Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

DIZZY GILLESPIE

English: Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988, E...
Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is not one person around who knows jazz music that did not hear the name Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy Gillespie was a composer, singer, jazz trumpet player and bandleader. He along with Charlie Parker was the creator of modern jazz music and bebop. Dizzy also started Afro-Cuban jazz. He had the gift of making new harmonies that were layered and complex. At the time, it was not done in jazz before. He was most remembered for the trumpet he played that was bent. It was accidentally ruined when he was on a job in 1953. Surprisingly, Dizzy liked it  because of the way it changed the tone of the instrument.

Dizzy was born John Birks on October 21, 1917 in South Carolina. He was the youngest in the family of nine children. His father was a horrible man who beat his children all the time, and died when dizzy was 10 years old. He taught himself how to play trumpet when he was twelve years old. He won a scholarship to Laurinburg Institute but, dropped out of school and went to Philadelphia to pursue music full-time. He played with Frankie Fairfax and recorded for the very first time in 1937. He then was a part of Cab Calloway's band, but was criticized for his solos, calling them "Chinese music". He was thrown out because Cab said that he sent a spitball at him, and Dizzy, angrily stabbed him in the leg with a knife.

Dizzy was a part of Duke Ellington's, Woody Herman and many other bands. It was with Billy Eckstine's band where his unique playing fit better than anywhere else. He met again with Charlie Parker. Together they played famous clubs such as Monroe's Uptown House, and Minton's Playhouse. This is where jazz music progressed again and bebop was created. In the beginning a lot of people didn't like bebop. They were used to the old jazz music, and thought the new sound of bebop was a threat and were afraid of it. Dizzy's style had an effect on trumpeters and the younger musicians that he was able to mentor. Examples of bebop music are "Groovin' High", "Salt Peanuts" and "A Night In Tunisia". Musicians that he taught bebop to were Miles Davis and Max Roach.

Eventually, the band departed, as the audience grew wary of the new jazz music. Dizzy wanted to go big, and tried to create his own big band in 1945 but was not successful with it. He started other small groups and finally put a big band together that was a success. He soloed many times with Jazz at the Philharmonic.


Dizzy proved himself overseas in France when he began his third big band, and did several concerts and albums.
During the 1940's Dizzy was composing Afro-Cuban music. Afro-Cuban music is a combination of Latin and African music, pop and salsa. The work that is the most well known are "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca". Dizzy was responsible for finding musician Arturo Sandoval while he was on a tour in Cuba researching music.

Dizzy continued to reach people with his music even on television and film. He was on Sesame Street and The Cosby Show. He died in 1993 from Pancreatic Cancer, he was 75 years old. He had two funerals, one was for friends and family and the other funeral was for the public in Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Dizzy Gillespie was a special innovator in jazz and is continually remembered at the New York Bahai Center.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Jazz Musician: LIONEL HAMPTON

English: Lionel Hampton during a concert in Aa...
Lionel Hampton during a concert in Aachen (Germany)
on May 19th, 1977
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One great jazz musician was Lionel Hampton. Lionel was a bandleader, actor, jazz vibraphonist and percussionist. He has worked with other famous jazz musicians such as Buddy Rich, Quincy Jones, and Charlie Parker. Lionel was raised by his grandmother in the south before he relocated to Chicago. In the 1920's he started playing the xylophone and drums. His first instrument was the fife drum.

When he was a teenager he played drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboy's band. When he lived in California, he played for the Dixieland Blue-Blowers. The first band that he recorded with was The Quality Serenaders, then he left again to go play with another band, Les Hite band. It was here that he began studying the vibraphone. Louis Armstrong asked Lionel to play the vibraphones on two songs. That is when he made the vibraphone a popular instrument.

While still with the Les Hite band, Lionel went to the University of Southern California taking music. He also worked with the Nat Shilkrer orchestra. In 1936 he was in the film Pennies From Heaven, starring Bing Crosby. He was next to Louis Armstrong but hid by wearing a mask when he was playing the drums.

In 1936 he was fortunate to meet Benny Goodman who came to watch him perform. Benny asked him to join his trio which consisted of Benny, Gene Krupa, and Teddy Wilson. It was then renamed the Benny Goodman Quartet. The year before, Lionel worked with Billie Holiday with Benny's orchestra. This group of artists was one of the first integrated jazz groups that performed openly in society.

