Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Art of Jazz Guitar

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

There’s a reason why the name for the long part of a guitar is “the neck.”

For there are times when one becomes so frustrated trying to play such an unforgiving instrument that one is tempted to strangle it by grabbing it by – you guessed it - “the neck.”

Those who play Jazz guitar seem destined to play it for how else would you explain the choice of an instrument whose sound is difficult to sustain and whose volume can rarely be heard above other instruments unless it is electrically amplified?

It’s also an instrument that can easily get in the way by clashing with the piano as both serve the function of feeding chords and “comping” [accompanying] in most Jazz groups. Unless it is lightly “feathered” to the point of being more felt than audible, many drummers dislike its intrusion as part of the rhythm section because it makes the time sound chunky and/or feel stiff.

As a lead instrument, it doesn’t phrase easily with other instruments such as the trumpet, trombone or one of the saxes.

When it does find a natural category for expression, for example, in combination with a Hammond B-3 organ and drums, it risks disapproval due to the dislike that many have for the organ in Jazz [“sounds comical;” “belongs at an ice show or a circus;” “overbearing or domineering;” “Why doesn’t someone just pull the plug?”]

So what’s a self-respecting Jazz guitarist to do in order to have a place in the music?

One avenue of expression is to quietly and unobtrusively add a “light touch” to the rhythm section as guitarist Eddie Condon did for many years in Chicago-style and Dixieland Jazz groups or guitarist Freddie Green did as part of the Count Basie Big Band.

Another is to match up with other string instruments as did Eddie Lang with violinist Joe Venuti or the legendary Django Reinhardt with violinist Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of Paris.

In his essay The Electric Guitar and Vibraphone in Jazz: Batteries Not Included [Bill Kirchner, ed., The Oxford Companion to Jazz [London/New York, OUP, 2000], Neil Tesser observed of Django:

“Acoustic Jazz guitar reached an apotheosis with Django Reinhardt [whose French guitar had an extra internal sound chamber, which helped boost the volume]. Reinhardt founded his vibrant melodies upon fervid folk rhythms and unexpected chord voicings, the latter being inventions of necessity: a fire that damaged two fingers on his left (chord-making) hand forced him to reimagine his approach to har­mony. Reinhardt belied the then prevalent opinion that "Europeans can't play jazz"; tapping his experiences as a minority "outsider" (he was a Gypsy), he achieved an emotional power commensurate with that of jazz's African-American inventors, and his finger-picking tech­nique continued to stun jazz and even rock guitarists into the 1960s. Souvenirs (London) remains the best single-disc collection of his work with the Quintette du Hot Club de France, costarring Reinhardt's brilliant alter ego, violinist Stephane Grappelli.”

Elsewhere in his essay, Neil points out that “Before amplification, the guitar had little impact on Jazz, with a dozen or so important objections. … not until the mid-1930’s – when Gibson and others began fitting Spanish-style guitars with electromagnetic pickups, to amplify the strings themselves did Jazz guitarists have what they needed [to sustain sound and to increase volume on the instrument]. …

Pound for pound, no instrument has been more profoundly affected by twentieth-century technology than the guitar ….”

The Jazz electric guitar was pioneered by Charlie Christian who performed in Benny Goodman’s Swing era small groups as well as with the early beboppers at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem before his death at a tragically early age.

Oscar Moore with Nat King Cole’s trio helped make the piano-bass-guitar trio a viable Jazz unit - a tradition that was continued first by Barney Kessel and then by Herb Ellis with pianist Oscar Peterson’s trio which included bassist Ray Brown. Pianist Ahmad Jamal’s earliest trio also included a guitarist, Ray Crawford.

Pianist George Shearing unique sound in the 1950s was made possible by the way in which the now-amplified electric guitar was voiced in unison, but octaves apart, with the piano and the vibraphone.

Tal Farlow with Red Norvo’s trio, Jimmy Raney with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer’s quartet, Johnny Smith with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz’s quartet and Jim Hall with clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s trio used “a softer tone and a less pronounced attack to mold the guitar into a cool Jazz voice….” [Tesser]

Hall could also heat it up a bit as he demonstrated with Sonny Rollins’ quartet in the 1960’s and Kenny Burrell used his “exceptionally mellow tone” [Tesser] to raise the temperature in a variety of hard bop settings, including Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy Smith’s trio. Kenny’s work may also have influenced that of guitarist Grant  Green “… whose soulful tone and ringing lyricism distilled the bluesy essence of 1960’s hard bop.” [Tesser]

Wes Montgomery also came along in the 1960’s and blew everybody away with his propulsive melodies and his startlingly effective technique based on improvising in octaves.

As Wes explained in a 1961 Downbeat interview with Ralph J. Gleason:

”I’m so limited. I have a lot of ideas - well, a lot of thoughts—that I'd like to see done with the guitar. With the octaves, that was just a coincidence, going into octaves. It's such a challenge yet, you know, and there's a lot that can be done with it and with chord versions like block chords on piano. But each of these things has a feeling of its own, and it takes so much time to develop all your technique.

"I don't use a pick at all, and that's one of the downfalls, too. In order to get a certain amount of speed, you should use a pick, I think. You don't have to play fast, but being able to play fast can cause you to phrase better. If you had the technique you could phrase better, even if you don't play fast. I think you'd have more control of the instrument.

"I didn't like the sound of a pick. I tried it for, I guess, about two months. I didn't even use my thumb at all. But after two months time, I still couldn't use the pick. So I said, 'Well, which are you going to do?' I liked the tone better with thumb, but I liked the technique with the pick. I couldn't have them both, so I just have to cool.

"I think every instrument should have a certain amount of tone quality within the instrument, but I can't seem to get the right amplifiers and things to get this thing out. I like to hear good phrasing. I'd like to hear a guitar play parts like instead of playing melodic lines, leave that and play chord versions of lines. Now, that's an awful hard thing to do, but it would be different. But I think in those terms, or if a cat could use octaves for a line instead of one note. Give you a double sound with a good tone to it. Should sound pretty good if you got anoth­er blending instrument with it.”

Following its pronounced appearance in organ trios and on ‘funky Jazz’ records in the 1960s,  Jazz guitar seemed to veer off into an area of music that came into existence with the rising popularity of Rock ‘n Roll during the same period.

