorough familiarity with Latin Jazz piano stylings; particularly the heavy use of riffs and “montuno” [repetitive refrains].

All of these qualities are reflected in this YouTube which uses vintage postcards of Cuba from the University of Miami’s collection and Mi Musica Es Para Ti [“My Music is For You”] from the album as its audio track.


George has always had an ear for pretty melodies. He can swing hard, too, but his affinity for appealing airs results in a healthy variety of ballads on all of his recordings. He always arranges his treatment of such tunes very artfully so as to further enhance their beauty and, in many cases, their romantic or alluring aura.

At a time in the 1950’s and 60’s when AM radio in Southern California still offered programs that specialized in “mood music,” it was not uncommon to hear a Shearing Sound ballad treatment during one of these late night broadcasts.

One such example of Shearing's charming way with a ballad can be found on his Latin Escapade interpretation of Ray Gilbert and Osvaldo Farres’ haunting Without You, the audio track to this You Tube commemorating The Shearing Sound.

Born in 1919, George Shearing is still with us although no longer performing. In 2007, he became Sir George Shearing when he was knighted by Her Royal Majesty, The Queen of England, for his services to music. Incidentally, I wonder if Sir George’s longevity is contagious as Latin Escapade guitarist Jean “Toots” Thielemans and vibraphonist Emil Richards are also still on board.

Over the years, in addition to leading his marvelous quintet, Sir George has performed with Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme and a host of other vocalists. More recently, he has appeared in concert with guitarist and vocalist, John Pizzarelli.

In addition to the recordings that he has made with these artists, George has a substantial discography under his own name – none better than Latin Escapade [1956].

After sampling the music on this album, we hope you will agree.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

George Russell and New York, New York


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Think you can lick it?  Get to the wicket.
Buy you a ticket.   Go!

Go by bus, by plane, by car, by train...
New York, N.Y..

What they call a somethin' else town.
A city of more than eight million people,
with a million people passin'
through every day. Some come just to visit
and some come to say. If you scuffle hard enough
and you ain't no dunce, you can always get by
in New York City. I heard somebody say once. Yeah...if you can't make it
in New York City, man, you can't make
it nowhere.

So where do people come to scuffle? Right here.
Think you can lick it?  Get to the wicket. Buy you a ticket.  Go! New York, N.Y., a city so nice. They had to name it twice. It may seem like a cold town,
but man. let me tell you, it's a soul town.

It ain't a bit hard to find someone who's lonesome or forlorn here...
But it's like findin' a needle in a haystack to find somebody who was born here.

New York, N.Y., a somethin' else town, all right!
East side, west side, uptown, downtown.

There's one thing all New York City has and that's Jazz.

A while ago, there were cats readin' while cats played jazz behind them, but wasn't nothin' happening, so the musicians cooked right on like they didn't even mind them.

I wrote the shortest jazz poem ever heard.
Nothin' about lovin' and kissin'...
One word...LISTEN!!”
- Jon Hendricks, vocalese introduction to Manhattan

With Milt Hinton’s string bass and Charlie Persip playing brushes on snare drum in the background, Jon speaks these poem-like lyrics on Manhattan, the opening track of George Russell’s album New York, New York [Decca DL 9116].

Each time I listen to Jon’s vocalese, the orchestral arrangement and the individual solos on this track, I am enthralled anew by the way all of these “moving parts” fit together so smoothly.

It is a magnificent piece of Jazz scoring.

Manhattan runs over 10 minutes and George uses the space well allowing for generous solos by trombonists Bob Brookmeyer and Frank Rehak, pianist Bill Evans, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and trumpeter Art Farmer to be interspersed throughout his consistently swinging arrangement.

George’s chart is constructed in segments which serve to launch each soloist. The band then drops out leaving the soloist accompanied only by the Milt Hinton’s walking bass line for a chorus. The drummer joins in playing double time for the second chorus with the band returning to provide a background until the next solo is propelled forward.

Recorded in 1958, the arrangements on New York, New York were the first extensive showcasing of George system of voicing instruments which he termed – “The Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization.”