Lionel recorded with several groups while still with Benny Goodman, but in 1940 he left to create his own big band. Lionel's orchestra was a hit in the 40's and 50's. "Flying Home" featured an Illinois Jacquet solo that began a new style of music, R&B. The song was so popular that he did another version called "Flying Home, Number Two", with Arnett Cobb. Lionel's music was a mixture of jazz music and R&B during this time. Some great jazz musicians that worked with him during this time were Johnny Griffin, Dinah Washington, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie.



As time went on, in the 1960's and after, his success lessened. He was still performing hits from the 1930's-1950's. In the 1970's he recorded with the Who's Who Record label, but still did not do as well as he could have.

Going the college route seemed to help a bit. His band played at University of Idaho's jazz concert regularly. In 1985, the named it the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Two years later, they named the music school the Lionel Hampton School of Music. It was the only music school at a university that was named after a jazz musician. Lionel kept playing until he had a stroke in 1991 in Paris. Even though he had to stop performing as much, he did a performance at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001, not long before he died. This jazz music legend will never be forgotten.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Portuguse Fado Music and American Jazz Saxophone - Is There a Connection? Oh Yeah

Mário Henriques: "Fado Sem Tempo" Hamburg
Photo by Glyn Lowe Photoworks.
Fado music reveals the heart and soul of Portugal

Fado is a style of music that originated in Portugal in the early 1800's. Influences possibly came from the Moors, Arabia, and Africa, all of which the Portuguese had contact with. The Moors were North African Muslims who occupied Portugal and Spain from the 700's to the 1500's. They were eventually driven out by crusaders but left great influences in food, cooking, architecture and music.

Many North Americans have never heard of fado, not surprising since it's not being played on your local commercial radio station. Those that I've met and have had a chance to hear it usually fall in love with it. Musically, it's very pleasing to the ears and follows a predictable musical pattern. I think it has similarities to the Blues in America. Not so much in the harmonic chord progression of the 1, 1V, V that the blues is based on but the way the music itself came into existence and what it means and represents to its people and country today.The lyrical content of the Fado is usually about longing, lost love, hardships, the same things a blues song is usually about. Sonically it sounds much different.

I hated this music when I was a kid! Sitting in the back seat of my parent's car, being forced to listen to it, not understanding the lyrics, and it sounded so foreign next to the pop radio stations I listened to on my own time. I avoided it when I could and basically forgot about it as I grew up.

One day, in my 20's and off and away on the saxophone I heard a recording by the Portuguese jazz saxophonist Rao Kyao playing Fado music on his sax, no singing, just beautiful melodies played on a tenor. This put it in a whole new light for me. I guess I started to hear it differently since it was a sax speaking to me rather than some old Portuguese singer singing about stuff I couldn't understand, I could understand this though... Listen to Rao Kyao

The typical instrumentation is 2 Portuguese guitars which in Portuguese is called a guitara and 2 regular acoustic nylon string guitars which the Portuguese call a viola.

The biggest star of Fado was Amalia Rodrigues who died a few years ago but was active for most of the second half of the 20th century. She was known and appreciated internationally and brought the fado of Portugal to the world. There have been Plays and films written about her...



She also brought one of the great American tenor saxophonists into the studio with her group to lay some sax down on a few tracks. Don Byas was a contemporary of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, the great saxophonists of the early jazz swing era in America around 1940. But Byas moved to Europe, living in France, Holland, and Denmark in the mid 40's and remained there for the rest of his life. Fortunately, while in Portugal for a brief moment he was called into a studio session with the great Amalia and so history was made with one of the greatest American jazz tenor saxophonists together with the greatest Portuguese fado singer.

If you've never heard fado music, do yourself a favour and check it out!

*Note: For the complete article with audio samples go to JohnnyFerreira.com



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

LENNY PICKETT TENOR SAXOPHONE Virtuoso

Yes, that's the great Lenny Pickett next to Chester Thompson for "Squib Cakes"!
Photo  by Ethan Prater 
Lenny Pickett is best known as the tenor saxophonist of the Saturday Night Live Band, he is one of the virtuosos of altissimo saxophone. The altissimo register is a technique that almost seems like a requirement for saxophonists today. It's based on harmonics and enables you to achieve notes above the normal range of the saxophone.

For example, it is possible to finger a low Bb (the lowest note on the instrument) and by changing the embouchure and air stream to blow the full overtone series of the low Bb (middle Bb, middle F, high Bb, high D, high F, and so on.) This technique can be heard clearly in the well-known opening theme to Saturday Night Live.

Lenny passes says this about his equipment, in response to numerous inquiries:  "I play a Selmer Paris Mark VI tenor (circa 1970) with a Berg Larsen 130 over 0 (SMS) mouthpiece and a number 3 Vandoren (blue box) bass clarinet reed."

