Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tribute to Leroy Jenkins, Jazz Violinist, Planned

If all goes well, "The Scientific Method" will be presenting an hour of Leroy Jenkins' music on Thursday, February 26, to mark the passing of Mr. Jenkins on February 24, 2007.

The above video is from an October 10, 2003, performance at the New York City art space Location One.

The New York Times obituary by Ben Ratliff:
Leroy Jenkins, 74, Violinist Who Pushed Limits of Jazz, Dies

The violinist and composer Leroy Jenkins, one of the pre-eminent musicians of 1970s free jazz, who worked on and around the lines between jazz and classical music, died on Fridday in Manhattan. He was 74 and lived in Brooklyn.

The cause was complications of lung cancer, said his wife, Linda Harris.

Mr. Jenkins grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He started playing violin around age 7 and performed in recitals at St. Luke Church, one of the city’s biggest Baptist churches, accompanied by a young pianist named Ruth Jones, later known as the singer Dinah Washington. Mr. Jenkins subsequently joined the orchestra and choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church, directed by Dr. O. W. Frederick, who tutored him in the music of black composers like William Grant Still and Will Marion Cook.

At DuSable High School, Mr. Jenkins played alto saxophone under the band director Walter Dyett, a legendary figure in jazz education. He then attended Florida A & M University on a bassoon scholarship, though ultimately he played saxophone and clarinet in the concert band and studied the violin again.

After college, Mr. Jenkins spent four years as a violin teacher in Mobile, Ala. On returning to Chicago in 1964, he joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (A.A.C.M.) a cooperative for jazz musicians determined to follow through on the structural advances of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and others who were widening the jazz tradition. In time, he became one of the most visible members of the organization, which persists today.

With Anthony Braxton, Steve McCall and Leo Smith, he formed the Creative Construction Company; the musicians in the group shifted to Paris, where they and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians built their international reputations in 1969 and 1970.

In 1970, Mr. Jenkins returned to the United States, at first living in Ornette Coleman’s loft in SoHo in New York. He formed the Revolutionary Ensemble, a trio with the bassist Sirone and the drummer Jerome Cooper; the group lasted for six years and fused Mr. Jenkins’s classical technique with a flowing, free-form aesthetic.

In the mid-1970s, after years of cooperative projects, he became a bandleader, and also wrote music for classical ensembles. He led the group Sting, which played a kind of splintered jazz-funk, and made a series of his own records for the Italian label Black Saint. He began to work in more explicitly classical situations, often with old Chicago colleagues like the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. And he wrote music performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet and other ensembles.

Mr. Jenkins’s trajectory eventually led him toward collaborations with choreographers, writers and video artists. They included “The Mother of Three Sons,” a collaboration with Bill T. Jones’s dance company, staged at New York City Opera in 1991; “The Negro Burial Ground,” a cantata; “Fresh Faust,” a jazz-hip-hop opera; and “Three Willies,” a multimedia opera. In recent years, Mr. Jenkins went back to smaller music-only projects, including the trio Equal Interest, with the pianist Myra Melford and the saxophonist Joseph Jarman; in 2004, he reunited with the Revolutionary Ensemble.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Carolina Chocolate Drops Live In Concert

From the Carolina Chocolate Drops' MySpace page:
The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American stringband musicians that have come to together to play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolinas piedmont.

Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson both hail from the green hills of the North Carolina Piedmont while Dom Flemons is native to sunny Arizona. Although we have diverse musical backgrounds, we draw our musical heritage from the foothills of the North and South Carolina.

We have been under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be the last black traditional string band player, of Mebane, NC and we strive to carry on the long standing traditional music of the black and white communities. Joe's musical heritage runs as deeply and fluidly as the many rivers and streams that traverse our landscape.

We are proud to carry on the tradition of black musicians like Odell and Nate Thompson, Dink Roberts, John Snipes, Libba Cotten, Emp White, and countless others who have passed beyond memory and recognition.

Rum Drum Ramblers at the City Museum, St. Louis

From the Rum Drum Ramblers' Myspace page:
What does dirty punk rock and down-home delta blues have in common? In short, the genres both reflect "struggle music." That being said, it is no surprise that the three stalwart gentlemen that form the Rum Drum Ramblers were once mohawk sporting, studded jacket donning, snot-nosed punk rockers in much of their high school youth.

Trading drums for a "jingle-foot" and power chords for finger picking, the Ramblers have spent the past year bridging the gap between punk and blues. In good holding with the DIY attitude of the punk philosophy, the trio would just as soon perform on a street corner as they would a concert venue. Regardless of where you may find them, the first clue that you've stumbled upon a Rum Drum Ramblers performance will be the manic frenzy of the crowd.

The Rum Drum Ramblers are a hard working, self-made band and though they are young, the songs they write could easily be mistaken for a blues standard that was spinning on shellac seventy years ago. In a world where the blues has been fried, dyed, and laid to the side, the feel-good music of the Rum Drum Ramblers reminds us of why it was cool in the first place.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blossom Dearie, R.I.P.