In his Visions of Jazz: The First Century, Gary Giddins provides the following background to, and description of, George Russell’s Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization:

“Cycles and cycles within cycles are the meat of the matter. One could argue that jazz is a music based on cyclical motion, a strictly defined chorus, usually twelve or thirty-two measures, repeated until a musical statement has been made. Cycles are fomented by radical evolutionary movements, each of which contains the seeds of its own destruction. One example: during the ferment of jazz activity in the '40s, when modern jazz, or bebop, was born, the intoxicating harmonic ingenuity of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie blinded sympathetic fans from recognizing the anti-harmonic implications of George Russell's modal composition, Cubana Be/Cubana Bop written for Gillespie's orchestra. In a day when Thelonious Monk's clattering minor seconds and rhythmic dis­placements were dismissed as the fumblings of a charlatan, Russell's work was appreciated as something of a sui generis novelty.

Russell codified the modal approach to harmony (using scales instead of chords) in a theoretical treatise that he says was inspired by a casual remark the eighteen-year-old Miles Davis made to him in 1944: “Miles said that he wanted to learn all the changes and I reasoned that he might try to find the closest scale for every chord.’ His concept, published as the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, is based on a perfect cycle of fifths generated by the Lydian mode, which sounds more com­plicated than it is. Russell was exploring relationships between chords and scales that would foster a fresh approach to harmony. Davis pop­ularized those liberating ideas in recordings like Kind of Blue, undermin­ing the entire harmonic foundation of bop that had inspired him and Russell in the first place.” [pp.5-6]

Richard Cook and Brian Morton explain Russell’s achievement this way in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.:

However important Russell's theories are, they are even now not securely understood. Sometimes falsely identified with the original Greek Lydian mode, The Lydian Chromatic Concept is not the same at all. In diatonic terms, it represents the progression F to F on the piano's white keys; it also confronts the diabolic tritone, the diabolus in musica, which had haunted Western composers from Bach to Beethoven.

Russell's conception assimilated modal writing to the extreme chromaticism of modern music. By converting chords into scales and overlaying one scale on another, it allowed improvisers to work in the hard-to-define area between non-tonality and polytonality. Like all great theoreticians, Russell worked analytically rather than synthetically, basing his ideas on how jazz actually was, not on how it could be made to conform with traditional principles of Western harmony. Working from within jazz's often tacit organizational principles, Russell's fundamental concern was the relationship between formal scoring and improvisation, giving the first the freedom of the second and, freeing the second from being literally esoteric, 'outside' some supposed norm. [pp 1282-83].


In his Jazz Retrospect, Max Harrison offers the following insights into Russell’s accomplishment:

Simply, he examined the entire harmonic resources of Western music, saw and systematized an entirely fresh set of relationships that had always been present within the traditional framework and which, as it were, only awaited discovery. Far from being a constricting set of regulations, Russell's precepts made available resources whose full possibilities, in the composer John Benson Brooks's words, ‘may take as much as a century to work out’. And according to Art Farmer, trumpeter on many of these discs, the Lydian Concept ‘opens the doors to countless means of melodic expression.

It also dispels many of the don'ts and can'ts that, to various degrees, have been imposed on the improviser through the study of traditional harmony.’ Of course, it is necessary to remember Schoenberg's words, ‘ideas can only be honored by one who has some of his own.’ [emphasis, mine]

That is to say Russell offers no magic formula to transform mediocre soloists into good ones. But the gifted improviser is not the only one to benefit. These investigations led Russell to produce music that has strong individuality yet which is very subtle, that teems with invention but is absolutely consistent stylistically. And in the sheer variety of his thematic materials he surpasses all Jazz composers except Duke Ellington. [pp. 58-59; paragraphing modified].

In Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some Of Its Makers, Doug Ramsey offers this essay on George’s work which he originally prepared in 1966 to air on Jazz Review, a program that Doug wrote, produced and broadcast on WDSU-FM and WDSU-AM in New Orleans:

“Over the next few programs we're going to consider the recorded work of George Russell, not only because his music is interesting, absorbing, listening, but because of his influence on the develop­ment of jazz in the sixties. Russell's impact, I believe, is more pro­found and widespread than is generally recognized, even by many musicians. It may well develop that he is having as great an effect on the course of jazz as any composer or arranger at work today, as important as that of such imitated innovators as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.

Russell believes that jazz must develop on its own terms, from within. He believes that to borrow the concepts of classical music and force jazz into the mold of the classical tradition results in something perhaps interesting, perhaps Third Stream music, but not jazz. Faced with this conviction that jazz musicians must look to jazz for their means of growth, Russell set about creating a framework within which to work. In 1953 he completed his Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization. The system is built on what he calls pan-tonality, bypassing the atonal ground covered by modern clas­sical composers and making great use of chromaticism. Russell explains that pan-tonality allows the writer and the improviser to re­tain the scale-based nature of the folk music in which jazz has its roots, yet have the freedom of being in a number of tonalities at once. Hence, pan-tonality.

