Jazz Pensacola membership dues to increase

004PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Jazz Pensacola Board of Directors announces a slight increase in membership dues, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

The new membership dues: $60, per couple; $40, per individual.

You can renew by sending a check to Jazz Pensacola, 3 West Garden St., Suite 418, Pensacola, FL 32502-5633, or renew here on the site to pay your membership dues by credit card.

Jazz Pensacola is a non-profit organization of business and professional people, musicians, teachers, students and listeners working together for the purpose of advancing jazz music and education in Pensacola and the surrounding area.

For information, call (850) 433-8382 8 a.m. to noon MondayFriday, or explore our site.

CD Review: 'Summer Breeze' by Greg Murphy

SUMMER BREEZE
Greg Murphy, piano
Whaling City Sound, New Bedford, MA

murphyGreg Murphy is a seasoned pianist and composer who has assembled a great team for this, his fourth CD as leader. It’s a mix of jazz compositions by outstanding artists as well as Murphy’s own well-honed compositions. Trio work includes bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Kush Abadey.    

Wheeler has recorded with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and jazz musicians, among whom are, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller and Russell Malone. Drummer Abadey is in his early 20s but his resume is outstanding. He has recorded with Wallace Roney, attended Berklee School of Music and had recorded with Terrance Blanchard, Barry Harris and others.

Trumpeter Josh Evans joins the ensemble on most tunes and does an outstanding job. Corey Wilson joins on a Murphy composition, A Reason To Smile. Vocalist Malou Beauvoir is featured on A Reason to Smile, Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady and the Seals and Crofts composition, Summer Breeze.  

Besides those listed tunes, composition other than Murphy’s are Miles Davis’ Solar, Wayne Shorter’s Fall, Sonny Rollins’ Solid and Leo’s Lullaby by Scott Robert Avedon. The other six tunes, completing the dozen on the album, are Greg Murphy compositions.

To this reviewer, the smooth and tuneful execution and rhythmic piano suggest influence of George Shearing and Dave Brubeck.  Well done, Greg Murphy. We look for your next output.

Book/CD Review: '12 Preludes for Solo Guitar'

12 Preludes for Solo Guitar
By Ken Hatfield
Music Book and CD
Arthur Circle Music

hatfieldWhile Ken Hatfield’s 12 preludes aren’t exactly in the jazz category, they are lovely pieces in themselves as well as a didactic exercise for guitar student at intermediate or advanced level.

Personal disclosure, Hatfield has been a performer at Pensacola’s Songwriters Festival in previous years. We had opportunity to meet and hear him when he gave a guest appearance at one of Jazz Pensacola events. Yes, he is a personable artist and skilled performer.

Interestingly, the 12 preludes are arranged to progress around the circle of fifths. If the reader is not familiar, don’t worry, it’s clearly explained. And, it takes 12 steps (different key signatures) to complete that circle. The intermediate or advanced student should have, at maximum, only moderate difficulty. These etudes are not recommended for the rank beginner. But, even for the non-guitarist, listening to Hatfield perform these is most pleasant and should inspire us all to become more musical. The book and CD normally are sold together, but the CD may be purchased separately, exclusively at www.kenhatfield.com.

Hatfield’s background is eclectic. He’s written jazz pieces, choral and ballet scores and has written scores for TV and film. In 2006 the ASCAP Foundation honored him with the Vanguard Award in recognition of his “innovative and distinctive music that is charting new directions in jazz.” At age 19, after completing studies at Berklee School of Music in Boston, he joined the faculty.

Hatfield’s book and CD will be part of the collection in our Jazz Room at the West Florida Public Library downtown for check-out by interested patrons.

Book Review: 'Anatomy of a Song'

Anatomy of A Song:
The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed, Rock, R&B and Pop
By Marc Myers
Grove Press, New York © 2016, pp.223

anatomyofasongFor those who aren’t previously acquainted with this writer, Marc Myers is a trained historian who writes about jazz for the Wall Street Journal and also posts daily to his blog JazzWax.com. He has been honored twice by the Jazz Journalists Association with its Blog of the Year Award.