As Neil Tesser goes on to explain in his essay: “It’s no surprise that the spread of Jazz guitar paralleled the rise of rock. Funk Jazz had dipped into the blues, a guitar-driven music and the primary precursor of Rock-and-Roll. As Rock ascended in the 1960’s, the guitar came to dominate American music; as Rock and Jazz converged, the guitar symbolized the evolving musical fusion.”

The Jazz guitar also fused with other styles of music as well including Indian ragas, country and western music and folk music. These myriad, hybrid styles can he heard in the guitar playing of George Benson, Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Lenny Breau, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and Pat Metheny.

Of course, there continue to be those Jazz guitarists who play in a more straight-ahead manner such as Joe Pass, Pat Martino, Ed Bickert and Lorne Lofsky, Peter Bernstein, Jake Langley and two, young Dutch guitarists based in Holland – Jesse van Ruller and Martin van Iterson.

Fortunately, when these plectarists grab the instrument by “the neck,” the result is one of the loveliest and liveliest sounds in all of Jazz and one that’s easy for most of us to identify with.

The guitar is rivaled by only the human voice in its universality.

The following video montage pays tribute to some of the many Jazz guitarists who have put a smile on our face and a song in our heart over the years.

The tune is a smokin’ version Freddie Hubbard’s Gibraltar as performed by Jake Langley on guitar, Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 organ and drummer Terry Clarke.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fabergé, Easter Eggs, Bobby Shew and “Joy Spring”

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

Making Jazz and making Art require infinite dedication, skill and love. Thank goodness for the dedication of those few who bring it all to a level of genius for the rest of us to marvel at.
- the editorial staff at JazzProfiles

Some of our Jazz and Art features may be inspired, while others are somewhat of a stretch. You be the judge.

I see the world this way from time-to-time and obviously have fun developing video montages of great works of Art set to great Jazz.

Bassist, author and all-around good guy, Bill Crow is always saying that “Jazz is fun” and I am having fun combining these mysterious and magical worlds of artistic and musical creation.

I never know when The Muse is going to strike, but when it does, I run with it – hence the title of this piece which came about after a recent viewing of a museum exhibit of the work of the famous jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, maker of the sumptuous Easter Eggs for the Russian Imperial Family.

And since I am not a believer in coincidence, the fact that Bobby Shew’s version of Joy Spring was next up when on turned on my car’s CD player after visiting the Fabergé museum exhibit pretty much decided the matter for me.

For Spring is the season for Easter, a holiday whose importance rivals that of Christmas in the Russian Orthodox Church, and the joyous celebration of this festive season gave birth to the fabeled Fabergé jeweled eggs. How’s that for a stretch?

All of this is explained in detailed below in an annotation excerpted from the current House of Fabergé website.

In his insert notes to the 1988 CD he recorded with Holland’s famed and illustrious  Metropole Orchestra, trumpeter Bobby Shew described himself this way:

"I've been referred to as an 'incurable romantic." I don't know ... MAYBE! I can tell you that there is a part of me that does, in fact, seek out moments of romance in the music ... no matter what tunes, where or with whom. When I was a child first being exposed to Jazz, I loved the 'feel' of it. I loved the energy of it ... the beauty of it. I wore out copies of Clifford Brown with strings, Stan Getz's COOL VELVET, the soundtrack album to the movie THE SANDPIPER with Jack Sheldon playing those gorgeous Johnny Mandel charts. I guess if I am an incurable romantic, it's because I dreamt, as I think most horn players have, of doing a string album someday before we leave this earth. This recording with the outstanding Metropole Orchestra under the direction of Rob Pronk exceeds my wildest dreams. The real bulk of the credit here go to Lex Jasper whose arranging is absolutely magical."

Bobby is a great soloist but he is also an excellent lead trumpet player; a rare combination in Jazz.

He has appeared on numerous recording dates and has a number of albums out under his own name, none better, in our opinion, than his 1988 Mons CD with The Metropole Orchestra under the direction of Rob Pronk with its finely orchestrated arrangements by Lex Jasper.

We located the following overview of Bobby’s career on

“Bobby Shew, (born March 4th, 1941, Albuquerque, New Mexico) began playing the guitar at the age of eight and switched to the trumpet at ten. By the time he was thirteen he was playing at local dances with a number of bands and by fifteen had put together his own group to play at dances, occasional concerts and in jazz coffee houses. He spent most of his high school days playing as many as six nights a week in a dinner club, giving him an early start to his professional career. During his 3 year tenure as jazz soloist for the famed NORAD band, he decided to make music his career. In 1964, soon after his discharge, he became a member of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

After his stint with Tommy Dorsey, Bobby was asked to play with Woody Herman's band upon Bill Chase's recommendation. He then spent some time playing for Della Reese and Buddy Rich, who's big band had just been formed.  Many other similar situations followed and Bobby played lead trumpet for a number of pop stars. This brought Bobby to live in Las Vegas where he became prominent in various hotels and casinos.

By this time Bobby was widely known for his strong lead playing rather than as a jazz soloist. So late in 1972 he decided to make a move to the Los Angeles area in order to get re-involved in developing as a jazz player. He landed a lot of studio work and many jazz gigs, working with Bill Holman, Louie Bellson, Maynard Ferguson, and a sustained period with the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin big band. His spell with the band produced many fine albums, notably Kogun (1974), Tales Of A Courtesan (1975) and Insights (1976).  During that time he played in many Los Angeles-based rehearsal bands as well, including Don Menza's and the Capp-Pierce Juggernaut.

In the late 70s, Bobby toured Europe and the UK with Louie Bellson's big band, appearing on some of the live recordings, including Dynamite! (1979) and London Scene (1980). In the 80s Shew's playing was mostly in small groups, as both sideman and leader. Shew has also recorded many of his own albums. Several of these received very high accolades including his albums "Outstanding In His Field" which was nominated for a Grammy in 1980, and "Heavy Company" which was awarded the Grammy for Jazz Album Of The Year in 1983.

Shew has become one of the jazz community's most in-demand clinicians and concert soloists. Bobby is well known for his fiery bebop trumpet and for over three decades has performed and recorded with the elite of the jazz world.

