Archive for the Jazz Category

Bird of Paradise – In Memoriam Charlie Parker

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on March 12, 2018 by telescoper

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the death, in 1955 aged just 34, of the great saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker, also known as `Bird’.  I know a lot of people don’t really `get’ Bird’s way of playing, but for me he created some of the most beautiful and exciting sounds not only in jazz, but in any musical genre. Here, to mark his memory, is a piece called Bird of Paradise (a thinly disguised version of the Jerome Kern standard All The Things You Are) recorded in 1947 for the Dial label with a quintet that included a young (21 year-old) Miles Davis on trumpet. Miles Davis was still finding his way musically at the time of the Dial sessions, but Bird had already established himself as a powerful creative force and his solo on this number is absolutely exquisite.


Willow Weep For Me – Mary Lou Williams

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 8, 2018 by telescoper

Today is International Women’s Day, so I thought I’d post this lovely performance of the standard Willow Weep For Me, not just because it is played by the wonderfully talented pianist composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams, but because the song itself was written by Ann Ronell

45° Angle

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 24, 2018 by telescoper

Some time ago I posted a piece of music by Dick Twardzik from the mid-50s. The jazz piano scene in those days was so heavily dominated by Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell that pianists seem to struggle to find their own voice in the space created by those two. Twardzik certainly succeeded, though he died very young. Well, here’s another track from roughly the same period (1957) featuring another underrated musician who solved this problem in a different way. This fine track, undoubtedly influenced by Monk and Powell, but at the same time with its own sound, is by Herbie Nicholls, playing his own composition 45° Angle with the excellent George Duvivier on bass and Dannie Richmond on drums. Enjoy!

Wild Man Blues

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on February 16, 2018 by telescoper

Time, I think, for some vintage jazz. This one doesn’t really need many words of introduction. It was recorded on May 7th 1927 in the Okeh Studios in Chicago by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven: Louis Armstrong (cornet), John Thomas (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Armstrong (piano), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Pete Briggs (tuba), and Warren `Baby’ Dodds (drums). Two things are worth saying, though. One is that this piece is very modern-sounding for its time, in that there’s very little of the ensemble work that one associates with New Orleans jazz, just two extended solos by Louis and Johnny Dodds, and that those solos are both very free. The other is that Armstrong’s solo is so good that there were only a few soloists who could have taken over from him without creating an anti-climax. Fortunately, one of those men (Johnny Dodds) was in the studio and did just that, matching Satchmo in power and invention. Enjoy!

R.I.P. Hugh Masekela (1939-2018)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on January 23, 2018 by telescoper

I woke up this morning to the very sad news that South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela had lost the long and courageous battle he had been fighting against cancer and has passed away at the age of 78. Hugh Masakela did a huge amount to establish a uniquely South African jazz tradition and much of his music was a response to the struggle against apartheid. Although some “serious” jazz fans have criticised him for `selling out’ in his forays into pop – for which he simplified his playing style considerably – this approach definitely succeeded in bringing many new people to his music. His was exactly the same approach as Louis Armstrong, actually, and I for one don’t begrudge either his commercial success.

I was fortunate to hear Hugh Masekela live many years ago at Ronnie Scott’s Club. He had a wonderful stage presence, and played a typically eclectic mix of music and it was a wonderful night that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Here’s a clip of him playing and singing that gives an idea of what the man and his music were like and just how much he will be missed.

R.I.P. Hugh Masekela (1939-2018).

Come Sunday

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on January 21, 2018 by telescoper

I can’t believe that I’ve been sharing music on this blog for almost a decade and haven’t yet posted this. It’s a beautiful Duke Ellington song Come Sunday, written for the extended concert suite Black, Brown and Beige, later appeared in the Duke Ellington concerts of sacred music, and eventually became a jazz standard. It was written for solo voice along with the full Ellington band, but this almost entirely a cappella version featuring the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson with a few bits of Duke Ellington on piano is my favourite version. It’s a hauntingly elusive melody, but Mahalia Jackson fills it with her entire soul…

Yellow Tango

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on January 12, 2018 by telescoper

Before Christmas I posted one of my favourite pieces of music, The Fable of Mabel, performed by a band led by Serge Chaloff and featuring pianist Dick Twardzik (who also composed the piece). I thought I’d follow this up with another piece by Twardzik, this time in a trio with Carson Smith on bass and the excellent Peter Littman on drums.

This piece was recorded in late 1954, at which time the two great influences on jazz piano were Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Here’s a good example of how Twardzik manages to nod in the very different directions of these two great musicians – the Monk influence in particular stands out a mile when the rhythm switches from Latin-American to 4/4 at about 1:43 – while also managing to find a very original voicea which was all his own. It’s such a terrible shame that within a few months of this session Twardzik was dead (of a heroin overdose, at the age of 24) and jazz had lost one of its most promising young artists.