Latin Jazz musicians believe in showing respect to the elders and originators of the music. This week we feature 95 year-old conga drum master Candido Camero, and we remember Cuban composer, arranger and bandleader Chico O’Farrill.
Best known by only his first name, Candido came to the US from Cuba in 1946. First working with pianist Billy Taylor, then with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, he expanded the use of Cuban percussion in jazz by using a three-drum combination and tuning the drums so that he could play melodies.
He became the best-known conguero in the US, even appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Jackie Gleason Show. He’s a 2008 NEA Jazz Master, a 2001 Latin Jazz USA Lifetime Acheivement Award winner, and was the first recipient of the Jazz Education Network’s LeJENd of Latin Jazz Award in 2014.
On November 18, Candido played his final performance. After 70 years in the business, he’s retiring. The send-off, “Candido: The Last Musical Journey,” was held at Aaron Davis Hall at City College Center for the Arts in New York, and featured Bobby Sanabria’s Multiverse Big Band, guitarist David Oquendo, and more. A fitting tribute to this Latin Jazz maestro.
Chico O’Farrill Returns Home
Composer, arranger and bandleader Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill left Cuba in 1948 to continue his classical music training at Juilliard. Benny Goodman hired him as an arranger, and Chico went on to be a pioneer of “Cubop“- a mixture of Cuban percussion with American be-bop.
His last visit to Cuba was in 1958, and in his later years he yearned to see his homeland. Chico died in 2001.
Chico’s son, Arturo O’Farrill will travel with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to Cuba in mid-December to bury his father’s ashes in Havana’s Colon Cemetery, and to play a memorial concert at Havana’s Basilica de San Francisco.
Also, congratulations to Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for winning the Best Latin Jazz Album award at the Latin Grammys for their album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues.”
This week we feature music from some of the nominees for Best Latin Jazz Album for this year’s Latin Grammys. The awards show will be on November 17 in Las Vegas.
Brazilian pianist, composer and arranger Antonio Adolfo’s new CD Tropical Infinito augments his usual quintet with a horn section. “During the early 1960s – at age 17 to be exact, when I became a professional musician – most jazz recordings by the major artists included horns,” he says. “These albums influenced an entire generation of Brazilian jazz and bossa musicians. Only one or two music stores in Rio imported the newly released American jazz LPs and I remember scrambling to be the first to buy those albums. Then I would call my musician friends to come to my house to listen to Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Jazz Messengers, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Horace Silver, Oliver Nelson, and others, to learn the jazz vocabulary from the masters.”
Venezuelan trumpeter Raul Agraz moved to New York in the 1990s and has stayed busy working in Broadway shows and for TV and films. Between Brothers is his debut release, and it includes bossa novas, traditional Venezuelan and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and some swinging big band arrangements.
The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Led by pianist, composer, and director Arturo O’Farrill, the orchestra is the standard-bearer for creative interpretation of Latin jazz greats such as Tito Puente, Frank “Machito” Grillo, and Chico O’Farrill (Arturo’s father and founder of the orchestra), as well as the driving force behind new commissions from Latin music’s most talented composers and arrangers. Their latest release is Cuba: The Conversation Continues, recorded in Havana 48 hours after President Obama announced his plan to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
On this debut of the hour-long Jazz Caliente, I feature some music from Cuban pianist/composer Jorge Luis Pacheco. The wonderful folks joined me on the 88.5 Travel Club trip to Cuba in 2013 were amazed at this young man’s performance at the Havana jazz club La Zorra y El Cuervo. He’s performing in Bellingham on Sunday, in Olympia on Wednesday 11/9 and popping in to the Royal Room on Thursday 11/10 to join the show with the Entremundos Quarteto and the Brazilian drum and dance group VamoLá.
In other Jazz Caliente news, Latin Jazz and Salsa pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri recently added another award to his already impressive collection: this year’s LeJENd (legend) of Latin Jazz Award from the Jazz Education Network (JEN). It will look great next to his 10 Grammy Awards, including the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording in 1975, and his 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award.
A little over four years ago, we asked 88.5 knkx listeners if they wanted to hear more Latin Jazz in our Mid Day Jazz programs. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and so the Jazz Caliente feature debuted at 2pm on Thursday July 19, 2012. The 3-song, 15 minute set of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz has been a highlight of Mid Day Jazz afternoons.