As an educator, he's made his mark as Trumpet Chairman of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) and as the author of numerous articles and books on trumpet performance and technique. Bobby is also on the Board of Directors of the International Trumpet Guild. An important influence through his teaching activities, Shew is ensuring that, in a period when dazzling technical proficiency is becoming almost commonplace, the emotional qualities of jazz are not forgotten.

As for Joy Spring, Ted Gioia’s wonderful new book The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [New York/London: Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 213] offers this background information on the tune.

© -The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
by Ted Gioia with permission from Oxford University Press USA. Copyright © 2012 by Ted Gioia.”

 “Now that more than a half century has passed since his tragic death in an automobile accident at age 25, Clifford Brown has fallen into the unfortunate obscurity that seems to afflict many great jazz artists who never lived long enough to make stereo recordings. Jazz fans today do not enjoy listening to tracks that lack clean, crisp, seems-like-you're-in-the-same-room sound quality. The cut-off-point is around 1957.  If artists recorded fine music in 1958 or 1959—as did Mingus, Miles, and Monk— they are widely celebrated today, but if they left the scene in 1956, as did Clifford Brown, they risk becoming a forgotten footnote in the music's history.

Yet the new millennium jazz fans who don't know about Brownie really must acquaint themselves with this artist, who was the most breathtaking trumpeter of the mid-1950's. There's no better place to begin than with "Joy Spring," his most famous and oft-played composition. Brown left behind two studio recordings, and both are worth hearing, although I have a slight preference for the version made with Max Roach at the August 1954 sessions that did much to establish the new hard bop sound of the period.

The song is aptly named. Brown's music captures a more jubilant and optimistic worldview than one encounters with many of the later hard bop players, who aimed for an edgier and grittier sound. His trumpet technique furthered this sense of positive energy: he had a full and beautiful tone, and even at the fastest tempos hit each note cleanly and with what my old philosophy professor would call "intentionality." But not antiseptically, as with so many virtuosos: his playing is as notable for its warmth as it is for its flawless execution. The melody line of "Joy Spring" furthers this life-embracing vibe, with its phrases that constantly return to declamatory chord tones, and the modulation up a half step for the second eight bars—a common arranger's device for making a chart seem brighter and more insistent, but one that is rarely written into the lead sheet of a modern jazz combo tune. …”

And we located this synopsis of Fabergé’s career on the current House of Fabergé website.

© -Excerpted from, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The series of lavish Easter eggs created by Fabergé for the Russian Imperial family, between 1885 and 1916, against an extraordinary historical backdrop, is regarded as the artist-goldsmith’s greatest and most enduring achievement.

The Imperial Easter eggs are certainly the most celebrated and awe-inspiring of all Fabergé works of art, inextricably bound to the Fabergé name and legend. They are also considered as some of the last great commissions of objets d’art.

The story began when Tsar Alexander III decided to give a jewelled Easter egg to his wife the Empress Marie Fedorovna, in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal.

It is believed that the Tsar, who had first become acquainted with Fabergé’s virtuoso work at the Moscow Pan-Russian Exhibition in 1882, was inspired by an 18th century egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark.

The object was said to have captivated the imagination of the young Maria during her childhood in Denmark. Tsar Alexander was apparently involved in the design and execution of the egg, making suggestions to Fabergé as the project went along.

Easter was the most important occasion of the year in the Russian Orthodox Church, equivalent to Christmas in the West. A centuries-old tradition of bringing hand-coloured eggs to Church to be blessed and then presented to friends and family, had evolved through the years and, amongst the highest echelons of St Petersburg society, the custom developed of presenting valuably bejewelled Easter gifts.

So it was that Tsar Alexander III had the idea of commissioning Fabergé to create a precious Easter egg as a surprise for the Empress, and thus the first Imperial Easter egg was born.

Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold, its opaque white enamelled ‘shell’ opening to reveal its first surprise, a matt yellow gold yolk. This in turn opens to reveal a multi-coloured, superbly chased gold hen that also opens. Originally, this contained a minute diamond replica of the Imperial Crown from which a small ruby pendant egg was suspended. Unfortunately these last two surprises have been lost.

The Empress’s delight at this intriguing gift with its hidden jewelled surprises was the starting point for the yearly Imperial tradition that continued for 32 years until 1917 and produced the most opulent and captivating Easter gifts the world has ever seen. The eggs were private and personal gifts, and the whole spectacular series charted the romantic and tragic story leading up to the end of the mighty Romanovs.

Each egg, an artistic tour de force, took a year or more to make, involving a team of highly skilled craftsmen, who worked in the greatest secrecy. Fabergé was given complete freedom in the design and execution, with the only prerequisite being that there had to be surprise within each creation. Dreaming up each complex concept, Fabergé often drew on family ties, events in Imperial Court life, or the milestones and achievements of the Romanov dynasty, as in the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg of 1911, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of Nicholas II’s accession to the throne, or the Romanov Tercentenary Egg of 1913 that celebrated 300 years of the House of Romanov, showing portrait miniatures of the Russian dynastic rulers.

Although the theme of the Easter eggs changed annually, the element of surprise remained a constant link between them. The surprises ranged from a perfect miniature replica of the Coronation carriage - that took 15 months to make working 16-hour days - through a mechanical swan and an ivory elephant, to a heart-shaped frame on an easel with 11 miniature portraits of members of the Imperial family.

Alexander III presented an egg each year to his wife the Empress Marie Fedorovna and the tradition was continued, from 1895, by his son Nicholas II who presented an egg annually to both his wife the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and to his mother the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna. However, there were no presentations during 1904 and 1905 because of political unrest and the Russo-Japanese War.

The most expensive was the 1913 Winter Egg, which was invoiced at 24,600 roubles (then £2,460). Prior to the Great War, a room at Claridges was 10 shillings (50 pence) a night compared to approximately £380 today. Using this yardstick, the egg would have cost £1.87 million in today’s money.