From National Public Radio:
Chanteuse Blossom Dearie Dies At 82
By Elizabeth Blair

With her wispy, delicate voice, Blossom Dearie was a darling of the jazz world for decades. The cabaret singer and pianist died Saturday of natural causes in her home in New York City. She was 82.

She was a small woman with a small voice, but blogger Marc Myers says it was a distinctive style that made you want to listen.

"Blossom's voice always had this pixie-like sense of wonderment," Myers says. "Her voice was sort of helium high."

Myers says that when Dearie began singing in the '40s and '50s, some of the most acclaimed female jazz vocalists were hitting their stride.

"She sort of walked among giants. You had Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald. But Blossom stood out by fusing cabaret and jazz together," Myers says. "She had this whimsy, but this very deep passion."

Dearie Makes A Hit With 'Hip'

When she was a little girl in upstate New York, Dearie studied classical piano, but quickly gravitated to jazz. She liked to have fun and was known for her wit. Over the years, she worked with two other funny jazz musicians: Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg. She recorded one of the songs they wrote for themselves, called "I'm Hip."

"We both thought it would last a season after people got the joke," Dorough says. "Blossom made a little hit out of it."

Later on, when Dorough was hired to write the music for the kids' show Schoolhouse Rock, he asked Dearie to sing a couple of songs.

Describing Dearie's voice in The New Yorker, Whitney Balliett once wrote, "It speaks of porcelain and Limoges."

A No-Nonsense Performer

But this delicate artist was also very demanding. In the 1970s, she started her own record label, Daffodil, and she had a reputation for not tolerating people talking or smoking during her shows. Dearie would stop in the middle of a song and tell people to be quiet.

Dearie was a regular act at a club in Manhattan up until just a few years ago. She told Marian McPartland, host of NPR's Piano Jazz, that in later years, as she sang her collection of popular standards, her fans were always respectful.

"They're very aware of the music," Dearie said. "They know everything. I always say, 'I'm not afraid of forgetting the lyrics, because if I forget the lyrics, somebody in the audience knows the lyrics.' They cherish these songs. My audience is very with it."
Click here to listen to an archived edition of Piano Jazz.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Playlist for February 5, 2009

Tampa Red & Georgia Tom * * * You Can't Get That Stuff No More * * * Birth of the Blues * * * Charly

Lowell Fulson * * * The Blues Are Killing Me * * * Blues in History I * * * History

Dr. Ross * * * Jukebox Boogie * * * Sun Records: The Ultimate Blues Collection * * * Varese Sarabande

Muddy Waters * * * Rock Me * * * I'm Ready * * * Epic-Legacy

St. Louis Jimmy * * * So Nice and Kind * * * The Aristocrat of the Blues * * * Chess

J.B. Hutto * * * Slidewinder * * * Delmark 40th Anniversary * * * Delmark

Blind Willie Johnson * * * I'm Gonna Run to the City of Refuge * * * Preachin' the Gospel: Holy Blues * * * Columbia-Legacy

Madison's Lively Stones * * * It's Time to Make A Change * * * Classic African American Gospel * * * Smithsonian-Folkways

Elmore Nixon * * * A Hepcat's Advice * * * Best of Duke-Peacock Blues * * * Duke-Peacock

Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers * * * Pink Champagne * * * More Jump Blues * * * Rhino

Muddy Waters * * * Muddy Jumps One * * * Aristocrat of the Blues * * * Chess

Robert Johnson * * * I'm A Steady Rollin' Man * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * JSP

Blind Will Dukes * * * Steady Rollin' Man * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * JSP

Blind Blake * * * Georgia Bound * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * JSP

Robert Johnson * * * From Four Until Late * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * JSP

Carl Rafferty * * * Mr. Carl's Blues * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * JSP

T. Renner, "City of Refuge," 2008, digital photograph.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Playlist for January 29, 2009

Brownie McGhee with Sonny Terry * * * * Carolina Blues * * * * East Coast Blues * * * * Orbis

Sleepy John Estes * * * * President Kennedy (Take 13) * * * * On 80 Highway * * * * Delmark

Muddy Waters * * * * 32-20 Blues * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Muddy Waters * * * * I'm Ready * * * * I'm Ready * * * * Epic-Legacy

David Honeyboy Edwards * * * * The Army Blues * * * * In History I * * * * History

Jack Dupree * * * * Dupree Shake Dance * * * * In History I * * * * History

Tampa Red * * * * Things 'Bout Comin' My Way * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Two Gospel Keys * * * * You've Got to Move * * * * Classic African American Gospel * * * * Smithsonian Folkways

Leroy Carr * * * * Mean Mistreater Mama * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Robert Johnson * * * * Terraplane Blues * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Peetie Wheatstraw * * * * Police Station Blues * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Kokomo Arnold * * * * Milk Cow Blues * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP

Robert Johnson * * * * Kind Hearted Woman * * * * The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond * * * * JSP