That's a brief and far from complete summary of Russell's theory, on which he worked for ten years. It's all in his book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept for Jazz Improvisation, published by Concept Publishing Company.

Freedom within restrictions, however broad.

Discipline.


Improvising Russell's way demands great technical skill. Listen­ing to his recordings, one is struck by the virtuoso nature of the players. …. All that talk about concepts and theories and pan-tonality and chromaticism may have led you to expect something dry and formidable. On the contrary, there's a sense of fun and airiness in the music. The humor is subtle and, I should add, more evident after several hearings. …

In 1959 there was a good deal of thought being given to the directions jazz would take and strong indications that one important departure would be along the path of freedom.

Russell was an invaluable guide along that path, providing the player a means of achieving greater freedom of expression without falling into licentiousness. The means was his Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization. It gave the improviser a theoretical base from which to play with fewer harmonic restrictions than in be bop. Even musicians who have never studied the theory have been influenced by it because it is a spirit that has moved through the music. In the close community of jazz musicians, new ideas spread rapidly. So, in a tangible sense, this was one of the first recordings of the so-called New Thing. It is a good demonstration of Russell's theory. But, the­ories aside, it is delightful music.” [pp. 266-267 and 269].

Particularly germane to New York, New York is the following commentary by Burt Korall which served as the liner notes to the original LP:

New York, N. Y.... the most fascinating address.

New York, N. Y. is a world unto itself, a world of tumult and silence, love and hate, towering buildings and tenements, big people and small... and the gradations between.

New York, N. Y. is a look up and live town, or a sigh, cry, die town; the big juicy apple that tempts and magnetizes, nourishes or consumes, but is never forgotten.

New York, N. Y. has a face of concrete that menaces those who have not found the key to her heart. And she is a woman—fickle, sometimes cold, warm to those who know her ways. It takes time to know and love her. She is not easy.

New York, N. Y. is always on the move; motion is native to her torso, and whether good or bad, profitable or not, it's there, day and night, like the beat of a tom-tom or a heart — faster by day, slower by night; pushing, easing time along.

New York, N. Y. has many moods. She broods and all her glitter is but a well spring for sadness. She is just as frequently happy, even frivolous, fresh and new, depending on your view.

New York, N. Y. is a blues/dues town. She can take and forsake ... and with­out conscience. In no time, her beauty can become unforgivable to those to whom she yields nothing.

New York, N. Y., a compound of all those that live within her arms, is liberal and bigoted, probing and disinterested. She is affected, phony, and unstintingly real. All these things and more ...

She is rich and poor—Sutton Place and Harlem, Madison Avenue and "The Village", Park Avenue and "Hell's Kitchen"; Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island, too; all the boroughs and sections, streets and avenues, in sum, are New York, N. Y. ... and contribute to her heart, body and soul.

In essence, New York, N. Y. is people; each one important, each one in need of the other.

*          *          *          *


New York, N. Y. is filled with the sounds of jazz.

Jazz musicians come pouring into New York, N. Y. ‘Let's go to the Apple, man, that's where it is,’ they cry, not realizing that the taste of it is reserved for only the equipped. Many return to their home hamlets disappointed; some, more than a little changed for being here.

New York, N. Y. is a cruel mistress. Bring her something new and she is torn between a desire to understand and an inclination to resist change. ‘Prove it!’ she tauntingly says to those who come to her bearing the future in their hands.

New York, N. Y. is a challenge,’ claims composer-arranger George Russell. ‘Youth comes here to accept the challenge.’

‘I've had a running love affair with this town since I first saw her as a child,’ he continued. "I'd rather sink here than swim anywhere else."

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 23, 1923, Russell's first manifestations of interest in music occurred in early adolescence. At 15, he was earning his living as a jazz drummer in a Cincinnati night club. At 17, on scholarship at Wilberforce University in Ohio, he was studying music and playing with The Collegians, the college dance/jazz band.

Shortly after his twentieth birthday, Russell left school, joined the Benny Carter band on drums, and came to New York.

‘I got to hear Max Roach. He was too much,’ Russell explained. ‘Max had it all on drums. I decided that writing was my field.’


Returning home to Cincinnati determined to learn all he could about writing, Russell culled as much as he could from jazz writers around town. Proceeding by the ‘trial and error’ method, the budding writer used the house band at the old Cotton Club as a laboratory for his work. The band would play his arrangements and compositions, allowing him to err and correct, to progress.