The Winter Egg, designed by Alma Pihl, famed for her series of diamond snowflakes, is made of carved rock crystal as thin as glass. This is embellished with engraving, and ornamented with platinum and diamonds, to resemble frost. The egg rests on a rock-crystal base designed as a block of melting ice. Its surprise is a magnificent and platinum basket of exuberant wood anemones. The flowers are made from white quartz, nephrite, gold and demantoid garnets and they emerge from moss made of green gold. Its overall height is 14.2cm. It is set with 3,246 diamonds. The egg sold at Christie’s in New York in 2002 for US$9.6 million.

Of the 50 eggs Fabergé made for the Imperial family from 1885 through to 1916, 42 have survived.”

Bobby’s brilliant trumpet playing and the stunning Fabergé jeweled eggs along with other works of art by his studio are all on display in the following video tribute to both of them.

Making Jazz and making Art require infinite dedication, skill and love.

Thank goodness for the dedication of those few who bring it all to a level of genius for the rest of us to marvel at.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ivan Lins and The Metropole Orchestra

It's not often that a vocalist swings a big band with strings out of the concert hall, but check out this video to see Brazilian composer and vocalist Ivan Lins attempting to do just that [figuratively, of course] with Holland's Metropole Orkest under the direction of John Clayton. Lins takes the orchestra through its paces with another of his simple ditties, but stay with this one as there are some rhythmic and harmonic surprises in store. The guitar solo is by Peter Tiehaus and the always-dependable Martijn Vink is on drums. Beautifully filmed and, as such, worth a look in full screen. Everyone has a good time with Ivan's music. I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The New York Voices and the WDR Big Band Cologne

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

“These Voices are a Whitman's Sampler of various flavors and tastes, richer than a chocolate bon bon." 
- All About Jazz

Mike’s arrangements really give the New York Voices a workout using them as another section along with the WDR’s brass, reeds and rhythm. There’s no sing-the-melody-and-get-out-of-the-way on this album, the voices are “in” the arrangements; they sing as part of the band. In addition to singing with the band, the New York Voices vamp, riff, participate in shout choruses, as well as, soloing and doing a cappella vocals.
This is music for grown-ups; only experienced professionals need apply.
- the editorial staff at JazzProfiles

Over the years, there have been many excellent combinations of vocal groups teaming with big bands such as Lambert Hendricks and Ross with Count Basie’s Band, The Singers Unlimited and Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass and The Four Freshman with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

Of course, there was a time during the Swing Era when almost every big band featured a vocal group: the Modernaires, the Pied Pipers, The Mills Brothers, Mel Tormé and the Meltones, the Andrews Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, to name only a few.

It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the tandem of “big” voices with big bands is full of energy and excitement.

The New York Voices with Mike Abene conducting of the WDR, Cologne-based Big Band is one pairing that comes together, magnificently.

Mike’s arrangements really give the New York Voices a workout using them as another section along with the WDR’s brass, reeds and rhythm. There’s no sing-the-melody-and-get-out-of-the-way on this album, the voices are “in” the arrangements; they sing as part of the band.

In addition to singing with the band, the New York Voices vamp, riff, participate in shout choruses, as well as, soloing and doing a cappella vocals.

The NYV’s first full “live” album and first release from Palmetto Records is due out March 5, 2013 and you won’t want to miss it. This in performance album presents fresh arrangements of new and vintage favorites, helping to mark the 25th anniversary year of the vocal group.

Ann Braithwaite, Jon Muchin and the fine team at Braithwaite & Katz are handling the marketing and media relations for the CD and here’s their press release for the recording at the conclusion of which you’ll find two audio-only tracks that which offer sampling of the music on this album.

© -Braithwaite and Katz, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The live album resulted from a 2008 concert in
Cologne, Germany, that was recorded as part of 20th-anniversary touring by the vocal quartet of Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge. Abene conducts the ace WDR  (Western German Radio) Big Band in a program of freshly conceived pop standards, artful New York Voices originals, beloved songs by Paul Simon and Annie Lennox, and such hip jazz evergreens as Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments."

New York Voices Live with the
WDR Big Band Cologne includes three songs new to the New York Voices discography: a jazz vision of Annie Lennox's pop hit "Cold," a swinging update of the 1920s Broadway tune "Love Me or Leave Me" and a virtuoso a cappella take on Lerner & Lowe's "Almost Like Being in Love." The concert recording was preceded by a luxurious three rehearsals with Abene and the WDR Big Band, imbuing the performances with seamless ease and energized confidence. "The concert was a blast - you can hear that in the recording," says Peter Eldridge of New York Voices. "The WDR Big Band is full of great players, who can get in deep with an incredible range of music. People have always remarked on the energy of New York Voices live - and that's what this album captures in full for the first time, I think. The songs are a mix of old and new - which is apt as we come up on our 25th anniversary."

Highlights of the album include that gorgeous take on Oliver Nelson's early-'60s instrumental classic "Stolen Moments," with the lyrics of Mark Murphy. There is a virtuoso rendition of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and a hard-swinging "Darn That Dream," as well as two numbers reprised from the group's 1998 RCA studio set New York Voices Sing the Songs of Paul Simon: "Baby Driver" and "I Do It for Your Love." Then there are two originals: the moody, mellifluous "The World Keeps You Waiting" by Eldridge and Laura Kinhan; and the Chick Corea-influenced showpiece "The Sultan Fainted" by Eldridge and Meader.

New York Voices Live with the
WDR Big Band Cologne reunites New York Voices with arranger-conductor Michael Abene, who produced the vocal group's very first studio album, released by GRP in 1989. Music director and principal arranger-conductor of the WDR Big Band since 2003, the Brooklyn-born Abene has a resume marked by stints with the bands of Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Mel Lewis, as well as work with singers from Liza Minnelli to B.B. King to Patti Austin. He has also composed works for Paquito D'Rivera and Holland's Metropole Jazz Orchestra.

 "Michael has a certain expressive angularity to his writing, but his arrangements swing so hard - there's a real earthiness to the sounds he gets," explains New York Voices member Darmon Meader, co-producer of the album. "Mike is an old-school cat who has really lived this idiom and really knows his band, stimulating the players with the intricacies and blends in his charts, the challenging lines. For what's ostensibly a vocal album, the big band is featured extensively - which is very exciting. And we function in the arrangements almost like another section of the band, with our four-part harmony similar to what a sax section would do. This album really reinforces the idea of New York Voices being connected to the lineage of instrumental jazz."

Celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2013, New York Voices is the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble renowned for their excellence in jazz and the art of group singing. Like the great jazz vocal groups that have come before, such as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Singers Unlimited and Manhattan Transfer, the foursome of Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge have learned from the best and taken the art form to new levels. Time Out
Chicago has said of New York Voices: "We dare say there may be no better way to understand the wit and wink of jazz harmony than via these Voices."

From 1989 to 1994, New York Voices released four albums on the
GRP label: New York Voices, Hearts of Fire, What's Inside and The Collection. The group has also starred on albums by the Count Basie Orchestra, Paquito D'Rivera and Jim Hall, among others. In 1998, the quartet released the RCA album New York Voices Sing the Songs of Paul Simon. Of that hit album, All Music Guide says: "The arrangements are brighter and brassier than Simon's originals, but there's a real charm to the performances that makes it a thoroughly entertaining experience." In 2001, New York Voices issued the Concord album Sing Sing Sing, featuring the group's spin on the great big-band songbook. The Los Angeles Times said of that album: "The title track quickly lays down what to expect from the balance of the program: complex, interwoven vocal lines, interactive improvising and brisk ensemble accompaniment. And revivalist swing fans - both players and listeners - would do well to check out the Voices' capacity to bring a contemporary quality to classic material without sacrificing the essence of either."

The interests of New York Voices are rooted in jazz, but the members often incorporate Brazilian, R&B, classical and pop influences. In recent years, the group has been called upon by the Boston Pops to bring a new edge to the pops orchestra circuit across the
U.S. In 2007, New York Voices released the album A Day Like This via the MCG Jazz label. The quartet mixed things up again, ranging from Brazilian sounds and swinging trio numbers to a couple of big-band romps and a handful of original songs by the members. New York Voices have appeared on the world's great stages, from Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Blue Note (in New York and Japan) to the opera houses of Vienna and Zurich, plus the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.”

Press photos, sound samples and more available are at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend

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

Boy, I sure miss Woody Herman, no less so after viewing Graham Carter’s brilliantly conceived and executed documentary DVD - Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend.

Graham is the owner-operator of Jazzed Media through which he periodically issues CD’s by and DVD’s about Jazz musicians like composer-arranger-big band leader Bill Holman, alto saxophonists Phi Woods and Bud Shank, tenor saxophonist and big band leader Don Menza, trumpeter and big band leader Carl Saunders, vibraphonist and big band leader Terry Gibbs, and vocalists Jackie Cain and Roy Kral and Irene Kral.

You can review his catalogue as well as locate order information by visiting Graham’s website at

I have been a fan of Graham and his efforts on behalf on Jazz for many years.  I have no idea why he keeps issuing such high quality digital products devoted to Jazz subjects and personalities, but I suspect that in large measure, what he does is a labor of love as very few people have ever become wealthy due to their involvement with Jazz.

Year-after-year, Graham skillfully scripts, produces and narrates Jazz documentaries and also produces recordings of high audio quality and artistic merit.

By way of analogy, he reminds me of the developers and builders who constructed the attached homes in what is commonly referred to as “The Avenues,” the western part of San Francisco where most of the people who work in the city’s hotels, restaurants and shops live and raise their families.

After the land was purchased and the construction funds were borrowed from the bank, these homes were generally put up two at a time. When both houses were sold, the real estate developers would use the funds from the sale to start the process all over again.

These homes, which have come to be known as “railroad Victorians,” were custom-crafted in much the same way that Graham approaches his projects.

The railroad Victorians were made for working people and their families and Graham’s CD’s and DVD’s are made to honor the Jazz musicians who make the music and the fans who appreciate it. He covers his costs through his sales and uses some of his proceeds to pay for his next project.

The comprehensive scale and attention to detail that he applies to his films, in particular, makes them really deserving of a wider audience than one made up of Jazz fans alone.

Graham’s Jazz documentaries are as much social and cultural histories as they are musical tributes and they will offer a lasting legacy of knowledge and information to future generations curious about the subject of Jazz in the 20th century.

Michael Bloom, whose firm is handling the media relations for Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend, has prepared a fact sheet to accompany the DVD’s release and its details are copied below.

As usual, Michael has put together an informative synopsis that covers the significance of Woody’s career and what you can expect to see as you view the documentary DVD.

In addition to this information, I wanted to share some personal thoughts and feelings about Graham’s film.

After viewing it, my primary impression was how little I really knew about Woody Herman’s contributions to Jazz over his fifty years as a bandleader from 1936-86.

Some Jazz fans grew up with Woody’s various bands – often referred to as “Herds – I didn’t. I came in somewhere in the middle and never knew much about Woody’s origins in the business. And make no mistake about it, Woody was in the Jazz “business,” and, as Graham explains, it’s a good thing he was as a lot of young Jazz musicians got their start in the music thanks to Woody perseverance with the business side of things.

The trials and tribulations that Woody endured over the years are all portrayed in the film.

Woody’s half century in Jazz is an amazing accomplishment from a commercial standpoint, let alone an artistic one.

And while it was never easy for Woody [or anyone else, for that matter] to make a buck in the business, some of the tragic circumstances that undercut and dogged him throughout his career are no less painful to recall 25 years after his death in 1987.

Yet, Graham never makes Woody an object of sympathy.  Instead, he emphasizes a term of endearment that many used when referring to him – “Road Father.”

Graham helps us understand that what Woody endured on behalf of the many musicians who were on his bands over the years are what the patriarch of any family is traditionally expected to undertake, let alone withstand.

Woody protected his family of musicians: he provided for them, nurtured them and helped them grow and develop both as people and as artists.

One look at the following chapter sequence tells you all you need to know about the comprehensiveness of Graham’s movie.

- Opening Title – “Four Brothers”

- Road Father

- The Early Years, 1913-1935

- The Band That Plays The Blues, 1936-1943

- The First Herd, 1944-1946 – “Who Dat Up Dere?”