Now it’s time to take it to the next level. Jazz Caliente expands to a one-hour show starting this Saturday, November 5 at 5pm. That will give us more time to explore the mixture of jazz and world rhythms that move us. I’ll also be able to include interviews with some of the local and international artists who produce this great music.
This week, I’ll feature some music by young Cuban pianist/composer Jorge Luis Pacheco. I had the immense pleasure of hearing him play in Havana in 2013. He’ll be performing in Bellingham for the Friends of the South Whatcom Library’s Jazz Series on Sunday November 6 at 3pm, at Ben Moore’s Restaurant in Olympia on Wednesday November 9, and he’ll be making an appearance at Seattle’s Royal Room on Thursday November 10 with the Entremundos Quarteto and the Brazilian drum and dance ensemble VamoLá.
Join me for the new expanded version of Jazz Caliente, this Saturday at 5pm on 88.5 knkx!
The Earshot Jazz Festival and Seattle Theatre Group will present Maceo Parker on Saturday October 29 at the Moore Theatre. As you may know, Mid Day Jazz on the new 88.5 KNKX is home to the occasional feature, The Maceo Mandate, wherein we encourage listeners to take a break and “shake it loose” with the music of Maceo Parker.
An alumnus of James Brown’s band, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins’ Parliament-Funkadelic, and collaborations with Ray Charles and Prince, Maceo has been running his own band since 1990.
“I still enjoy traveling and entertaining. Along with the band, we’re still very very excited about what we do. We’re still having fun, giving it all we’ve got, and it feels good,” he says.
It must feel extremely good. The first Maceo concert I attended lasted for 4 hours. As I recall, very few of the audience members left before it was over. And my friend Nick Morrison made up a new dance on the spot. He called it “Gettin’ Maceated.”
Maceo didn’t start out with the intention of becoming the world’s funkiest saxophone player. He just loved any and all kinds of music. “Nat King Cole, big band stuff, little band stuff, bluegrass, Johnny Cash, Elvis…music, music, music. I was into it, even the Disney stuff.”
Older brother Kellis played trombone and younger brother Melvin played drums. Maceo first learned piano, then found his affinity for the saxophone.
“Sometimes I look at it almost like handwriting,” he says. “We all have the talent that we have, the ability to bounce and shoot the basketball, or catch the football, the whole gamut of what people do. And somehow, my way of playing solos, by listening to my heart and my mind, became a little funky.”
His biggest influence was Ray Charles. “Ray recorded ‘What’d I Say’ in 1959. I remember how it just destroyed our house. We just went bonkers. Me and my brothers tore the house all the way up.”
In 1961, backstage after a Ray Charles concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, Maceo said to the dressing room door, “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, Mr. Ray Charles, but one of these days, you are going to know me.” In 2003, he opened for Ray Charles in Europe for a three week tour. One of the nights Ray allowed Maceo to come on stage with him and play. They spent some time talking in the dressing room, too. It was a big highlight for the kid from Kinston, NC. You can read more about it in Maceo’s memoir, 98% Funky Stuff: My Life In Music.
Maceo has since performed Ray Charles tributes, both with his own band and with the Ray Charles band. The band members were amazed at Maceo’s impersonation of Ray. It’s spot on, he sounds just like Ray. One long-time Raylette actually cried when she heard him.
The core of the Maceo Parker Band has been with him for many years: keyboardist Will Boulware, bassist Rodney “Skeet” Curtis, and guitarist Bruno Speight. “We’re sort of like family,” says Maceo. “There’s a lot of love there, and it gives me support. They really are top-notch,” he says. On this tour, drummer Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce, Dumpstaphunk) joins the band. “She’s really funky, and she has that New Orleans thing going on.” Maceo’s son Corey will be singing, as well.
Recent years have brought some impressive recognition to Mr. Parker: a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music from Les Victoires du Jazz in Paris, the Icon Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and this year the North Carolina National Heritage Award from his home state.
Maceo just wants to spread the love. “I ended up doing exactly what I think I was born to do. And I feel good, da-da da-da da-da dah,” he sings. “I was born on a Valentine’s Day, so I can’t help but like people and promote love. I think that’s how it all started. Always remember, we love you!”