Benny Carter was the first person of significance to take an interest in Russell's writing. In the course of one of his tours through Ohio, Carter passed through Cincinnati, heard one of Russell's compositions, liked it. and made a request for an arrangement of it for his band.

‘It took me five months and a trip to Chicago,’ Russell recalled in an inter­view with Down Beat Magazine, ‘but I finally caught the band at a downtown theatre, and they rehearsed it. Benny was very happy with it, and on top of that he paid me for it.’

On recommendation, the young writer then wrote for Earl Hines and shows at the Rhumboogie and El Grotto clubs in Chicago.

In 1945, the height of the modern revolution in jazz, everybody was talking about Parker, Gillespie, Powell and Monk etc. and 52nd Street, the center of it all. All who could came to New York to see and hear. Some came to learn.

George Russell arrived in New York in 1945. He took a room on 48th Street and Sixth Avenue, four blocks from "Swing Street." He met and became closely associated with many of the key figures creating the upheaval. Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Max Roach, among others, were frequent visitors at his lodgings.

‘I began writing for Dizzy's big band,’ Russell reports. ‘I was learning. Just being on the scene and listening helped so much.’

Unexpectedly, illness interfered as the composer-arranger was getting his start with Dizzy's band, and he entered the hospital. Unfortunate as illnesses are, this one cannot be considered in a completely negative fashion. During the 16 months spent in a hospital in the Bronx, Russell evaluated his position, found himself in need of further education, and began an intensive research into tonality. This resulted in the coming into existence of elements of his Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization, a thesis that would eventually free him, lend the facility for full expression.

Upon discharge from the hospital, Russell accepted an invitation to live at the home of Max Roach. He continued his investigations, staying on nearly a year.

‘While working on my theory,’ says Russell, ‘I lived all 'round town—East Side, West Side. John Lewis and I roomed together for a time. He helped me to truly appreciate traditional classical music.’

Until the Lydian thesis was completed, Russell composed infrequently, and for short periods, at that. He would run into problems while working within his concept that had to be ironed out before he could proceed further. As progression was made toward his ultimate goal of freedom within his own set of disciplines, he became more and more the master of his materials.

Today, Russell is not bothered by composing problems for long; he is able to make any needed adjustments within his concept. Through extended study of music and himself, the composer has found his way into the open.

'My Lydian concept has changed my whole mode of life,’ Russell explained. "It took years, but I now feel that I function logically. At last, I'm organized and ready. I realize that music, like life, must have an inner logic. George Endrey, a scientist friend of mine, taught me how mathematics relates to life and music. With­out him, I would never have understood logic for what it is.’

‘There are many others to whom I owe a great deal. The Gil Evans composer conclave of 1949-50, composed of Gil, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, John Carisi and myself, opened my eyes to many things. Gil and John are special friends and have exercised more than their share of influence upon me. Composers Alban Berg, Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky and Stefan Wolpe are just a few of the others who have helped shape my thinking.’

Reviewing his output before completion of the Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization in 1953, we realize that the composer had a few fruitful periods. The results are memorable.

In 1947, he penned Cubano Be and Cubano Bop, a two part composition that successfully combined modern jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, for the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra. Bird In Igor's Yard came off his writing desk in 1949. It was performed and recorded by the Buddy DeFranco big band. Ezzthetic and Odjenar were created for Lee Konitz around the same time.

‘I was hardly prolific,’ commented the composer. ‘Four compositions and a few arrangements for dance bands — Shaw, Thornhill and Charlie Ventura — is not much to show for six years, but I felt that I had to finish my thesis before I could say what I wanted to.’

Keeping body and soul together by working a variety of jobs in New York, N. Y., an ever evolving knowledge of self and the importance of his work, coated his senses and dulled extraneous pressures and annoyances.

In 1955, after two years of experimental writing employing all the facilities of his concept, Russell felt ready to make a statement. Jack Lewis, a jazz adventurer, provided the recording circumstance. Reception for the composer's first statement of policy was tremendously encouraging. Ground, at last, had been broken.

A commission to write an original composition for the Brandeis Music Festi­val, which garnered kudos for its author, followed. Offers to score albums for important jazz artists began to trickle in. An invitation to teach at the School of Jazz in Lenox, Massachusetts was extended and accepted.

George Russell's presence on the American musical scene is being felt; the avenues for his talent, only beginning to present themselves.

*          *          *          *

The extended musical statement herein is New York, N. Y. as George Russell sees, hears and feels it. In a sense, it is an expression of this composer's belief in the city, the city he feels is symbolic of life and culture.