Pickett, born in New Mexico in 1954, is competent not only with saxophone but also on flute and clarinet. After dropping out of high school in Berkeley, he spent a brief period studying under Bert Wilson, but amazingly, other than that instruction is entirely self-taught on the saxophone. Not viewed as a traditional jazz player, he is best showcased in short bursts of color bringing the life of his horn to center stage in R&B and rock arrangements. He is well known for his funky style, and his ability to make the sax "scream."



Pickett played with the Tower of Power horns from 1972 to 1981 and toured the world with them. Tower of Power still tours extensively today, though without Pickett. They released multiple Top 100 albums over the course of Pickett's career with them. Tower of Power played in many styles, from soul to funk to disco, and Pickett's virtuoso playing felt at home in all of them.

Tower of Power's horns section has performed with a variety of other artists including Santana, Heart, Poison, Phish, and more. He has since performed live and recorded with Rod Stewart, Elton John, Little Feat, Peter Gordon's Love of Life Orchestra, Doc Kupka's Strokeland Superband, and many rock and jazz albums and film and television soundtracks. Pickett's management's bio describes his music as "polyphonic extravaganzas which manage to touch base with R&B, funk, swing, Latin influence, and the avant-garde; horn lines twist around one another, shifting and building in intensity."

He has worked as a saxophonist and arranger for David Bowie, the Talking heads, and Laurie Anderson. As a composer, he has been commissioned to write works mixing classical and popular ideas for a variety of ensembles including the New Century Saxophone Quartet. Due to his strange and wild self-taught style, his techniques are endlessly discussed on Internet forums, where players speculate on his fingering, whether or not he's using double or triple tonguing, often asking each other "What is Pickett doing?!??!"

He is currently a professor of jazz saxophone at New York University.

    Author: Neal Battaglia 
     Are you into sax improvisation? Learn more about Saxophone Improv at Sax Station! 


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Development of BLUES MUSIC

John Lee Hooker at the Long Beach Blues Festival
John Lee Hooker at the Long Beach Blues Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jazz, rock music and country and western are just some of the styles that owe a lot of their progression from the original blues. The contribution of Blues music to the development of many other genres of music is very significant. Blues was originally grown out of the hardships endured by many generations of African Americans and first arose from the rural Mississippi region, around about the time of the dawn of the 20th century. The style developed from work shouts (known as Arhoolie) and became the vocal narrative style that we associate with blues music today.

The industry was progressing, and by the 1920's Blues music was also developing - affecting the everyday lives of people involved. There was by this time a very particular style, based around a three-line stanza. The stanza contained just one line of verse, repeated, and then finished with a final line of rhyming verse.

The style also included a repeating blues chord progression, which was the basis of the harmony. The usual rule of thumb was a 12-bar pattern utilizing the 3 major chords of a scale. The text was set to a 12-bar chorus, and typically was between four and eight stanzas in length.

In typical cases, the melody is formed by flattened third, fifth and seventh notes of the major scale. The outcome is the 'bent' notes that lend Blues music that distinctive sound - the bittersweet emotional impact that lacks in other genres. For the majority of blues music, the focus is on the vocals - contradicting the fact that performers will often improvise instrumental solos over the Blues chord progressions.

Many itinerant musicians (the majority of which were men), traveled from one community to the next, singing songs that focused on love, freedom, sex and the general sorrows of life. Often referred to as 'Delta Blues' (in tribute to the Mississippi Delta were they first originated), country blues arose from the Southern rural experience, particularly influenced by the impact of emancipation.

Classic Blues
African Americans began to migrate, mainly looking for work. Areas such as Memphis and New Orleans began to become more populated, and these people brought their own brand of music with them. As they settled in these areas, it led to Blues music becoming much more urban-orientated. The music evolved as their way of life evolved. Male or female vocalists began to appear more regularly, and there was now the addition of a single piano.


The audience also grew, and Blues became more mainstream. Throughout the country as a whole, Blues music could now be heard in dancehalls and barrooms. The music industry as a whole started to take note, and more and more compositions and marketing arrangements emerged, as people began to take notice. The popularity of this kind of music grew exponentially. What would become known as Classic Blues became so popular that many songs were released with the word 'blues' in the title to capitalize on this, even though they bared little or no relation to the style of music.

Its center, previously clustered around Memphis and New Orleans, began to migrate, and soon cities such as Chicago became the central point of much of the music. The appetite for the style of music known as the Blues was quite voracious.