Get some Maceo love on October 29 at the Moore Theatre. Opening act is the sensational gospel group The Jones Family Singers, so we can get sanctified and funkified all on the same night.
Philadelphia has bred an astonishing number of great jazz musicians, like John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones and so many more. According to 81 year-old drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath: “Some guys joke and say it’s in the water. A lot of wonderful people that I grew up with and experienced playing with came out of Philadelphia.”
The “Tootie” thing? “It came from my grandfather, he gave me that name when I was a very tiny little person. But then he died before I could figure out why. So that’s been my name all through life. A lot of people know me as Tootie and not as Albert Heath.”
The Heath household that raised brothers Jimmy (sax), Percy (bass) and Albert (drums) was a magnet for the all-important “hang,” the informal gatherings of musicians and friends for food, conversation and jamming. “I’m sorry that house wasn’t enshrined, because some of the greatest people in jazz came through that house,” says Tootie. John Coltrane’s house in Philadelphia was listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Tootie’s first recording was with Coltrane in 1957. His most recent recordings have been with Ethan Iverson of the trio Bad Plus, and a 5-part suite written by pianist Richard Sears called “Altadena.” That CD is being released by Ropeadope Records, and the suite will be performed on October 2 at the Royal Room in Seattle.
Tootie says, “Richard was commissioned to write the suite [by the Los Angeles Jazz Society in 2013], and I was privileged to have him ask me to perform it with him at the Jon Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. About two years later we made the recording of it, and now we’re doing the tour.”
He enjoyed working with the young composer. “His music was very new for me, his approach to writing was very new, his performing was new. All those young people in the group were wonderful, they did his music justice. It was a great experience.”
The Altadena suite has a lot of space for improvisation. “It is more free-form. Richard said he wanted me to play as freely as possible, so it gave me an chance to reach back and grab some of my very old experiences, like with Don Cherry and Abdullah Ibrahim. Lately I haven’t had the opportunity play that freely until Richard came along with this suite.”
Tootie enjoys his interaction with young people. He’s been a regular instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, and this year was artist-in-residence at the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp in New Orleans. “It was very fun. I met some wonderful young people, the faculty and administrators, too. I’ll never forget it. I learned some things about music history that I didn’t know. It’s a great historical place.”
He likes to stay busy. He’ll be helping brother Jimmy celebrate his 90th birthday at Lincoln Center in NYC on October 25th, and after that, he’ll be at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, performing with his drum group “Whole Drum Truth,” which includes Sylvia Cuenca, Joe Saylor and Louis Hayes.
Tootie is looking forward to this trip to Seattle, and he fondly recalls the Seattle jazz greats he’s worked with over the years: Lucky Thompson, Buddy Catlett, Hadley Caliman and Julian Priester. “A lot of my contemporaries lived in Seattle. I’m happy to be able to come there and perform, especially with Richard and with a whole new approach, for me, to music.”
Hear The Altadena Suite by the Richard Sears Sextet featuring the legendary Albert Tootie Heath at Seattle’s Royal Room on Sunday October 2.
Saxophonist Chico Freeman has been on a 10-year journey of discovery.
“I always wanted to try to live in another place, besides the United States. I went from Chicago to New York, and I always had it in my mind that I wanted to base myself somewhere else in the world. I wanted to edify myself about other cultures and how people express music relative to their cultures,” he says.
“At first I thought about France, because of the history France has with jazz, from Sidney Bechet to Eric Dolphy and a lot of musicians who went to France. I thought about Northern Europe, Copenhagen, places like that, because of Dexter Gordon spending so much time there. I also wanted to try Japan and Australia.”
Chico ended up in Greece, then the Balkans. “I met a lot of Gypsy people, and I found that really interesting, because I found a similarity to the blues musicians in America, in the ways they live and their relationship to society. Flamenco music in Spain was originally Gypsy music. It’s their blues form.”
He’s had the opportunity to spend time in Africa, too. Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Congo, South Africa, Morocco, and Algeria all offered him a chance to explore the many cultures and musical forms of the continent.
Not that he’s lacking in music and culture from his home country. Chico is part of Chicago’s musical Freeman family. His father, beloved saxophonist Von Freeman was a mainstay of that city’s music scene, and Von’s brothers George (guitar) and Bruz (drums) lived and worked with him. Young Chico and the neighborhood kids would check out their rehearsals, and they also got to hear Andrew Hill, Ahmad Jamal, Malachi Favors and other Chicago-based jazz greats when they came to work with Von.