The city is drawn in terms native to Russell's basic orientation. He is a jazz writer. His concept was born of jazz and its needs.

It was his intention to showcase many of the important jazz soloists on the New York scene in this program. He did so, pulling no punches in his writing, providing an intelligent, functional, dramatic frame for the soloists. The framework is not arbitrary, but a thematically controlled entity from beginning to end.

New York, N. Y. is important in that a statement of depth and scope is made. Never self conscious, though often quite impressionistic, it is challenging to the senses, yet has the feeling of emotional completeness.

A community project notable for the love and enthusiasm of all the partici­pants, New York, N. Y. moves from old jazz territories to new and back again, breaking the barriers of tonality, presenting the jazz orchestra in a truly modern, linear sense, yet retains the earthy taste basic to the idiom.

An American composer, only beginning to tap his resources, is revealed.”



Friday, April 26, 2013

Daniele Scannapieco “…is good”


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Italy has seen the development of a number of fine, Jazz saxophonists in recent years and sooner or later they all perform with Italian Jazz pianist, Dado Moroni.

Rosario Giuliani, Stefano di Battista, and Max Ionata, to name but a few, have all appeared in concert and in clubs and made recordings with Dado, who is still too young to be considered an Old Master, but experienced enough to rank as one of Italian Jazz’s senior statesmen.

Daniele Scannapieco is another of the fine tenor saxophonist to make the recent, Italian Jazz scene and, not surprisingly, he, too, has made an album with Dado – Never More [ViaVeneto Jazz VVJ 054].

When you are around Dado you can expect to play The Blues and such is the case on the closing track of Never More.

The tune is entitled “… is good” and you can hear it on the following video which features Daniele along with Dado and bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jay D’Amico and Mark Weinstein – Tango Jazz


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“If there is any one word that could describe this CD that word would be MUSICALITY. Jay D'Amico, who for many years was a student of mine studying jazz piano as well as composition and counterpoint, has matured into a superb musical entity in his own right. His writing as well as his playing here is as masterful and profound as it gets.

The musicians performing with him are of the highest order and particularly the marvelous trumpet work of Richie Vitale is outstanding. This is one of those rare occasions in which a group of musicians, through their collective talents, have provided us with a magical and mystical musical experience worthy of much repeated listening.

The depth of the contrapuntal interplay in D'Amico's writing is brilliant and will reveal profound nuances each and every time you listen to it. Bravo gentlemen and thank you for this superb work of art...”
- Mike Longo, Jazz pianist, composer and educator

“After years of exploring African, Brazilian and Caribbean music, Weinstein saw an opportunity in tango. Playing and recording drum and percussion heavy genres limits flute players to the high register and takes away the more nuanced, expressive possibilities of the instrument.

On the other hand, playing in a drum-less setting has its own challenges.

It’s not only that there’s a different way of setting the groove and driving the music but, in tango, the melodies and the dancing, true or implied, are often what sets the tempo and its variations.”
- Fernando Gonzalez, writer, critic, and translator

Chris Di Girolamo is the owner-operator of Two for The Show Media and represents a number of familiar and new faces on the Jazz and popular music scene.

Two of his artists – Jay D’Amico and Mark Weinstein – have recently made new CD’s with a rhythmic emphasis based on and around tango beats.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to showcase some of the music from Jay and Mark’s recent efforts for those of you interested in moving your ears in some new directions.

In each case, we have reproduced the CD cover art, Chris’ Media Relations announcement followed by an audio track from the CDs.

You can locate more information about Chris and his artists at www.Twofortheshowmedia.com/


Jay D’Amico: Tango Caliente-Jazz Under Glass [CAP/Consolidated Artists Productions/1034] – available 4.29.2013

About Jay D'Amico:

Tango Caliente represents Jay's latest efforts at composing and interpreting his own music. "In some ways I've been influenced by various forms found in classical music and they're evident here, but other compositions on the album go beyond that." In all his compositions, Jay insists, "I always want the melody to imitate the human voice and most importantly, it always has to swing." D'Amico's sound has evolved over the years, honed in performances with his own trio and a variety of other musicians, most notably bassist and lifelong friend Milt "the Judge'' Hinton, whom the pianist credits as one of the primary influences on his career.

