Brand new Henry Threadgill CD, Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (Pi Recordings) landed in my mailbox today! Actually, the forecast in NY is for continued rain. But that should be easier to bear thanks to Threadgill, whose every release momentarily shoves aside my work at hand and especially since this new recording adds cellist Christopher Hoffman, thus returning Threadgill’s Zooid band to its original sextet format. When I heard this edition of the group at Brooklyn’s Roulette not too long ago, the interplay between Hoffman and guitarist Liberty Ellman was spectacular. Loading into my iTunes now.
Comes out June 26th.
The Jazz Journalists Association has what they call a blogathon going on through April 30th, and the theme is community. It’s hard to write about jazz and not be thinking about community my community and jazz’s presence in it, and the many communities that gave rise to and sustain those who I interview, review and hear playing jazz. I could walk to and from each of Dr John’s three weekly installments of a residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, thereby blending my actual community and my adoptive one, New Orleans (for Dr John, it’s the reverse born and raised in New Orleans’ 3rd Ward, but adopted NYC as his hometown for a long stretch). I posted the last of my three reviews on the series today at the Village Voice “Sound of the City” blog: there are 2 previous installments, adding up to some 3,000 words for hardy readers.
The New Orleans New York connection is so vital that while down in New Orleans for a jazzfest trip, I’ll end up missing one of NOLA’s best players here in my own backyard. saxophonist Donald Harrison at Symphony Space later this month. But I’ll be back in time for the New Orleans Piano Kings Celebration at Dizzy’s, spanning three generations with Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, and Jonathan Batiste. Meanwhile, when I’m in New Orleans, I’ll continue my research into the fates of the communities that have long been the hothouses for the culture these pianists represent.
What does a community mean to a musician?
During Jeremy Lin’s dizzying rise from obscurity to fame,
before the New York Knick’s promotion department had even printed the fan
posters, the point guard had been held up as poster boy for a variety of
things. Christian faithful pointed to his unabashed faith, fashioning him the
successor to quarterback Tim Tebow on a touched by god run. piece titled “Asian Men
Can Jump.” And Lin has become, for many, the newest little guy who can topple
giants (in the NBA, that works even if you’re 6’3″).
But for me the message in the story of this undrafted benchwarmer who was about to be waived from his third team, a guy who two weeks ago was hoping to simply play in the NBA and now, suddenly, can harbor legitimate dreams of lasting stardom, is simply the fact that his ability to do what he’s done to score 20 plus points in six straight games, distribute 13 assists in a seventh, beat the Lakers in crunch time and then go one better by burying Toronto with a three pointer in the waning second of regulation eluded the many coaches, scouts and experts charged with evaluating talent and achievement potential ## ## .
Like so many music lovers, I’m mourning the death of Sam Rivers.
I heard Sam play a few times, late in his life. Never back in the day, at the RivBea loft, though.
But I do have a very clear memory of attending Jason Moran’s sessions that led to his 2001 release Black Stars, at Systems Two in Brooklyn. Jason was maybe 25 at the time, Sam 77. Saxophonist Greg Osby, in whose band Moran played at the time, was producing.
(I’ve described that scene below; Moran pointed out to me that these sessions were captured on video; about 4 minutes in is the action I’ll describe here, the album’s closing piece. There’s also some nice commentary from Moran about what Rivers’s presence meant to him.)
At one point, Moran walked over to Osby and said, “We’re going to do a completely impovised piece, and Sam will start it on piano.” Osby is one of those people who can raise one eyebrow without moving the other I can’t and he did that in an exaggerated way.
So Sam sat down and began playing, stuff some people would liken to Cecil Taylor for lack of better reference but really pools of pretty distinctive melody that decomposed here and there just like real pools of water when it starts to rain, and then some crashing stuff, and then, after a minute or so, with Sam working in the piano’s middle register, Jason walked over and began playing in a slightly lower key, pretty much matching the trill on which Rivers had settled. Moran soon moved into a more structured harmonic territory, and with some of his own signature phrases.
Hurricane Irene bore down on New York City in late August. The forecasts sounded dire. An email from a Long Island music club called Stephen Talkhouse announced that a scheduled performance by Trombone Shorty and his Orleans Avenue band was canceled. “Having lived through Katrina,” the promoter explained, “they have opted to head home.”
A week later, having returned to New York, Troy Andrews Trombone Shorty’s given name rubs the sleep from his eyes at a midtown Manhattan hotel. “Imagine that,” he says, in a soft, direct voice. “A New Orleans musician going home to avoid a hurricane.” The breakfast sandwich a publicist had provided sits untouched, either simply because Andrews isn’t hungry or perhaps due to the disdain most people born and raised in New Orleans feel about food in cities other than their own.
Andrews knows a great deal about the threat of a hurricane. He’s even better acquainted with the enduring lure of the unique characteristics, from food to music to the warmth of everyday life, that distinguish New Orleans. We’ll never know precisely how many former residents of New Orleans remain displaced since the levees broke in 2005 despite wishes to return. But Andrews is among the many who did return. He was raised to be a musician, and in New Orleans that nearly always means, among other things, projecting what’s special about your hometown through your work. Andrews has devised fresh ways of doing that. At 25, his nascent career beyond New Orleans is hot. Hence the bleary eyes. “We did a gangsta tour of Europe,” he says. “Hard core 29 shows in 31 days with just about that many flights.”