Whereas this book doesn’t review jazz tunes, Myers has selected forty-five songs — popular, R&B and rock — to relate the reader to the performers and to examine the song’s effects on the individual listener and also popular culture. He indicates that some have been selected from his previous WSJ columns and that many have been expanded to include additional information and anecdotes.

To give a few examples, In the chapter called Suspicious Minds, Myers interviews songwriter Mark James and producer Chips Mohan. They give the background of how the song was written and circumstances of how it was produced in the recording studio with Elvis Presley on vocals. In addition, there are a couple of photos of Elvis.

For the Proud Mary chapter, Creedence Clearwater Revival singer-songwriter-lead guitarist John Fogarty is interviewed. He related the circumstances of how the song was written — he’s just gotten his honorable discharge from the service, 1967, and was therefore not likely to have to serve in the Vietnam war. He was fascinated by riverboats, though he’d never previously seen one. And he used Beethoven’s introductory chord changes for Fifth Symphony.

Other artists and songs covered include The Dixie Cups, The Temptations, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and Pink Floyd.

This is a book with self-contained chapters — 45 in all — so one can read at random or straight through as desired. It’s also an ideal gift for a musical friend. And, with the availability of YouTube and similar features, one may review the song while reading its background. This book will go in the jazz collection at the downtown West Florida Public Library and be available for check-out by library patrons.

Myers’ previous book is entitled Why Jazz Happened. He takes a unique point of view and tells how technology had influenced the music — first came recorded sound, then radio followed by television. Seventy-eight rpm recordings then to 45 rpm and LPs transitioned to CDs and now streaming sound and video. Also, sound amplification contributed to rock & roll. This was all told with a historian’s interesting view-point.

Ken Peplowski jazz CD is charming

ENRAPTURE
Capri Records, Ltd.

Ken Peplowski assembled his teammates for this charming CD and chose a variety of tunes, some of which are outside the usual jazz repertoire. His musical associates were pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind and drummer/percussionist Matt Wilson. Of course, likely all who read this column already know that Ken is clarinetist/saxophonist of great talent and renown.

enraptureIn order for the reader to appreciate the diversity of music on this CD, the titles and composer/lyricist are listed.

The Flaming Sword (Duke Ellington)
An Affair to Remember (Harry Warren/Leon McCarey/ Harold Adamson)
Oh, My Love (John Lennon/Yoko Ono)
Cheer Up, Charlie (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley)
I’ll Follow My Secret Heart (Noel Coward)
Enrapture (Herbie Nichols)
Twelve (Peter Erskine)
Vertigo Scene D’Amour (Bernard Hermann)/Madeline (Love Music from “Vertigo”)
When October Goes (Barry Manilow/Johnny Mercer)
Willow Tree (Thomas “Fats” Waller/ Andy Razaf)

Peplowski explained, “A year or so of sifting through material, a year or so of playing with these great musicians and very little time in the studio; we really wanted to approximate what we do in the clubs. This is us, in as close to a live setting as one could ask for in a recording environment —every song is pretty much one take — we just like to capture the spontaneity and interplay of four people who enjoy making music together.”

For the musical cognoscenti, Peter Erskine’s “Twelve” is explained by Peplowski: “… a twelve-tone row based on the standard ‘Easy to Love.” This is an example of us doing a kind of collective improvisation, something this quartet has become quite adept at — this was not even rehearsed, just talked through by me — one take and that’s that!”

I was intrigued about the background of “When October Goes” credited to Barry Manilow and Johnny Mercer. With some research I learned that toward the end of Mercer’s life, he and Manilow became close. After Johnny’s death, his widow Ginger offered some of Johnny’s unpublished lyrics to Manilow, who composed the tune to fit Mercer’s lyrics.

One other item that intrigued me: The photo on the cover shows an unusual bridge taken at the level of a pedestrian with skyscrapers in the distance. I puzzled over the significance of the cover photo and the title of the CD. I inquired of Tom Burns of Capri Records and learned that the significance was only tangential. It’s a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge taken by Des McMahon, a friend of Pep’s.