"Several years back, I played a few of the tracks on my earlier release, Ponte Novello, for Milt  - he'd only performed on one track on the CD - and he just smiled at me and said, 'Man, you found your niche." That niche can be described as the melodious intersection of two very distinct musical roads, which D'Amico says are actually not that diverse to his thinking. "My music is somewhat comparable to opera, in that it's sing-able, even though my compositions are obviously all instrumental. Jazz starts from that same European harmonic tradition and incorporates African rhythms. I'm just finding my own way around that," he explains.

Born into a family where music was omnipresent, the young D'Amico began to play piano when he was eight years old. Coming of age in the 1960's, D'Amico says his earliest exposure was to American popular music, from the Cole Porter tunes his mother would sing around the house, to his first experience as a performer in a rock group. Under the auspices of Art Podell of the New Christie Minstrels, D'Amico, his brother and three cousins, recorded a single which enjoyed near hit status before the vagaries of the music industry derailed them. The drive to become a pianist took a firm hold when young D'Amico heard the music of Polish-born composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. "Actually I saw the actor Cornell Wilde portray him in a movie," he remembers. Later in college, his piano teacher told D'Amico that the melodies of the Italian opera were the greatest influence on Chopin's music. "I remember being surprised at that, but then I saw that the lyricism of opera, combined with the Polish mazurka and polonaise, came to create his style. I thought, 'I want to be able to do the same thing, to play it all!'"

An early Oscar Peterson performance on television, during which his mother told him "This is jazz and they're making it up as they go along," also resonated strongly with the burgeoning young performer and composer. D'Amico first met Milt Hinton in 1974 in a jazz workshop, and the two immediately took to each other so strongly that within a short time D'Amico started teaching the workshop with Hinton. Their collaboration as educators would last for some 18 years, until 1992. Hinton joined his protégé on D'Amico's recording debut in 1982, Envisage, which also featured drummer Bob Rosengarden (it was re-released on CD in 2003.)

In addition to Milt Hinton, another musician whose influence D'Amico cites as key is Mike Longo, established pianist and musical director for many of Dizzy Gillespie's bands. Longo's CAP Records has released all four of D'Amico's CD releases. From 1984 through September 10, 2001, D'Amico performed as the Pianist in Residence at New York's Windows on the World. In 1990, he released the solo recording, From the Top. Recording with a trio comprised of bassist Ben Brown and drummer Ronnie Zito, he released Ponte Novello in 2001. The CD featured D'Amico's original compositions along side the pianist's arrangements of arias by Puccini, Verdi and Bellini. He has also appeared on Hinton's The Judge's Decision (1985) both as pianist and co-composer.

For bio, tour dates, and more information on Jay D'Amico go to: www.jaydamico.com/




"If you are one that thinks "delicate" when they hear 'flute,' forget that. Weinstein's approach is full-bodied and surging and loaded with swagger and swing."
- Mark Keresman, Jazz Improv

"Mark Weinstein has quietly established himself as one of the most wildly inventive flutists in modem memory."
- Raul d'Gama Rose, AllAboutJazz.com
"Flautist Mark Weinstein has always been a brave and cutting edge musician."
- Ken Dryden, AllMusic.com

About Mark Weinstein:

Flutist, composer and arranger, Mark Weinstein began his study of music at age six with piano lessons from the neighborhood teacher in Fort Green Projects in Brooklyn where he was raised. Between then and age 14 when he started to play trombone in Erasmus Hall High School, he tried clarinet and drums. Playing his first professional gig on trombone at 15, he added string bass, a common double in NYC at that time.

Mark learned to play Latin bass from Salsa bandleader Larry Harlow. He experimented playing trombone with Harlow's band and three years later, along with Barry Rogers, formed Eddie Palmieri's first trombone section, changing the sound of salsa forever. With his heart in jazz, Weinstein was a major contributor to the development of the salsa trombone playing and arranging. He extended jazz attitudes and techniques in his playing with salsa bands. His arrangements broadened the harmonic base of salsa while introducing folkloric elements for authenticity and depth. The only horn in a Latin jazz quintet led by Larry Harlow at the jam session band at Schenks Paramount Hotel in the Catskills, soloist and arranger with Charlie Palmieri in the first trumpet and trombone salsa band in NYC, arranger and featured soloist along with the great Cuban trumpet player Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros in Orchestra Harlow, and with the Panamanian giant Victer Paz in the La Playa Sextet, and with the Alegre All Stars, Mark's playing and arranging was a major influence on Salsa trombone and brass writing in the 60s and 70s.