- The Second Herd, 1947-1949 – “I’ve Got News For You,” “Lemon Drop,” “Early Autumn”

- The Third Herd 1950-1955

- The Fourth Herd 1956-1959 – “The Preacher,” “Your Father’s Moustache”

- The Swinging Herd, 1960-1967 – “Caldonia,” “Woody’s Boogaloo”

- The Thundering Herd, 1968-1979 – “Blues in the Night”

- The Young Thundering Herd, 1980-1986

- Early Autumn, 1987

- The Chopper – The Legacy of Woody Herman

Watch them in chronological order or click on each chapter individually and you are in for a celebratory feast of music, commentary, interviews, photographs, film and TV clips including many with Woody himself modestly reflecting on some of the highlights of his career.

And although it’s main theme has to do with one of the central figures in contemporary Jazz history, Graham has put together a heartwarming and enduring story that will reach out to anyone interested in the human experience.

The technical part of the film never intrudes.

It’s a fun film to watch and is an example of the informal “art” of storytelling at its best.

Graham allows Woody’s story to unfolds at a pace that is an entertaining as it is educational.

Fortunately, Jazz has had a number of caring, conscientious and talented people “tell its story” over the years.

Thanks to his work on Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend, let alone the many, other projects that he has undertaken on behalf of the music, you can add Graham Carter’s name to that list of notables.

© -Michael Bloom/Media Relations, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



“In recognition of the Centennial celebration of Woody Herman's birthday in 2013, Jazzed Media will release "Woody Herman: Blue Flame", a feature length documentary film by award winning producer & director Graham Carter, produced in association with The Woody Herman Society. It provides an in-depth look at Herman's 50+-year career as a big band jazz leader and features rare film and video performances of The Woody Herman Orchestra including broadcasts from The Ed Sullivan Show and Iowa Public Television.

Woody Herman led his big band for over 50 years, starting in 1936 and all the way to his death in 1987. His story is one that parallels the changes in jazz, from the Swing Era in the 1930s through bebop and cool jazz in the 40s and 50s, and the emergence of jazz/rock fusion in the 60s and 70s (Woody returned to his straight-ahead jazz roots in the 1980s). Considered one of the greatest big band jazz leaders, Herman is fondly remembered by his fans and by the many musicians and friends associated with his various bands.

Herman was also responsible for helping bring to fame many jazz stars who got their start on his band - to name only a few: Pete Candoli, Conte Candoli, Flip Phillips, Neal Hefti, Terry Gibbs, Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Sal Nistico, Bill Chase, Frank Tiberi, Alan Broadbent, Joe Lovano, and Jeff Hamilton. Essential to the forward-thinking and always contemporary music of the Herds were some of the finest jazz composers/arrangers of the past seven decades including Ralph Burns, Neal Hefti, Shorty Rogers, Gene Roland, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Nat Pierce, John Fedchock, Gary Anderson, John Oddo, and Alan Broadbent.

DVD includes:

Documentary film includes almost 400 rare photographs and images of Woody and his various bands over a 50+-year career. Features interviews with 35 musicians and jazz historians associated with Woody Herman (including Phil Wilson, Joe Lovano, Terry Gibbs, Jeff Hamilton, Sonny Igoe, Frank Tiberi, Dr. Herb Wong, Dan Morgenstern, and Bill Clancy) and extensive filmed interviews with Woody. Film and video performances of the Woody Herman Orchestra are also featured. DVD Total Viewing Time: 110: 00.

Jazzed Media: Dedicated to releasing new and previously unreleased jazz media of the highest possible musical integrity and production standards.

Jazzed Media, a jazz record label and film production company, was founded in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area in 2002. Jazzed Media's owner Graham Carter is a multi-Grammy nominated record producer (The Bill Holman Band "Live" and The Bill Holman Band "Hommage") and award winning jazz filmmaker (Phil Woods: A Life in E Flat, Bud Shank: Against the Tide, and Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm). Jazzed Media owner Graham Carter has recently produced & directed a documentary film on big band jazz legend Woody Herman titled Woody Herman: Blue Flame.

Jazzed Media offers both newly recorded jazz sessions and historic recorded jazz not available previously. Newly recorded jazz offerings are performed by the world's greatest jazz musicians coupled with state of the art recording facilities. Historic jazz recordings are thoroughly restored to the best sonic condition via computer software programs and dedicated engineering talent. Extensive liner notes and photographs are utilized whenever possible to increase the musical listening experience. A recent

Jazzed Media CD release, Lorraine Feather's Ages, received a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Jazzed Media also produces and distributes jazz documentaries utilizing leading edge production techniques and extensive interview segments of jazz greats.

Filmmaker Graham Carter has received the following awards for films released through Jazzed Media:

Phil Woods: A Life in E Flat- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2005 Telly Awards - Silver 2005 Videographer Awards - Award of Excellence
Bud Shank: Against the Tide- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2009 EMPixx Awards - Gold Award
2008 Aurora Awards - Gold
2008 Telly Awards - Bronze
2008 Videographer Awards - Award of Distinction
Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2011 Telly Awards - Bronze
2011 Videographer Awards - Award of Excellence
2011 EMPixx Awards - Platinum Award: Documentary
2011 EMPixx Awards - Platinum Award: Use of Music”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Randy Weston: Hi-Fly, Little Niles and Africa

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

More observant listeners are impressed with Randy’s strong, virile attack, his steady beat and his melodic imagination; both in improvising and composing he seemed to show the influence of Thelonious Monk.
- Leonard Feather, Jazz author and critic

“I expect that in the decade and more ahead, Randy will become as recognized for his compositions as for his playing.”
- Nat Hentoff, Jazz author and critic, writing in 1957

Weston's '50s recordings for Riverside (expertly supported by Cecil Payne), Dawn, Jubilee, Metro, and United Artists are among the most charmingly anomalous in the postbop era. His penchant for triple time, pentatonic melodies, and a shrewdly rhythmic piano attack, heavy on bass, was established before he went to Africa and developed further during the course of two tours of Lagos, Nigeria, in 1961 and 1963, and a 1966 state department visit to fourteen African countries. By 1969, he had settled in Morocco, living in Rabat and Tangier, where he operated the African Rhythms Club.
- Gary Giddins, Jazz author and critic

“You can have it. It’s not music that’s going to get any air time on my show.”