Von was one of the founders of the “Chicago School” of tenor sax, along with Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and Clifford Jordan. Chico worked as a bartender so he could hear their jam sessions and see other musicians from New York and around the world as they came through. It was quite an education for the aspiring young saxophonist.
“Chicago is the home of the urban blues. If you’re a musician from Chicago, you’ve got to know how to play the blues.” Chico gigged with BB King and Buddy Guy.
He also worked with drummer Elvin Jones in the late 1970s. “Elvin was a good friend and a great mentor. Since John Coltrane was a big influence on me, working with Elvin was a dream for me.”
Chico left Chicago for the many musical opportunities in New York, which included spending a good deal of his time with the Latin Jazz masters like Machito, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. He formed his own Latin band, Guataca. He’s been to Cuba and has worked with the Duke Ellington of that country, Chucho Valdez.
Chico’s got about 40 recordings under his own name, and a world-wide reputation as an innovator.
Having been so many places and having worked with so many great musicians, Chico has come to believe that “…playing this music is a privilege. It takes hard work, dedication and commitment. But it pays off. And it’s probably one of the noblest professions you can go into, especially if you enter it with purity of heart. By that I mean, I believe it’s only music, by its nature, that gives the practitioner the opportunity to express himself, or herself, in non-conditional terms. That’s something I believe people look for, and need.
Dizzy Gillespie said that jazz was the search for truth. That’s exactly what it is. It’s the search for the truth of who you are at that moment. It’s a pure truth. That’s as much truth as anybody has. This music gives you the opportunity to do that. And when you do that, you connect with your audience. If the people who are there are able to share that with you, that’s possibly the most honest, truest connection you can have with any other person.”
The Chico Freeman 4-tet CD, “Spoken Into Existence” is a beautiful recording that released in May, and the band has been touring the US. They’ll be at the Triple Door in Seattle tomorrow, Tuesday August 16, and I’ll be hosting a live Studio Session with them that afternoon at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.
“Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.” -Miles Davis
Taking the iconic trumpeter’s advice to heart, writer/producer/director/lead actor Don Cheadle begins the film “Miles Ahead” with what (or who) wasn’t there: Miles Davis from late 1975 through 1980, his “lost” or “silent” years.
Miles was not performing, recording or composing during this period, and aside from dealing with health issues like sickle-cell anemia, a deteriorating hip and lingering pain from a car accident, and substance abuse, it’s probably a safe bet to say that he was depressed and his legendary creativity temporarily exhausted.
“Miles Ahead” blends biographical fact, fiction and myth in an entertaining fashion. Cheadle believes that Miles would heartily approve of the mostly-fictional “gangster movie” segments from the lost years, while the more biographically correct flashbacks to the Miles of the 1950s and 1960s give us jazz geeks something to cling to.
Well cast, beautifully edited and scored, “Miles Ahead” is truly a showcase for Don Cheadle, who seems to have been born to play Miles Davis (of course, I’ve said that about all of his major roles, he’s just that great an actor).
Cheadle had a very clear vision for the film to be anything but a typical cradle-to-grave biopic. He wanted to create more of a “Miles Davis experience.” After he realized that no one else was going to write such a script, he took on that task along with co-writer Steven Baigelman. Then, naturally, he needed to direct and produce it. And he always was going to star in it, with the blessing and encouragement of the Davis family.
This movie has taken ten years from conception to opening. In Cheadle’s most recent interview with Tavis Smiley, he explains just how intense this project was for him, from learning to play the trumpet to directing while also being the lead actor.
“Miles Ahead” opens nationwide on April 22. Dick Stein and I will be there to greet you at the first evening showing at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma that night. We’ll talk about the movie, give away some Miles Ahead soundtrack CDs, and bring you up-to-date on the Save KPLU campaign. Join us!
Drummer Matt Wilson delights in being a little different. His enthusiasm for the quirky is infectious, as I found out in our phone conversation last week.
Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-o plays slightly warped or just plain outrageous versions of Christmas carols and “holiday favorites.” The Tree-o has been active for a few years, and they’ve recorded a CD, but just like the white-bearded man in the red suit, they have a limited season.