Mark continued to record with Eddie Palmieri, with Cal Tjader and with Tito Puente. He toured with Herbie Mann for years, played with Maynard Ferguson, and the big bands of Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Jones and Lewis, Lionel Hampton, Duke Pearson and Kenny Dorham. In 1967 he wrote and recorded the Afro-Cuban jazz album, Cuban Roots for the legendary salsa producer Al Santiago. It revolutionized Latin jazz; combining authentic folkloric drum ensembles with harmonically complex extended jazz solos and arrangements. Chick Corea was on piano and the rhythm section included the finest and most knowledgeable Latin drummers: Julito Collazo, Tommy Lopez Sr. and Papaito (timbalero with La Sonora Matancera)

In the early 1970's Mark took time off from music to earn a Ph.D in Philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He became a college professor and remains so until this day. When he returned to the music scene in 1978 playing the flute, he wrote produced and recorded the Orisha Suites with singer Olympia Alfara, the great Colombian jazz pianist Eddy Martinez and percussionists Steve Berrios, Julito Collazo, Papaito and Papiro along with an Afro-Cuban chorus. Unreleased until recently, music from the Orisha Suites became the theme for Roger Dawson's Sunday Salsa Show on WRVR.

Mark returned to jazz with a vengeance, working gigs and recording over a dozen CD's since 1997. Seasoning, his first flute CD experimented with different settings for the flute, including a quartet with vibist Bryan Carrott and Cecil Brooks III on drums and a trio of flute and two guitars with Vic Juris and Rob Reich. In 1998, Mark recorded Jazz World Trios with Brazilian master guitarist Romero Lubambo and award winning percussionist Cyro Baptista. Their exploration of Brazilian themes with classical guitar and percussion contrasted with a freebop trio with Santi Debriano on bass and Cindy Blackman on drums. Jean Paul Bourelly and Milton Cardone completed the set with music based on Santeria themes.  The release of Three Deuces in 2000, paired Mark with guitarists Vic Juris, Ed Cherry and Paul Meyers.

Because of limited distribution and more demand than albums available, Mark rerecorded the material from the original Cuban Roots with new arrangements and the help of such giants of Cuban music as pianist Omar Sosa, percussionists Francisco Aquabella, Lazaro Galarraga, John Santos, Jose De Leon, and Nengue Hernandez. It was co-produced with his nephew, trombonist, violinist and arranger Dan Weinstein for Michael McFadin and CuBop Records.

In 2002 Mark had the incredible opportunity to go to Kiev, Ukraine, where his father was born, to record the music of the Ukrainian composer Alexey Kharchenko. Milling Time, the record that they made, stretched his playing in a number of directions, from modern classical music to smooth jazz to Ukrainian folk music. He continued his exploration of his roots with a jazz album of Jewish music with Mike Richmond on bass, Brad Shepik on guitar and Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion. He then turned to Brazil and the music of Hermeto Pascoal's Calendario do Som, entitled Tudo e Som with guitarist and vocalist Richard Boukas, Nilson Matta on bass, Paulo Braga on drums and Vanderlei Pereira on percussion.

In 2005 he began his ongoing association with Jazzheads record recording another version of Cuban Roots called Algo Mas, with Jean Paul Bourelly playing electric guitar, Santi Debriano on bass, Thelonious Monk award winning percussionist and vocalist Pedrito Martinez, as well as Nani Santiago, Gene Golden and Skip Burney on congas and bata drums. His next release on Jazzheads was 0 Nosso Amor with Brazilian jazz masters Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta and Paulo Braga along with percussionists Guilherme Franco and Jorge Silva. This was followed by Con Alma, a Latin Jazz album featuring Mark Levine on piano, Santi Debriano on bass, Pedrito Martinez playing conga and drummer Mauricio Hererra. Next a straight-ahead album, Straight No Chaser, with guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Ron Howard and Victor Lewis on drums. A return to Brazilian music, Lua e Sol, saw Romero Lubambo and Nilson Mata joined by award winning percussionist Cyro Baptista.

Mark took time out from Jazzheads to record an album for Ota records in Berlin with Grammy nominated pianist Omar Sosa playing vibes, marimbas and piano along with AN Keita on balafon, Mathais Ogbukoa and Aho Luc Nicaise on African percussion, bassist Stanislou Michalou and Marque Gilmore on drums. Back to Jazzheads, Mark recorded Timbasa with the percussion team of Pedrito Martinez and Mauricio Hererra, joined by Ramon Diaz with the young giants Axel Laugart on piano and bassist Panagiotis Andreou. This was followed by Jazz Brasil with NEH Jazzmaster Kenny Barron on piano along with Nilson Matta and drummer Marcello Pellitteri. His most recent album, El Cumbanchero was recorded with a string ensemble and arranged by Cuban piano virtuoso Aruan Ortiz, along with Yunior Terry on bass and percussionists Mauricio Herrera and Yusnier Bustamante.