The end of the Second World War brought a new revival into the genre, and artists began to develop the music, primarily through adding a bit of extra emphasis on the bass drums and cranking up the guitar sounds. Artists like Elvis and Bill Haley began to incorporate the Blues methods into their own unique brand of rock n roll. By the 1950's this style was no longer centered around the African American community and was universally practiced across all races.

The influence that Blues music has had on the music industry as a whole is undisputed, and yet Blues music is still evolving, still developing, and still evoking the stirrings of the soul to anyone who cares to listen! The incorporation of the Blues style into different genres still exists today, and Blues music in its own right continues to go from strength to strength - many top-selling artists maintain the original styles.




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: Transformation From Reform School to Infamous Trumpets

Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician L...
Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician Louis Armstrong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Trumpets have been in existence since primitive times, but they did not really gain the recognition they deserved until the infiltration of jazz into the music world. When Buddy Bolden altered his own music style in the 1890's, it had the first inklings of what jazz music would become with its hearty spirit and spontaneity. He eventually leads the first genuine New Orleans jazz band. Continuing to invent jazz music was Freddie Keppard and Joe "King" Oliver playing the cornet as the lead instrument.

Then along came Louis Armstrong from a poor section of New Orleans where the heroes of the neighborhood were gamblers and pimps. His first musical instrument, within the family of trumpets, was a long, tin horn that he would blast while working on a coal delivery wagon to let clients know the wagon was coming. At age 10 Louis Armstrong had earned enough money to buy a battered cornet in a pawnshop. By age 11 he had left school, left his job, and organized a street corner quartet. Unfortunately, while on the street he committed some minor crimes and was sent to reform school at the age of 12. While in reform school Louis Armstrong joined the band and developed his talent. He became the leader of the band which changed his reputation. By the age of 13, he was back on the street and found small jobs to keep himself out of trouble.

As a teenager, Louis Armstrong worked with professional musicians and joined Fate Marable's band playing on a riverboat in Mississippi. By his early twenties, he could outplay any trumpets at cutting contests where soloists improvised until one was clearly outperforming the others. With the addition of 23-year-old Lois Armstrong to the Fletcher Henderson band in New York, the band began to really swing with their new featured soloist. A year later he formed his own group in Chicago called the Hot Five. He organized the band and music around the solos which became one of the key characteristics of modern jazz.


Louis Armstrong became known as the father of modern jazz trumpets and the first modern jazz soloist. He greatly extended the range of trumpets as he could hit high notes that none of his peers could reach. His main contribution to jazz was his sense of rhythm which had a natural beat that made anyone listening want to get up and dance. Louis Armstrong taught the world how to really swing. He also taught jazz musicians how to extend the melodic line with improvisations on trumpets. Louis Armstrong used trumpets to belt out loud, sharp cutting sounds that commanded his listeners to pay attention. He had made trumpets the leading instruments with cornets virtually disappearing from the jazz scene.

Trumpets were not the only driving force in Louis Armstrong's career. Not only did he extend the range of trumpets, but he also showcased the extension of his own range of talents. He had a unique compositional and vocal ability, he was comedic, he had charisma, and he had charm. All of these talents wrapped up together made for a famously popular musician and showman.

    By Dianna Joseph
    Dianna Joseph is the owner of DJ Music Store. She is a saxophonist, novice pianist, and novice guitarist. In addition, she is an occupational therapist who works with a host of disabilities utilizing sensory integration and neurodevelopmental therapy in combination with music and a variety of other techniques to assist these persons in achieving the highest level of function and quality of life possible.
    Article Source: EzineArticles



Monday, January 8, 2018

The Great RAGTIME Pianists Through the Years

English: Copy of sheet music for Maple Leaf Ra...
 Maple Leaf Rag, published in US pre-1923.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ragtime is a style that developed from the roughest of neighborhoods and was originally performed in brothels. A precursor to jazz, it is enjoying a resurgence in popularity today. There are quite a few famous ragtime pianists, though many of the originators of the genre died before audio recording was widely available.

Though not famous purely for his piano playing, Scott Joplin remains the most influential ragtime composer. Joplin wrote the first instrumental ("Maple Leaf Rag") to sell over one million copies. Though he never recorded a note, famous friends bore witness to his skills, saying that he played slowly but with perfect execution.

Joplin created several piano rolls for companies, some of which survive today. Unfortunately, the illness that eventually killed him also caused his later playing to suffer, which is why there is debate as to his technical skill. Still, Joplin's mastery of ragtime composition laid the groundwork upon which later pianists would embellish.