The speaker was a family friend who hosted a very successful AM radio program that primarily featured the music of popular singers like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Vic Damone, Rosemary Clooney or Patti Page; singers who sang the commercial hits of the day as arranged by Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Henry Mancini and a whole host of other, orchestrators.

Given the sterling reputation of his radio show, many distributors sent him sample copies of long-playing records, today known as “vinyl,” many of which contained music that was superfluous to his program.

His offer of a gift had to do with an LP that I was holding in my hands with music by the Randy Weston Trio and the Lem Winchester Quartet that was recorded one afternoon [July 5th] during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Entitled New Faces at Newport,  the album was on the obscure Metro Jazz label [E1005].

I had no idea who [pianist] Weston or [vibraphonist] Winchester were, but hey, free is free, especially at a time in my life when popping $5 bucks for a Jazz record was still a lot of money.

I was familiar with the rhythm section of Ray Santisi on piano, John Neves on bass and Jimmy Zitano who accompanied Winchester from a Herb Pomeroy’s Boston-based big band LP that I had in my “collection” so I first played Lem’s side of the LP leaving the tracks by Weston for a later listen.

The time allotted to the four tracks by Randy on this album is largely taken up by a long drum solo by G.T. Hogan on an “excerpt” from Weston’s Bantu Suite. I didn’t find the remainder of that suite until many years later, but the title was a portent of things to come as Randy was to become a major exponent and interpreter of African music for much of his later career.

When I did get around to a close listening of the other tracks by Randy Weston on that Metro Jazz LP, what struck me – to the point of fascination – was Randy’s original composition Hi-Fly. Melodically, it is little more than a ditty based on a repetition of fifths, but I found myself whistling or humming it for days.

I was also taken by Weston’s minimalist approach to piano playing. He seemed to frame the tune with thoughtful improvisations much like Jimmy Rowles or Duke Jordan or John Lewis, but his style was somehow very distinctive.

As Dick Katz describes it in his essay on Jazz pianists from the 1940’s and 1950’s in Bill Kirchner, ed., The Oxford Companion to Jazz:

“Like Thelonious Monk’s, Randy Weston’s piano style defies outright imitation. He takes elements of Monk, Ellington, and a little Bud Powell, and ingeniously melds them with aspects of his own intense interest in African cultures, particularly those of Morocco, Tangier and Nigeria. His compositions, like Monk’s, are intrinsically bound to his playing style. In addition to many waltzes, his Little Niles, Hi-Fly and African Cookbook are justly well-known.”

Dick’s comments about Randy and waltzes were a prelude to my next encounter with Weston’s music. At a time when unusual or “odd” time signatures began to have an wider impact on Jazz, one of the first Jazz waltzes I ever played on was Weston’s Little Niles.

And here again, I couldn’t seem to get the jaunty snippet of a melody that forms the theme to Little Niles out of my mind for weeks.

The Metro Jazz LP helped me to familiarize with some of Randy Weston’s music, but I never knew much about him in general nor about the body of work he produced largely due to the influence of African music [as noted in the comments Dick Katz’s comments].

Two, recent acquisitions helped remedy this deficiency. The first was being “gifted” a copy of Len Lyons’ masterful The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking of Their Lives and Music [New York: DaCapo, 1989].

The following forms the introduction to a lengthy interview that Len conducted with Randy:

© -Len Lyons/DaCapo, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Randy Weston is an imposing, almost regal figure.

Large-limbed and graceful, he stands six feet seven inches tall. Wearing a dashiki and a colorful skullcap, he greeted me in his motel room overlooking San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. During much of our interview he method­ically rubbed body oils into his hands, feet, and neck. Weston seems to glow with pride when he speaks of Africa, where he lived from 1967 to 1973 and operated a cultural exchange center for musicians called the African Rhythms Club.

More than any other jazz pianist, Weston incorporates African elements into his playing in an obvious way. He shifts meters frequently-between 4/4, 3/4, and less common metric patterns. He also uses the bass register of the piano as a kind of tonal drum. During a trio set the night before (with James Lean/, bass, and Ken Marshall, drums) Weston demonstrated an uncanny ability to establish driving, hypnotic rhythms by using only one or two chords-sometimes only one or two notes-per measure. He has perfected what Bill Evans called the rhythmic displacement of ideas. There were times he made the whole room sway to his personal beat.

Weston's exposure to African culture and its derivative music began in childhood. His father, born in Panama, was of Jamaican descent and operated a restaurant in Brooklyn, serving West Indian cuisine. Realizing that Randy would not learn African history at school, his father educated him in his heritage at home. The restaurant was frequented by jazz musicians, who ex­posed Randy to the music of New York during the rise of modern jazz. He remembers listening to Bud Powell, Duke Jordan, Art Tatum, Willie "the Lion" Smith, and Erroll Garner. His most important influence, evident from the degree of space, or silence, he leaves in his music, was Thelonious Monk.

Weston began his career at the unusually advanced age of twenty-three, and his first job was accompanying the blues singer Bull Moose Jackson. He then worked with saxophonist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, and drummer Art Blakey. In the late fifties Weston met historian Marshall Stearns and toured with him on a lecture circuit, giving demonstra­tions of jazz piano styles. Weston became well known as a composer, especially of jazz waltzes like "Little Niles" and "Hi-Fly," which have become classics in the jazz repertoire. In I960 Weston composed "Uhuru Africa" for a big band and vocalist, with text provided by poet Langston Hughes. In 1967, following a State Department-sponsored tour of fourteen African countries, Weston moved to Tangier, Morocco, where he established the African Rhythms Club. In 1973 he moved to Paris. Since then he has done most of his playing in Europe and Africa.

Weston is very disturbed by the picture of Africa presented in America. "All we hear about are the problems of Africa," he said, "like wars, famines, and racial problems. That's what makes the news. But there are tremendous musical and cultural experiences there." His own African experience, he ex­plained, made him aware of spirituality, nature, and the historical role of the musician in African culture. "He was a communicator, whose task it was to spread knowledge of the traditions of the people. He was a healer, too; scien­tists in the West are just beginning to look into music as therapy. There is music for weddings, funerals, and virtually every aspect of life. In Africa today the musician is still an integral part of all community life."