For more information on Mark Weinstein go to: www.jazzfluteweinstein.com/

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dwike Mitchell – “The Catbird Seat”


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


I’m always asking Jazz musicians and Jazz fans what they are listening to or for their opinions about my current listening and/or favorite recordings.

It’s a fun way to get differing opinions about the music.

But when I asked Italian Jazz pianist Dado Moroni what he thought of Dwike Mitchell’s performance on The Catbird Seat from the Atlantic album of the same name, I was momentarily surprised by his answer.

“I cried,” he said.

Although I was taken aback for an instant, I intuitively understood why Dado would react this way to Dwike’s playing on this piece on which he is joined by bassist Willie Ruff and drummer Charlie Smith.

As George T. Simon describes it on the album’s sleeve notes:

The Catbird Seat, a slow, swinging blues, gets its title because, as bassist Willie Ruff  points out, ‘it has such a groovy feel­ing. There's an old Southern ex­pression, “sitting in the catbird seat” which means you're sitting pretty and everything is groovy, and that's how we felt on this number. In fact, it's how we feel most of the time when we're at home in the club [Dwike and Willie owned The Playback Club in New Haven, CT].’ The piece projects a tremendously funky feel, but it's also full of musical polish, such as Willie's marvelous articulation, Dwike's tremendous technique and Charlie's beauti­fully controlled brush shadings. Note too the contrast between the long, tremulous, two-chorus build-up into the lovely, relaxed statement of the theme.”

The Catbird Seat is a slow burn all the way.  The very unhurried tempo at which it is played is one that is rarely heard today and very tricky to execute because there is a tendency to rush or drag.

The intensity is there but you have to let it quietly capture you. The track builds and builds and builds until it reaches an exciting climax. And just when you think it is finished, Dwike offers a different ending from the one that “your ears” are expecting.

Elsewhere in his liner notes, George T. Simon has this to offer by way of background information on what came to be known as the Mitchell-Ruff trio.


“This is thrilling jazz. I know you read such superlatives in almost every liner note, but believe me, the music herein is really something special.

It's modern jazz with the emphasis on the jazz. Like many modernists, both Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff are thoroughly-schooled musicians. But, unlike most modernists, they haven't forgotten the basic romping, swinging beat of jazz, and the results here are pretty electrify­ing.

Maybe, like me, you remem­ber Dwike and Willie when they were just the Mitchell-Ruff Duo. They achieved international fame in 1959 when, as members of the Yale Russian Chorus that was touring the USSR, they tem­porarily tossed aside their ton­sils, hauled out piano and bass, and proceeded to regale the Rus­sians with American jazz.

At that time the group's jazz feeling was highly personal  -  al­most completely implied. Now though, with the addition of Charlie Smith's drums, you can't possibly miss it. Before his ad­vent, what they were playing had relationship to themselves only, just as in modern art a painting on an infinite canvas can only relate to itself. But now, thanks to Charlie, they have been supplied with a rhythmic framework inside which they are able to create jazz masterpieces with a spatial, or rhythmic rela­tivity that all of us can feel and understand.

Mitchell, a Floridian who graduated from the Philadelphia Musical Academy, and Ruff, an Alabaman who earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Music at Yale (they once played together in Lionel Hampton's big band) joined forces last year with Smith, a New Yorker, who has played for Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Billy Taylor, at a New Haven club called The Playback. It was founded by Ruff himself, ‘be­cause we needed a place in which we could work out things the way we wanted to, and just stay on until we felt we were really ready to show the rest of the world what we could do.’

For close to a year, the trio worked, played, and, in the case of Ruff and Smith and their fami­lies, even lived together. ‘We got so that each of us could feel what the others were going to do without even looking,’ says Smith. By early autumn of 1961 when they felt they were ready, they brought portable recording equipment into the club and re­corded the numbers heard herein. The first Artist and Repertoire man to hear the tapes, Atlantic's astute jazz-loving V.P., Nesuhi Ertegun, flipped, and - well, here's the result.”

Dwike Mitchell passed away on April 7, 2013 at the age of eighty-three.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember him on these pages with this feature and the following video tribute on which the music is – what else but - The Catbird Suite.