Another ragtime composer noted for his piano skills was Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. Beginning his training at a young age in a local brothel, Morton developed both great technical skills and a rather infamous ego. He brought the techniques he had learned from playing ragtime piano to Chicago, where he wrote the first jazz song, "Jelly Roll Blues." Morton brought traditions from New Orleans to the rest of the world and turned piano playing, and music in general, completely upside down.

The image of composer, Eubie Blake (1887-1983).
Eubie Blake (1887-1983).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eubie Blake was yet another practitioner of the style, though he incorporated other musical genres into his playing. As a boy of four or five, he climbed onto an organ bench while shopping with his mother. Blake started fooling around with the instrument, causing the store owner to proclaim him a genius. His parents bought a pump organ, and he received lessons from his neighbor. He also played in a bordello before moving on to play in proper bands.

Blake composed the song Charleston Rag, which became a huge crossover hit. He went on to write one of the first Broadway musicals written and directed by African Americans.

Sometimes referred to as New York Ragtime, stride piano developed from traditional styles into its own form of playing. Developed during World War I by Luckey Roberts and James Johnson, it relies heavily on the left hand playing a bass line and the right hand playing chords on alternating beats. Though it is often related more to jazz playing, stride was given birth through ragtime.

Modern pianists continue to keep ragtime in the public eye. Butch Thompson was an integral part of A Prairie Home Companion between 1974 and 1986, serving as both the house pianist and band leader. Thompson began playing at the age of three, taking up lessons a few years later. After playing the clarinet in high school, he went to college and joined a local jazz group. After this, he traveled to New Orleans to learn from the masters of jazz and ragtime. He currently tours the world and hosts a jazz program on the radio in Minneapolis.




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Joy Of PIANO Improvisation

Jesus "Chuchito" Valdes - Detroit Jazz Festival 2009
Photo  by Brian Callahan (Luxgnos.com) 
If you have never experienced the fun and joy of improvising on the piano, then you are missing out on a great experience. Imagine an artist who does not know how to draw or paint without tracing or copying another’s work.

That is unheard of. Yet, many piano players lack the ability to improvise on the piano! This is caused by years of rigid piano lesson/structure and a lack of proper guidance.

Many piano players rely on sheet music to be able to play, which would be like an artist only copying another’s artwork and never creating something unique. Improvisation is a fun process. It enables the pianist to bring out the latent potential of creativity and expression inside them.

One thing that will help any piano player to improve on the art of improvisation is to allow unstructured creative time during one's piano practice hours.

Time to just sit down and make up music on the piano is crucial. No agenda, no structure, no goals to accomplish. This process is extremely important in the world of piano playing.

In order to allow the inner expression to come out, one needs to let it reveal itself. A good example of this is how young children play the piano. If you can observe a child learning the piano do so. Very often, young children are able to reach a creative and fun play "scheme" without any guidance at all. Similarly, any piano player should allow 15-30 minutes of "free play" without worrying about hitting the wrong notes.

Traditional piano lessons emphasize the ability to read notes. Reading ability is no doubt one of the most important skills any piano player can possess. This emphasis, however, has created some "lopsided" players who can only play piano by reading. Eventually, this type of player will lose their interest and passion for music.

Many young children drop out of piano lessons as a result of struggling with music reading. Children who are younger than 5 or 6 are discouraged from traditional piano lessons due to the fact that they cannot yet read musical notes properly.

Music is commonly referred to as a "language." There are many ways of learning a language. Young children master the language skill by frequently talking and interacting with their peers and caretakers as well as imitating other people. The ability to read comes a little later in their life. A similar approach needs to be taken to foster the love of piano music among young children. Sometimes by just allowing young children to make up music on the piano without placing emphasis on playing the correct notes can be just as important.




Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ELLA FITZGERALD: American Jazz Singer, Queen of Jazz, The First Lady of Song and a 50 Year Career

Ella Fitzgerald in 1968
Ella Fitzgerald in 1968 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ella Fitzgerald was classified as a Jazz singer but this talented lady singer was so much more than that. She could sing Jazz, Ballads, Swing, and Pop. And she had the special talent of being able to sing Scat. She started singing scat while working with Dizzy Gillespie's band. In reference to this Ella said, "I just tried to do with my voice what I heard the horns in the band doing". The New York Times described her Scat recording of "Flying Home" as one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade."