Weston sees jazz piano as part of the black man's Africanization of Euro­pean instruments. "I would like to have been there when our people first came into contact with these instruments," he said. "Can you imagine the excite­ment, the freshness of the first encounter? To me, what Louis Armstrong did was fantastically modern, really avant-garde." My line of questioning began with the origins of jazz.”

The other source of my enlightenment about things Weston resulted from my acquisition of the limited edition 3-CD Mosaic Select Randy Weston boxed set.

A summation of Randy’s significance in Jazz and the contents of the boxed set is contained in these remarks by its producer, Michael Cuscuna.

“During the past 50 years, Randy Weston has created an outstanding and forward-thinking body of work as a composer, pianist and band leader. But before his association with French Verve, which began in 1989, his discography was scattered over dozens of American and small European labels and albums disappeared as quickly as others were released.

The six albums in this collection have all collided under EMI's ownership and represent some of his most important early sessions. Piano-a-la-Mode, made for Jubilee, is one of his best early piano trio albums. Little Niles was his first for a major label and focused on his considerable skills as composer. Live at the Five Spot featured an extraordinary guest in the person of [legendary tenor saxophonist] Coleman Hawkins. A first album for Roulette with Cecil Payne, Ron Carter and Roy Haynes has never been issued before. Uhuru Afrika and Highlife were among the first informed fusions of jazz and African music, made at a volatile time when newly independent nations were emerging in Africa on a regular basis.

Sadly, Randy's African-influenced work did not catch the cultural wave at the time. Abbey Lincoln recorded African Lady and Horace Parlan picked up on Kucheza Blues (see Mosaic MD5-197), but Uhuru Afrika went largely unnoticed and was a rare collectors' item within a few years of release. Stanley Turrentine recorded In Memory Of and Niger Mambo (see Mosaic MD5-212) soon after Highlife was released, but again that album failed to reach an audience among musicians or the public.

It is with great satisfaction that we make this delightful and important music available. Special thanks to Randy Weston, a man as elegant and gracious as he is talented, for sorting out many discographical questions such as the drummers on the Five Spot session. Incidentally, a third United Artists album featuring the music of Destry Ricks Again was an A & R man's attempt at commercial success that a then acquiescent Randy would rather forget. For that reason, it is not included here.


And the distinguished Jazz author Nat Hentoff had this to say about Randy and his music in these excerpts from his 1957 liner notes to Piano-a-la-Mode [Jubilee JGM 1060].

© -Nat Hentoff, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Randy Weston, 31, is evolving into a vigorously personal jazzman with spirited intelligence, and a large reservoir of what the young mainstreamers like Quincy Jones and Cannonball Adderley call soul.

Within the past year, Weston's career is also quickening. He's worked the Cafe Bohemia, several Sunday afternoon concerts at Birdland for Jazz Unlimited, Cy Coleman's Playroom, The Five Spot, and concerts at Town Hall and Loew's Sheridan presented by the Village Voice, the resiliently hip Greenwich Village weekly. He has also signed with the Columbia Lecture Bureau for the fall of 1957 and the spring of 1958 to present a series of jazz lecture-demonstrations at colleges and in auditoriums.

Weston, as articulate verbally as he is on piano, usually opens his lecture program with demonstrations of the roots of jazz — African rhythms, spirituals, boogie-woogie and the blues. The second half reflects his own modern approach, and invariably includes several of his originals.

Randy has become a jazz writer of growing distinction. He's written some 23 originals, and several of them, like the waltz, Little Niles, are being recorded and performed by a number of his contemporaries, including Gigi Gryce, Oscar Pettiford and George Shearing. Milt Jackson plans to record Randy's Pam's Waltz, and I expect that in the decade and more ahead, Randy will become as recognized for his compositions as for his playing.

Randy's attitude toward jazz is strongly involved with his love and respect for the traditions of the language. One of his three major influences is Duke Ellington. "The way he plays," Randy begins, "for one thing. He's not recognized too much as a pianist, but he's a fine one. He's very definite; he's not afraid to do what's in his mind; and his playing has that sound and drive he gets from his orchestra. And there's his feeling for change of pace; he can be wild and then become so subtle. The blues feeling he had his band have moves me so. The whole band has that blues sound and feeling, no matter what they're playing."

Art Tatum is a second influence, as he has to have been to almost every jazz pianist by virtue of his total command of the instrument. A third is Thelonious Monk. "When I first met Monk," says Randy, "I was more interested in Nat Cole and Eddie Heywood, who lived around the corner from me. I wasn't in a musical position to appreciate what Monk was doing. This was in 1944, and I heard Monk at the Down Beat with Coleman Hawkins. I had great respect for Hawkins, and I figured that if Hawkins had hired Monk, Monk must have something to say. I became so fascinated by him in time that I decided to meet and talk to him. There wasn't much at first in the way of conversation, but I'd go by his house, starting around 1947 and continuing intermittently for several years, and he'd play piano and I'd listen for three or four years. I really do feel Monk is a genius."

"If it's not a paradox," Randy adds, "Monk has a command of freedom. I never get the feeling of paper and notes in his work. There is a complete freedom in his work. It doesn't sound as if he's affected by barriers or conventions. Whatever he feels, he writes and plays; and yet he still keeps alive that old definite piano sound like Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Monk inspired me in that he showed me you can stretch out and be yourself. Some people say he hasn't much technique as a pianist. Technique isn't important. It's the message you have that counts, especially in jazz. I once heard a piano player who could only play three or four chords, but when he was through, you knew emotionally he'd been there!

"As a writer, Monk can create a melody that sounds like no one else's and yet just seems to have flowed naturally from him. I can't verbalize how he does it; I don't think he can verbalize it either. I've never taken a formal lesson from him, but I've listened and talked to him a lot, and he's changed my whole conception. I remember one lesson he taught me especially well. There was some music going on at his house. I didn't care for it, and said so. Monk said nonchalantly but firmly, "You've got to listen to everybody and everything. Everybody has something to say."

"I've found that to be very true."

Here’s a video montage of images of Randy and some of the artwork from his many recordings which employs as its audio track the version of Hi-Fly from the 1958 Metro Jazz LP that he recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival with George Joyner on bass and G.T. Hogan on drums.