You can catch Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-o at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle on December 8 and 9. Matt advises wearing your most obnoxious Christmas sweater. Santa hats, antlers and jingle bells are also encouraged.
“We’ve added new songs for this tour, and two short films. It’s a multimedia entertainment experience,” says Matt. “The Matt Wilson Christmas Special, like Andy Williams!”
Especially exciting for the band this year are the matching red velvet blazers they’ll be wearing. That, and the first annual Jazz Alley Christmas Lighting of the Drumset ceremony, which Matt has invited me to officiate.
Matt is all about fun, but he’s a serious musician and committed to being a jazz educator, too. He does clinics and workshops all over the country, including at Centrum in Port Townsend and the Cornish College Seattle Jazz Experience.
“I do it mainly because I was given those kind of opportunities by people, especially by players. I saw workshops when I was a kid by Louis Bellson and Clark Terry, and the stories you get from those folks are amazing. I’m really dedicated to trying to foster and provide growth for the mentor/apprenticeship aspect of learning the music. I believe in the institutions, too, and I’m part of them. What we do there is provide people with craft, and also the inspiration to continue to learn, continue to be curious, continue to really want to know. You’re learning this for the rest of your life.”
Matt and his good friend vibraphonist Stefon Harris agree that they get the same satisfaction from teaching as they do from performing at this point in their lives.
The Tree-o is only one of Matt’s musical projects. He has the Matt Wilson Quartet and the group called Arts and Crafts. His new CD coming out in March is dedicated to his wife of almost 32 years, Felicia, who died in July of 2014. When he’s not touring, recording or giving workshops, Matt spends as much time as he can with his daughter, a senior in high school who is very active in theatre, and his triplet sons who “…are 14 now. And they’re huge!” Matt’s very proud of his kids.
The Christmas Tree-o is more than a novelty act. The musicianship is superb, and the teamwork and the fun of taking chances together makes Matt wish they could play year-round.
“Here at Christmas Tree Headquarters, in Baldwin NY, we’ve had various meetings about how to expand the concept. We might expand it to other holidays: Labor Day Trio, Arbor Day Tree-o, or just a monthly calendar trio, play a Valentine’s Day song and a Halloween song, etc.”
He’s looking forward to this trip. “I love Seattle, I love the musicians there, I love the audiences there, I love the town. It’s become another great home for me in the US, like Chicago and the Bay Area,” he says.
Matt has invited many of his Seattle musician friends to come sit in with the Tree-o at Jazz Alley, and hopes that they will bring their students along too. It sounds like a holiday experience that you won’t want to miss. Jim Wilke will be hosting on Tuesday night at Jazz Alley, and I’ll be there on Wednesday night…with bells on!
Here’s a sample of Christmas Tree-o fun from NPR Music:
Clarinetist Anat Cohen’s transcendent appearances with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra last February are still resonating.
“I loved the trip to Seattle, loved meeting all the people there, the SRJO and other musicians, it was great time, and a wonderful hang,” she says. “Everybody there is so nice!”
Her latest CD “Luminosa” features a number of beautiful Brazilian melodies. Anat first encountered the varied styles of Brazilian music when she was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I met some Brazilian musicians and they invited me to play in different shows with them, and I just fell in love with the music and the people, the whole culture and language. The language- everything about it sounded so mysterious and musical. Also, Brazilian people are very similar in their behavior to the Israeli people, very physical, similar expressions…I felt so comfortable. I wanted to be part of it and learn more about it, so I pursued it as much as I could, immersed myself in it for 15 years. I went to Brazil a bunch of times and learned the language. I fell in love with it.”
She’s always an exuberant player, but playing Brazilian music lifts her to higher level of joy. It’s something she’s started to recognize and think about.
“I wonder why it is, and how I can have this feeling everywhere, every time, in every musical situation and personal situation. It’s a challenge.”
Anat will be busy during this visit to Seattle for the Earshot Jazz Festival, starting with a recently added concert on November 9 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts. She’ll be doing a master class at noon on November 10 at Cornish, then she’ll bring her quartet to KPLU for a live Studio Session at 2pm, and finally the second (sold out) Earshot Jazz Festival Concert at PONCHO Concert Hall at 8pm.
Listen for some music from Anat Cohen’s CD “Luminosa” on this week’s Jazz Caliente, Thursday at 2pm on KPLU!