Lately I’ve been listening to Egberto Gismonti, one of Brazil’s greatest composers, as I’m working on a piece for DownBeat about a new tribute album to him by virtuoso clarinetist Eddie Daniels. It reminded me of a night in 2014 when I saw Gismonti give a thrilling SRO performance in a church in Paraty, Brazil, as part of the MIMO Festival. I never got around to posting the article I wrote about that night for DownBeat: here it is.
After the concert, I was invited to go to dinner with him and a group of MIMO staff. He told me about a concert he had given some years earlier attended by his mother and aunt, in which he chose not to play a famous song of his called “Palhaço” (which translates as “Pagliaccio” or “Clown”). As he took his bows, some audience members demanded the song, a fan favorite, repeatedly yelling, “Palhaço, Palhaço!” His mother and aunt, apparently unfamiliar with the song, took umbrage. Later they told him, “How can they be so disrespectful! You played so beautifully!” The video below starts slowly, but hang on.
On Thursday night before a packed house at Birdland, I had the privilege of presenting genius composer-bandleader Maria Schneider with three 2018 Jazz Awards on behalf of the 185 voting members of the Jazz Journalists Association. She won for best jazz composer, best arranger, and best large ensemble for the Maria Schneider Orchestra.
If there were an award for best public service by a musician, she might win that as well, for her tireless activism in the fight to get fair compensation for music creators and other artists. It’s a fight that, as Maria will tell you, is far from over.
Maria once told me her favorite compliment that she ever received. A musician friend of hers was driving his 12-year-old son to soccer practice and playing The Thompson Fields on the car stereo. After a few minutes of listening, his son said, “Wow, Dad, I didn’t know there was music that sounded like this.” There is.
The blues is the lingua franca on United We Swing: Best Of The Jazz At Lincoln Center Galas (Blue Engine), a new compilation of live performances featuring the Wynton Marsalis Septet. I spoke with Wynton recently about the new album for DownBeat.
I caught Alina Engibaryan, a young Armenian-Russian emigre, last night at the Jazz Standard, with a truly all-star band of sax legend Chris Potter, bassist Michael League (her producer), Taylor Eigsti on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums – wow! She occupies the jazz-pop-soul space carved out by artists like Stevie Wonder (think “You’ve Got It Bad, Girl”) and extends it, exploring the jazz implications more deeply. #AlinaEngibaryan #jazz
Kurt Elling has always been one of our most cerebral jazz singers, which is not to say he doesn’t swing like a mother. Over lunch and several glasses of Montepulciano at his favorite neighborhood pizzeria on the Upper West Side…
…we talked for nearly three hours about his new album, The Questions (Okeh), which he describes as both a reaction to the era of division and vitriol brought on by the Trump Administration, and an attempt to rise above it and consider more cosmic matters. To that end, the album features shattering, modern interpretations of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and Paul Simon’s “American Tune;” it also includes lyrics he adapted from favorite poems by Wallace Stevens, Franz Wright, and Rumi, among others. The album, co-produced by Branford Marsalis, is one of my favorite discs of the year. Our discussion appears in the June issue of DownBeat, but you can read it here.
Bob Dorough at Jazz at Kitano, with my friend and fellow Dorough fan Terry King, in August 2012. We were thrilled to meet him.
The great jazz singer, songwriter and pianist Bob Dorough passed away yesterday at 94. Perennially young and energetic, we thought he would go on forever. I saw him give a breezy, masterful performance at Jazz at Kitano four years ago, when he was 90. He sang and played like someone 30 years younger, with his pony tail and that patented Arkansas twang of his that, somehow, added to his hipster image. I interviewed him and reviewed the show for DownBeat. He will no doubt be best remembered for “Schoolhouse Rock,” for which he wrote and recorded many of the songs. But his great songbook also includes the immortal “Devil May Care,” “I’m Hip” (with Dave Frishberg), and “Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before.” He also holds the distinction of being one of the only vocalists ever to sing on a Miles Davis album (Sorcerer).
Bob Dorough meets Cecile McLorin Salvant at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: AM).
In August 2015, I witnessed his first meeting with Cecile McLorin Salvant following her performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. He presented her with a folio of some of his songs that he thought she might like. She was thrilled and subsequently added “Devil May Care” and “Nothing Like You” to her repertoire.
“Nothing like him,” indeed.
Manhattan Transfer, from left: Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne, Janis Siegel and Trist Curless (Photo: John Abbott)
I spoke with The Manhattan Transfer’s Alan Paul and new member Trist Curless about the group’s great new album “The Junction,” its first in nearly a decade. It plays like a pop album, but an awfully hip one. Story in DownBeat Magazine.