Ella started her professional singing career in 1935 with Big-bands such as Chuck Webb's Orchestra. At the time they were playing at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. She recorded several hit song such as "Love and Kisses", and "If You Can't Sing It You'll Have to Swing It." She recorded over 150 songs while with the orchestra.

In 1942, Ella left the band scene to begin a career as a solo singer. She signed with the Decca label and she had several hit songs while working with Jazz producer Norman Granz. In the mid-1940s following swing music, jazz began to take on a different style called Bebop.

In 1955 Ella left Decca to sing on Norman Granz's new record label, Verve Records. Ella said that Granz produced her album of The Cole Porter Songbook and it was a turning point in her life. It was the first of eight multi-album "Songbook" sets that she would record for Verve until 1964.

Another album production of Granz was "Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook." It was the only Songbook that the composer of the songs actually played with her.

During the years that she was recording the Songbooks, she also toured 40-45 weeks per year in the United States and internationally which helped her to become one of the most important live jazz performers.

In her later life, Ella kept busy touring but her health began to decline. She had heart surgery in 1986. She also had diabetes, her eyesight was failing, and both of her legs were amputated below the knee. She was unable to perform and she never completely recovered. She died in 1996 at her home in Beverly Hills, California.

One can tell much about a person by some of the comments she has made over the years.

She said, "I sing like I feel." That comment shows that a singer has to have emotion about the song she is recording. Without emotion, it is pretty bland.

She also said "A lot of singers think all they have to do is exercise their tonsils to get ahead. They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside". With those words, she is so right. Anyone that just does what she is referring to has no concept what it is to develop as a singer and indeed would not have a clue as to why they are not progressing.

And finally, she stated, "The only thing better than singing, is more singing". By that, she is saying she just loves to sing. She is passionate about singing. It's what makes her successful.



Read what others had to say about Ella.

Arthur Fielder "Ella's voice becomes the orchestra's richest and most versatile sound."

Bing Crosby "Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all."

Richard Rogers "Whatever she does to my songs, she always makes them sound better."

Perry Como "She has been one of my all-time favorite singers for many years and still is - she's terrific."

Johnny Mathis "She was the best. She was the best there ever was. Amongst all of us who sing, she was the best."

Vincente Minnelli "If you want to learn how to sing, listen to Ella Fitzgerald".

Pearl Bailey "Ella is simply the greatest singer of them all."

She won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million records. In 1987 President Ronald Regan awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

We are so blessed to have this talented lady singer be a part of our music profession. The one thing I want to say about this superb singer is "Swing Ella, Swing!"




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Homage to LOUIS ARMSTRONG

English: Head and shoulders portrait of jazz m...
Head and shoulders portrait of jazz musician Louis Armstrong.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
For the last 15 years, I have been living in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee has its HQ, and where the writer (most famously for A Many-Splendoured Thing) and controversial "provocative" Han Suyin lived before she passed away on 2 November this year, among other things. It is also where the world-famous business school IMD is located where I have been working. I love this world, and when one is in love with the world Lausanne is not a bad place to be.

It is by the lake Léman, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with most of the time blue skies, no pollution, and riotous colors of nature in the city as well as around. My flat is about 15 minutes' walk to IMD. I am often away and travel perhaps 75% of my time. But when I am here, I invariably walk to work and in so doing pass by gardens, hear birds, see squirrels, sometimes, if it's especially early, a fox or two, all depending on the season of course, but always splendid. I get to my office and hum Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World!

As far as I can remember, I have always loved the world. But not just the flowers, lakes, trees and hills, nor just the birds, squirrels, and deer, but also the men and the women - or at least many of them, the tremendous variety of languages, cultures, histories, literature, painting, music, topographies, architecture, food and drink, and so on. Of course, there is a lot of evil in this world, there is misery, which needs to be combated; there are lots of jerks; but in aggregate, what a wonderful world indeed.

Danger to the wonderful world
But the world is in grave danger of losing its splendor, its identity, and its diversity. On the last, diversity, I refer not only to biodiversity, but also to cultural diversity and indeed cultural identity. The world has never been so interconnected and so open. Yet, as an educator, I am constantly struck by how little people actually know or learn about not only other countries but often even their own!
An illustration: A few days ago I took a flight from Dhaka to Istanbul. 



Just before departure an announcement came on that the audio/visual system was not functioning, hence there would be no "entertainment". The business class was full. With very, very few exceptions (I was one), the passengers, when not sleeping, spent the nine hours flight staring into emptiness. They had no books with them, nothing to read, nothing from which to learn, nothing to challenge their minds. They are traveling physically, but not intellectually.

