1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

"There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

    "There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."

  2. the westerlies

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

    wayne horvitz

    brass

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

"Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

    "Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

  2. horace silver

    jazz

    bop

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 


Listen to the full review
image via Jazz Forum  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

    Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 

    Listen to the full review

    image via Jazz Forum 

  2. ronald shannon jackson

    free funk

    music

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. In June 1970, Miles Davis played four nights at New York’s rock palace Fillmore East—following earlier appearances that year, there and at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Four sets of that June music are now out in full for the first time. Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says, the jazz trumpeter had gone to the Fillmore in search of a new audience: 

It messed jazz people up, the music Miles Davis made in 1970, like the four sets recorded that June now issued complete on “Miles at the Fillmore.” Two years earlier he’d been leading one of the most beloved jazz bands ever—the one with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Then he went electric. Instead of playing jazz clubs, now he was playing tokids who came out to hear the rock bands he split bills with. As one of those rock kids who saw Miles at the Fillmore in 1970, I gotta admit, the music was too weird for me. But later I could not stop thinking about it.
View in High-Res

    In June 1970, Miles Davis played four nights at New York’s rock palace Fillmore East—following earlier appearances that year, there and at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Four sets of that June music are now out in full for the first time. Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says, the jazz trumpeter had gone to the Fillmore in search of a new audience: 

    It messed jazz people up, the music Miles Davis made in 1970, like the four sets recorded that June now issued complete on “Miles at the Fillmore.” Two years earlier he’d been leading one of the most beloved jazz bands ever—the one with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Then he went electric. Instead of playing jazz clubs, now he was playing tokids who came out to hear the rock bands he split bills with. As one of those rock kids who saw Miles at the Fillmore in 1970, I gotta admit, the music was too weird for me. But later I could not stop thinking about it.

  2. miles davis

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

  1. 
Drummer Billy Hart has recorded hundreds of albums, backing, among many others, pianist Herbie Hancock. But he sometimes records under his own name too, especially now that he has a well-seasoned quartet. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of Billy Hart’s new quartet CD, One is the Other: 

"On drummer Billy Hart’s new quartet CD One Is the Other, Hart’s tune “Yard” paraphrases Charlie Yardbird Parker’s line “Cheryl.” In a way that’s typical Hart; he knows his history but puts his own wobble on it. The band too: saxophonist Mark Turner’s “Lennie Groove” updates Lennie Tristano’s long snaky melodies. Pianist Ethan Iverson’s tune “Maraschino” owes something to Thelonious Monk’s halting ballads, and to the late drummer Paul Motian’s tunes built on catchy little phrases. 
 Hart’s band first assembled in 2003 as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. But the drummer loved playing in it so much, his younger comrades handed him the keys: Now we’ll be your band.”

Photograph by Nathea Lee View in High-Res

    Drummer Billy Hart has recorded hundreds of albums, backing, among many others, pianist Herbie Hancock. But he sometimes records under his own name too, especially now that he has a well-seasoned quartet. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of Billy Hart’s new quartet CD, One is the Other:

    "On drummer Billy Hart’s new quartet CD One Is the Other, Hart’s tune “Yard” paraphrases Charlie Yardbird Parker’s line “Cheryl.” In a way that’s typical Hart; he knows his history but puts his own wobble on it. The band too: saxophonist Mark Turner’s “Lennie Groove” updates Lennie Tristano’s long snaky melodies. Pianist Ethan Iverson’s tune “Maraschino” owes something to Thelonious Monk’s halting ballads, and to the late drummer Paul Motian’s tunes built on catchy little phrases.

     Hart’s band first assembled in 2003 as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. But the drummer loved playing in it so much, his younger comrades handed him the keys: Now we’ll be your band.

    Photograph by Nathea Lee

  2. Billy Hart

    Jazz

    Kevin Whitehead

    Fresh Air

  1. Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collection of performances by jazz pianist Bud Powell recorded at Birdland in 1953 — 


"Bud Powell had played Birdland before he opened there on Feb. 5, 1953, but this return engagement was a big deal. That very day, he’d been discharged from a state psychiatric hospital, after being committed for a year and a half following a drug bust. (Powell’s mental troubles stemmed partly from a 1945 police beating in Philadelphia.) He was painfully uncommunicative face to face. But when he sat at the keys, it was a whole other story."

Photo via Metronome/Getty Images View in High-Res

    Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collection of performances by jazz pianist Bud Powell recorded at Birdland in 1953 —

    "Bud Powell had played Birdland before he opened there on Feb. 5, 1953, but this return engagement was a big deal. That very day, he’d been discharged from a state psychiatric hospital, after being committed for a year and a half following a drug bust. (Powell’s mental troubles stemmed partly from a 1945 police beating in Philadelphia.) He was painfully uncommunicative face to face. But when he sat at the keys, it was a whole other story."