Jazz writer Will Friedwald has described the musician as such: “Peplowski sounds the way (Benny) Goodman might if he had kept evolving, kept on listening to new music, kept refining his sound, polishing his craft, and expanding his musical purview into the 21st century.”

An unusual CD and an interview with the artist, Delfeayo Marsalis

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
Delfeayo Marsalis presents the
Uptown Jazz Orchestra
Troubadour Jazz Records
www.dmarsalis.com

This unusual CD came for review. I was immediately intrigued by the title as I doubted it to be a campaign item for a current presidential candidate. Listed in liner notes were 23 regular musicians, four guest musicians, four special guests including a narrator and eight members of a vocal theatre music group. There is a photo of the big band on the cover, 15 male musicians and one woman, presumably the vocalist.

marsalis_cd_frontThe intrigue continues as the music develops. The first selection is the Star Spangled Banner, a melodic arrangement. The last selection is Aaron Coplandís Fanfare for the Common Man, a beautiful arrangement by D. Marsalis. Of the total 14 numbers it’s a mix of big band, smaller group material, some vocal numbers and spoken commentary. Some of the numbers suggested a studio version of a New Orleans jazz marching group. Included are familiar numbers, Skylark and Java, both featuring Mr. Marsalis as trombone soloist. One might be reminded of some of Tommy Dorsey’s lush solos.

No, this was not a plug for a certain presidential candidate. But, it was an intriguing mix of varying kinds of music, executed with care and precision. Liner notes include words to Make America Great Again and Living Free (And Running Wild.)

What follows is a conversation between this reviewer and Delfeayo Marsalis. Words to Make America Great Again are below. I am grateful to Mr. Marsalis for contributions to the music and for a clear explanation of how this CD came to be produced.

The title phrase was used by Presidents Reagan and Clinton before being used by the Trump Campaign. How/why/ when did you choose this as title?

One of the unique aspects of playing with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra is that we create songs spontaneously. We ask the audience to pick two key signatures and the theme for the composition. One night three months ago, someone called out “Make America Great Again!” The tune was nice, so I decided we should record it and include it on the new CD. After hearing the studio version, I realized it needed a narration, so I wrote the lyric and contacted Wendell Pierce. Being the most comprehensive political statement of the songs we recorded, I felt the title best captured the tenor of our country today.

marsalis_cd_backAny apprehension that the casual viewer might think this is a support for Trump?

Yes. Today, in the social media age, people or less likely to peel through layers for discovery. That’s another challenge of jazz music, as well, because there is naturally an abstract quality of instrumental performance. And jazz requires patience, intellectual and emotional commitment from listeners. So, the title is challenging, but it best represents my sense of humor and political awareness.

Your own private joke?

I’m not sure how private it is, but it certainly puts the audience on notice that something is going on!

On first listening, this recording seems, to me, a mix of big band, New Orleans style marching band music, vocals suggest some musical theatre. Tell me your concept for this musical gumbo of styles?

Just like all humans can be traced back through the DNA strain to Africa, all music is related. I like to include as many styles of music as possible in every performance and recording, so that’s an accurate assessment. I’m sure there’s classical music, James Brown and others in there, too.

Who composed the lyrics to Back to Africa and Living Free (And Running Wild)? I see you’ve credited Brice Miller and Naydja Cojoe, respectively, for Rt. Foot Forward and Living Free.

I wrote the lyrics for BTA and LFRW. Naydja wrote the bridge to LFRW and Dee-1 wrote all of the rap (except for my “Hundreds of years ‘fore Columbus sailed there were native folks without tears on a trail.”)

There’s an impressive list of players and special guests. Riff a bit about how/why these players were chosen. Presumably your regulars are your local band plus the guests.

There is a uniqueness about New Orleans music that is rooted in joy and celebration with an understanding of pathos. I felt it was important to hire New Orleans musicians or individuals who have lived and performed there for many years. We couldn’t effectively play the brass band music without that indigenous New Orleans understanding. Branford, given his extensive history improvising in different genres, always makes good decisions as a soloist, so I always try to keep him involved. The cohesiveness of the band in collective improvisation is unique to New Orleans. There are a number of jazz orchestras that can play technically brilliant, read music and sound good, but no other that plays the New Orleans sound to perfection like our Uptown Jazz Orchestra.