In his brilliant book Collapse, author Jared Diamond has shown how societies can commit ecocide and indeed have committed ecocide. That is a major threat this wonderful world faces. Another major threat is the destruction of civilization due to excessive materialism and absence of curiosity.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

SWING JAZZ Guitar Solos - George Barnes Had A Unique DIXIELAND Style!

George Barnes was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 17, 1921, and came from a household that was full of artists! He began to play the guitar at 9 with his father who was his very first teacher. Barnes was raised in Chicago, a city that had actually ended up being a major center of jazz music advancement. He stated that his primary musical influences were Jimmy Noone (in whose band he played at the age of 16), Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.

One of several studio portraits of Broonzy.
One of several studio portraits of Broonzy.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
As a youth George Barnes was associated with the excellent blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson who obviously had a major influence on him. He also listened to numerous records by the French gypsy jazz guitar player Django Reinhardt. At 14 Barnes already had his own jazz quartet. He won a Tommy Dorsey Amateur Swing Contest when he was 16 and at 17 was working on the Chicago NBC personnel staff as a guitar player, conductor, and arranger which was a truly amazing accomplishment!

During the seven years that preceded 1942, George Barnes was regularly included in tape-recording sessions with lots of legendary folk and blues artists including Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, and Blind John Davis. Upon leaving the military after the war, Barnes returned to a life which ended up becoming one of the busiest in jazz history. In 1951 he moved from Chicago to New York City. Here his phenomenal musical talents won him a job with Decca Records as arranger, guitarist, and composer.

Because of his multiple skills, George Barnes was much in demand for many years as a backing guitar player for top vocalists and jazz artists consisting of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong. He made many historical jazz recordings with his own numerous quartets and quintets however his most important contribution to jazz guitar history was his creative guitar duets with Carl Kress (and later Bucky Pizzarelli after the death of Kress) in addition to the quintet he led collectively with cornetist Ruby Braff.

Always a strong individualist, George Barnes had a really distinct sound partly due to his personally developed archtop jazz guitar constructed without the typical "F" sound holes. This instrument was made specifically for him by the Guild Guitar Company. He likewise utilized an unwound 3rd string which was unusual for a guitarist of his generation. In 1975 Barnes transferred to Concord, California. There he devoted his time to playing in jazz clubs, recording, and teaching until his death following a cardiac arrest on September 5, 1977.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

SAXOPHONES, Jazz Musicians, and the Influence of Inner Personal Conflicts

Saxophones, in comparison to many other instruments, do not have a very long history. The first one was designed around 1840 by a Belgian named Adolphe Sax in an attempt to improve the sound of the clarinet. Adolphe planned the saxophones as a family of instruments ranging in size from the sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and sub-contrabass. Saxophones were first introduced into a musical score in 1844 by Jean-George Kastner. Saxophones were initially used in symphonies, military bands, and chamber music, then in big bands, and in the 1920's saxophones were incorporated into jazz music.

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Saxophone Music - Photo  by  screen-box.de 
Jazz music began it's infiltration into American music in March 1917. The principal instruments used included the trumpet, cornet, slide trombone, valve trombone, French horn, baritone, clarinet, family of saxophones, percussion, string bass, and piano. When members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band were recording their music in a New York studio, they were instructed to play faster in order to fit the whole song on a record. This exciting, lively, assertive, rowdy, and bold music is what caught the attention of everyone's listening ears. It was a time when America was hard at work and needed an outlet, a way to play. They grasped this new style with full force and made jazz a favorite pastime.

Although this seemed like new music, it was not totally new in the truest sense of the word. It involves taking apart an already established song and then putting it back together in a novel way. Jazz also involves, to a large extent, the component of improvisation in order to interpret the melody or harmony in a fresh way. Playing jazz involves elements of spontaneity, spirit, creativity, and rhythmic drive. As stated by Gary Giddins, "It's the ultimate in rugged individualism. It's going out there on that stage and saying: It doesn't matter how anybody else did it. This is the way I'm going to do it." Jazz allows the expression of a full range of emotions with whichever instrument the musician is using.

Clearly, one of the most expressive instruments in this type of music are saxophones with their ability to squeal, laugh, shriek, and whisper. Saxophones are able to release the inner voice, the feelings, the inner personality of the musician playing them. Not only is jazz music an outlet for those listening to it, but also for the musicians playing the music with their saxophones. Certainly what wasn't able to be said in words was often verbalized musically whether through a soulful lament or a happy energetic, playful sound, especially with the tenor, alto, or soprano saxophones.