    Photo via Metronome/Getty Images

  2. Bud Powell

    Jazz

    Kevin Whitehead

    Fresh Air

    Birdland

  1. 
1964 was a great year for cutting-edge jazz records like Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. But none sounds as far ahead of its time as Eric Dolphy's masterpiece Out to Lunch, recorded for Blue Note on Feb. 25, 1964. Half a century later it still sounds crazy in a good way. The organized mayhem starts with Dolphy’s tunes, often featuring wide, wide leaps in the melody and ratchet-gear rhythms. His composition “Straight Up and Down” was inspired by the careful walk of a drunk striving to stay upright. He improvised with that same kind of angular energy, and an excitable tone like a goosed goose.


Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Eric Dolphy’s album Out to Lunch View in High-Res

    1964 was a great year for cutting-edge jazz records like Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. But none sounds as far ahead of its time as Eric Dolphy's masterpiece Out to Lunch, recorded for Blue Note on Feb. 25, 1964. Half a century later it still sounds crazy in a good way. The organized mayhem starts with Dolphy’s tunes, often featuring wide, wide leaps in the melody and ratchet-gear rhythms. His composition “Straight Up and Down” was inspired by the careful walk of a drunk striving to stay upright. He improvised with that same kind of angular energy, and an excitable tone like a goosed goose.

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Eric Dolphy’s album Out to Lunch

  2. jazz

    eric dolphy

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Magic 201, the last album from jazz flutist and saxophonist Frank Wess before he passed away last year:

"Nowadays we have ample evidence that playing jazz keeps the mind and body nimble, given all the musicians in their ’80s and up who still sound good. But we are running out of saxophonists whose styles were formed before John Coltrane’s harder sound took over. There is something tender and specific about the ways elders like Frank Wess shaped their notes that’s hard for younger musicians to evoke without anachronisms creeping in. That’s one reason music lovers love their records: even after the masters are gone, their sound is right here with us."


View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Magic 201, the last album from jazz flutist and saxophonist Frank Wess before he passed away last year:

    "Nowadays we have ample evidence that playing jazz keeps the mind and body nimble, given all the musicians in their ’80s and up who still sound good. But we are running out of saxophonists whose styles were formed before John Coltrane’s harder sound took over. There is something tender and specific about the ways elders like Frank Wess shaped their notes that’s hard for younger musicians to evoke without anachronisms creeping in. That’s one reason music lovers love their records: even after the masters are gone, their sound is right here with us."

  2. frank wess

    kevin whitehead

    jazz

    review

    magic 201

    jazz flute

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's new album, Sixteen Sunsets:

"One reason Bloom’s ballads are usually so effective is the contrast with her fast numbers. On Sixteen Sunsets, only a couple of songs outrun or even approach a medium tempo. One of those is her oldie “Ice Dancing,” a bright tune with a tango tinge, and a catchy ending like a mousetrap snapping shut.
In the long run this program of non-stop beautiful ballads starts to seem like too much of a good thing. Yeah, that’s right — we’re complaining about an overabundance of riches.”



image via vimeo View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's new album, Sixteen Sunsets:

    "One reason Bloom’s ballads are usually so effective is the contrast with her fast numbers. On Sixteen Sunsets, only a couple of songs outrun or even approach a medium tempo. One of those is her oldie “Ice Dancing,” a bright tune with a tango tinge, and a catchy ending like a mousetrap snapping shut.

    In the long run this program of non-stop beautiful ballads starts to seem like too much of a good thing. Yeah, that’s right — we’re complaining about an overabundance of riches.”

    image via vimeo

  2. fresh air

    jane ira bloom

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

    soprano sax

  1. Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates drummer Kenny Clarke's incredible contribution to jazz:

January 9th marks the 100th birthday of drummer Kenny Clarke. One of the founders of bebop, Clarke is less well-known than allies like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, but his influence is just as deep.
That thing that jazz drummers do — that ching-chinga-ching beat on the ride cymbal, like sleigh bells? It gives the music a light, airy, driving pulse. Clarke came up with that, and that springy shimmer came to epitomize swinging itself.
Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call “dropping bombs.” He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along.

image via drumlessons

    Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates drummer Kenny Clarke's incredible contribution to jazz:

    January 9th marks the 100th birthday of drummer Kenny Clarke. One of the founders of bebop, Clarke is less well-known than allies like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, but his influence is just as deep.

    That thing that jazz drummers do — that ching-chinga-ching beat on the ride cymbal, like sleigh bells? It gives the music a light, airy, driving pulse. Clarke came up with that, and that springy shimmer came to epitomize swinging itself.

    Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call “dropping bombs.” He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along.

    image via drumlessons

  2. fresh air

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    kenny clarke

    drums

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Michele Rosewoman's new album with her ensemble titled New Yor-Uba: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America:

On most pieces, Michele Rosewoman wraps her compositions around Yoruban or Dahomeyan devotional chants and drum patterns. They give the music a spiritual resonance across centuries and continents. Rosewoman treats those materials with care — the sung prayers appear in the prescribed order, and have their own integrity within the band’s performance. The ensemble’s lead vocalist is the magnetic Pedrito Martinez, whose singing opens a window on another time.


image via irockjazz View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Michele Rosewoman's new album with her ensemble titled New Yor-Uba: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America:

    On most pieces, Michele Rosewoman wraps her compositions around Yoruban or Dahomeyan devotional chants and drum patterns. They give the music a spiritual resonance across centuries and continents. Rosewoman treats those materials with care — the sung prayers appear in the prescribed order, and have their own integrity within the band’s performance. The ensemble’s lead vocalist is the magnetic Pedrito Martinez, whose singing opens a window on another time.

    image via irockjazz

  2. fresh air

    kevin whitehead

    michele rosewoman

    new yor-uba

    jazz

  1. 
This Thanksgiving there were a lot of articles online about arming yourself with good information before arguing politics at seasonal dinners. With so much contention in the air, maybe music can help bring folks with opposing views together. 


Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has some suggestions for music to keep the peace during the hectic holiday season.



image via the britannica View in High-Res

    This Thanksgiving there were a lot of articles online about arming yourself with good information before arguing politics at seasonal dinners. With so much contention in the air, maybe music can help bring folks with opposing views together.

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has some suggestions for music to keep the peace during the hectic holiday season.

    image via the britannica

  2. fresh air

    kevin whitehead

    holiday season

    jazz

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) anthology:

Drummer Chick Webb’s 1930s’s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. They could similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like “Blue Lou” and “Don’t Be That Way.” But the Webb band also had an old school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation. In 1935 Linton helped draw a curtain over mannered singing like his, when he brought scruffy 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald to Chick Webb’s attention. Her sound was streamlined and modern, about melody and rhythm more than emoting. Ella was unformed, but could read music and learn a song in a second. “This is it,” Webb said. “I have a real singer now. That’s what the public wants.” Music publishers deluged the band with mostly forgettable medium tempo swing tunes, but Ella could make something out of almost anything—such as “Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance).” Her articulation was always precise, but as in later years a New York accent might slip out. 
View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) anthology:

    Drummer Chick Webb’s 1930s’s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. They could similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like “Blue Lou” and “Don’t Be That Way.” But the Webb band also had an old school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation.

    In 1935 Linton helped draw a curtain over mannered singing like his, when he brought scruffy 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald to Chick Webb’s attention. Her sound was streamlined and modern, about melody and rhythm more than emoting. Ella was unformed, but could read music and learn a song in a second. “This is it,” Webb said. “I have a real singer now. That’s what the public wants.” Music publishers deluged the band with mostly forgettable medium tempo swing tunes, but Ella could make something out of almost anything—such as “Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance).” Her articulation was always precise, but as in later years a New York accent might slip out.

  2. fresh air

    jazz

    ella fitzgerald

    chick webb

    harlem

    savoy ballroom

    kevin whitehead

    review

    decca records

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews William Parker's new box set “Wood Flute Songs:”

Parker’s bass tone was always sturdy as a tree trunk, but power drummer Hamid Drake gives him lift. The upshot is that free jazz can swing, too. The quartet’s front line is another firm partnership: quicksilver alto saxophonist Rob Brown and flinty trumpeter Lewis Barnes. Their scrappy unisons on the melodies are raggedly right, and they finish each other’s phrases when they improvise. Parker writes them all catchy tunes to use as springboards.



photo via the Guardian by Peter Gannushkin

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews William Parker's new box set “Wood Flute Songs:”

    Parker’s bass tone was always sturdy as a tree trunk, but power drummer Hamid Drake gives him lift. The upshot is that free jazz can swing, too. The quartet’s front line is another firm partnership: quicksilver alto saxophonist Rob Brown and flinty trumpeter Lewis Barnes. Their scrappy unisons on the melodies are raggedly right, and they finish each other’s phrases when they improvise. Parker writes them all catchy tunes to use as springboards.

    photo via the Guardian by Peter Gannushkin

  2. fresh air

    jazz

    william parker

    kevin whitehead

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Booker Ervin's album “The Book Cooks” :

    Tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin came to New York in 1958. Pianist Horace Parlan heard him and invited Ervin to sit in one night with a band he worked in. That’s how Ervin got hired by bassist Charles Mingus, who featured him on albums like Blues and Roots and Mingus Ah Um. Before long, Ervin was making his own records, like The Book Cooks, which has just been reissued on the re-revived Bethlehem label.

  2. fresh air

    review

    kevin whitehead

    jazz

    booker ervin

    charles mingus