Talk about the narrator, Wendell Pierce.

Wendell and I attended high school together and he’s one of three New Orleanians accepted into the Juilliard School of Drama. His main acting roles were on The Wire and Treme, but I knew he would accurately capture the frustration that all adult black males feel about Americans abusing or ignoring their responsibility to the nation. I originally wanted a white man to deliver it, but there is a certain irony and resolve that is unique to the Negro experience in the text. Wendell understood exactly what it was and how to accurately capture it.

Say a few words about the recording location, Trinity Church in New Orleans.

When Branford and Wynton made the shift from small studios to larger ones back in the ’80s, it was at my suggestion. Not long after that, more musicians were following suit. Without getting too technical, the unique nature of the sound Patrick Smith and I are known for capturing has to do with the acoustic nature of live instruments playing together in one space. The larger the space, the greater the potential to capture the full harmonic range instruments individually and collectively. Electronic instruments sound artificial because there are approximations of living things. They can sound good, but not like the real thing. That said, I knew that Trinity Church would allow us to capture the true instrument sounds with clarity and natural ambience. My one regret is recording digital instead of analog, which always gives the sound quality more of the needed fat rump!

Was this part of their Artist Series?

No.

Was it a concert setting or dedicated recording session?

This was a dedicated recording session.

I note that you credit various persons for mixing and David Farrell for mastering. Why the different assignments?

Well, we submitted the credits before everything was finished, so it all changed. In the end, I had to mix more than I wanted to because the other engineers had other commitments. It takes a great deal of emotional energy to mix the way that I do, which is why I don’t record as much as I used to. We split up the songs so that whoever was available could work on them, they’d send me the mixes and I’d request certain changes, etc. In the end, we were all aiming to accomplish the same goal.

Lyrics to Make America Great Again by Delfeayo Marsalis

Make America Great Again

Ah, yes, Make America Great Again!

While this catchy slogan may serve as a poignantly potent political phrase is it, in practical terms, a pragmatic proposition in the real world today? I submit, if you please, Certainly not!

Now, there will always be those of us who long for “the good old days,” either because we weren’t there or we’ve simply forgotten what those days were actually like.

Times are steadily changing and we have adjusted since 1492 with aplomb! That’s right, here in America we accept the good with the bad, the happy with sad, the rain with the sun and the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Tea Parties all the same.

We may not agree with what you have to say, but we let you voice your opinion anyway.

A Melting Pot of diversity fighting a juggernaut of adversity!

Solo

Now, you’ve got to admit, eight score and seven years ago, the Confederates had a strong business model. Guaranteed riches from an ill-got industry, mostly realized on the backs of African immigrants, the enslavement of whom has been designated, regulated and propagated as a natural birthright! Lo thus, arose our great nation’s preeminent dilemma; firmly lodged in that most peculiar of institutions. What to do, what to do?

Rather than uphold the basic tenets of our Constitution, these good old boys waged war against our United States of America without a good back-up plan!

Solo

To my eye, it’s a curious sight to see that Rebel flag raised proudly next to our Stars and Stripes, because that particular flag represents not only Southern pride, but also anti-American sentiment. It represents the longing for American freedom without the sacrifice of responsibility that accompanies it! Didn’t they know? Freedom ain’t free!

Good Old Southern Boy, Form a more perfect Union, blah, blah, blah. We got the right to this land of the free, it’s our manifest destiny. How? Man, we are making entirely too much money off this hustle to just let this thing go on principle. Who are you kidding?

Through the Middle Passage and Trail of Tears, 10 wars,
Eight Recessions, A Great Depression, Women’s Suffrage, Whites and Colored Only, South moving North and East moving West, landing on the moon, Lewis and Clark to our National Parks! I am American, protecting our American dream by any means necessary. United we stand.

Making America Great again! Ha-ha-ha!