This means of expression is portrayed in the music of not only the early innovators of swing, but also in bebop, hard bop, jazz, free jazz, and electric jazz/rock/funk. Some of the best and most renowned music came from those musicians with the most difficult inner personal conflicts. It seems though that those with the most troubled lives had the most inner drive to make their music as brilliant as possible.


    This author is a saxophonist, novice pianist, and novice guitarist. In addition, she is an occupational therapist who works with a host of disabilities utilizing sensory integration and neurodevelopmental therapy in combination with music and a variety of other techniques to assist these persons in achieving the highest level of function and quality of life possible.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

JAZZ MUSIC: A Quick Lesson on Its Roots

Ask anyone, even Jazz experts or Jazz musicians and they will have very different definitions to describe the music, or they will tell you that defining Jazz is impossible. It is, of course, easy to identify when you hear it despite the diversity of the genre. It is a home grown, the United States born music with its birthplace credited to New Orleans and it is highly associated with the South.

Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Scanned by Infro...
Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Scanned by Infrogmation from original 1918 promotional postcard while the band was playing at Reisenweber's Cafe in New York City. Shown are (left to right) Tony Sbarbaro (aka Tony Spargo) on drums; Edwin "Daddy" Edwards on trombone; D. James "Nick" LaRocca on cornet; Larry Shields on clarinet, and Henry Ragas on piano.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
To understand how diverse the genre of Jazz music can be one has only to view some of its sub categories: Bebop, Ragtime, Dixieland, Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz, Latin Jazz, Post Bop, Soul Jazz, Swing Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Jazz Funk, Smooth Jazz, Acid Jazz, and Punk Jazz, and many others. The word "Jazz" is as hard to define as the music itself. 

The origin of the word has been heavily researched and the American Dialect Society named it the "Word of the Twentieth Century" because of the difficulty in finding the origin and original use of the word and the amount of research that has gone into understanding the word. Despite the music being played many years before the use of the word "jazz" to describe it, the use became common in Chicago around 1915. The first use of the word found is actually in a baseball article from 1913 and it was not associated with anything having to do with music, instead it was a form of slang mostly heard on the West Coast, yet it soon became a well-known term for the unique and individualistic music to become well known as Jazz music.

There are many that claim to have first used it to describe the music genre. Wherever the origin, it is one of the most recognized terms to describe a music genre despite there being few that can define it fully. The music just defines itself without words having the ability to fully do it justice.

"Individual and unique" are very good words to describe Jazz. The Jazz artist is often considered to be interpreting the music when they play. It is usually enjoyed live more than recorded due to the ability of the musician to individually interpret and play the music differently throughout performances. This is a unique property of Jazz music.

What has been commonly known as the "Jazz Age" is the time period of the 20's to early 30's that included the rise of speakeasies" where an older generation regarded the new music played in these clubs as immoral. It was so degraded by many that were threatened by the new wave of music, that they even blamed Jazz as having caused a heart attack of one music composer. The music persevered past its critics and soon there were standout Jazz musicians that were making a name for themselves that would keep them as historical figures. Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington became well known and respected musicians and helped bring more fans to Jazz music.

Jazz has been described as "moving, passionate, and strongF320 music influencing the senses of the body and soul". For those that discover a love for their particular brand of Jazz, it becomes a sought after music for times of relaxation, rejuvenation, and celebration. For those that have yet to fully discover all that Jazz Music has to offer, visiting a live Jazz concert, or a Jazz festival can be a very enlightening and enjoyable experience. Due to the popularity of Jazz and its American roots, there are many opportunities for someone to experience the music live in clubs, concerts, and events across the United States.

One of the most popular Jazz Festivals on the east coast of the United States is the DC Jazz Festival, or lovingly nicknamed the "DC Jazz Fest". It unofficially kicks off the Summer season for those that are familiar with the event. It takes place this year from June 1 through June 13 and will include over 100 performances at over 45 venues across the city. It is the largest music festival in the Nation's Capital. The festival offers a wide variety of Jazz music types and top musicians from all over the globe. There is not a better place to get a real lesson in Jazz Music.



CAISO is proud to be a part of the music performance lineup for the 7th Annual DC Jazz Festival and will be performing on June 4 from 3 to 4 PM at Gallery O on H, 1354 H Street Northeast, Washington, DC. For more information on the DC Jazz Festival visit their Web site: http://www.dcjazzfest.org
For more great information about CAISO SteelBand's Blog visit: http://www.CaisoSteelBand.com