Live Jazz: Jackie Ryan in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute

November 3, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles. Jackie Ryan made one of her far too rare Southland appearances on Saturday night. The program was a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute featuring Ryan with the stellar backing of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Tamir Hendelman, drummer Dean Koba and bassist Alex Frank.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

That’s an impressive combination of talent, and the result was a stunning blend of vocal and instrumental jazz.

Ryan has always been a versatile, expressive singer, comfortable in several languages, an effective interpreter of bossa nova classics often in their original Portuguese. Add to that her strong sense of rhythmic swing and effective story-telling mastery.

Rickey Woodard

Those qualities, and more, were all present in her dynamic Saturday night appearance. Additionally noticeable in her rendering of an appealing program of songs were Ryan’s engaging entertainment skills. Interacting humorously with her highly receptive audience, sharing the spotlight with Woodard and the other players, introducing songs with a narrative describing their background, she offered a complete package, energized by the rich jazz qualities that are at the center of her performance art.

Among the highlights of an evening filled with memorable moments: a group of warmly intimate Brazilian songs from Milton Nascimento and Antonio Carlos Jobim, highlighted by an especially touching version of Jobim’s “Louisa”; a passionate rendering of “I Love You Porgy,” prefaced by Ryan’s telling of the song’s meaning in the context of the opera Porgy and Bess; a briskly swinging “I Just Found Out About Love”; a laid-back “Sleeping Bee”; a soaring, blues-driven take on “Georgia,” featuring a scene-stealing solo from Woodard; and more.

Rickey Woodard, Dean Koba, Alex Frank, Tamir Hendelman

Ryan was backed throughout by the sort of sturdy support that most singers dream of having, and often do not. Hendelman’s highly praised accompaniment for singers was present in every note he played; Koba and Frank laid down an irresistibly bouyant rhythmic flow; and Woodard’s playing, as noted above, provided the perfect, musically illuminating musical partnership.

The only thing missing in this otherwise superb musical evening was a second set. And when we left the theatre, the only remaining desire was the wish for Ryan to make more frequent trips south to gift L.A. with the many pleasures of her music.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: Emily Bear in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musician’s Institute.

May 11, 2013

By Don Heckman

“I just do it.”  That was the brief comment I received from young pianist/composer Emily Bear when I spoke to her after her Wednesday night performance at the Musicians’ Institute.

Four little words.  In response to my query about her orchestral composition “Santa Fe.”  How, I wondered, had she developed the skills to write so authoritatively for a full symphonic orchestra.

And she replied, “I just do it.”

Emily Bear

Emily Bear

Which is probably the response that this remarkable eleven year old prodigy would have to all the other impressive accomplishments she has had with her music.

In case you haven’t been watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show lately, or haven’t stumbled upon her numerous film clips on YouTube, you may not be too sure about who Emily Bear is.  Suffice to say that she’s been receiving a lot of attention, with good reason.

Displaying musical talent on the piano at the age of two, she began to compose a year later.  At six, she performed at the White House, and she guested on the DeGeneres Show six times.  As she got older, her skills reached from pop and jazz and rock to classical music, often via performances with a full orchestra, performing in venues in the U.S. and Europe.

Emily Bear and Quincy Jones

Emily Bear and Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones was so impressed when he heard Emily in action that he immediately made a deal to take over management of her career.

“She is the complete 360-degree package,” says Quincy, “and there are no limits to the musical heights that she can reach.”

All of which was amply clear in her Jazz Bakery performance.  In a single, hour and half set, she offered a sequence of all original works, performing with bassist Peter Slavov, drummer Kevin Kanner and, on a few works, cellist Zuill Bailey.

Emily Bear

Emily Bear

The music covered a gamut of styles: lyrical, adagio-like classical melodies; briskly swinging bebop lines; an atmospheric flamenco-styled piece; some rhythmically energizing salsa; a theme that could easily have been the principal melody in an Italian film; and much more.

All of it was delivered in Emily’s warm engaging style, clearly enraptured within the music, communicating her creative intensity to the other players with captivating smiles and gestures.

Watching and listening to the utter musical authenticity of her playing, I couldn’t help but recall another illuminating remark from Emily, one that perfectly illustrates the creative reality of this impressive young artist:  “I have so much music in my heart,” she says, “that it just falls out.”


Emily’s latest recording, Diversity(Concord/Qwest Records), was produced by Quincy Jones.  Her seventh album, it includes much of the material presented at the Jazz Bakery performance.  It’s the perfect introduction to the work of a very gifted, very young woman with – as Quincy has pointed out – “no limits to the heights she can reach.”

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

Live Music: Jason Moran in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute

May 9, 2013

The Most Exciting (Jazz?) Pianist On The Planet?

By Norton Wright

Hollywood CA.  Has there ever been a jazz pianist like Jason Moran? Not Jarrett, Evans, Corea, Brubeck, Peterson — not even George Russell — not even Moran’s mentors, Jaki Byard and Thelonious Monk. As with Jackson Pollock in the visual arts, Jason Moran may be “one of a kind.” Like Pollock’s abstract artistry, Moran at the piano does not cover familiar jazz tunes, but rather creates something new on the spot, an “encounter” with a piano generating a fresh and oftimes risky “event.”

Art critic Harold Rosenberg described a similar approach in the process of abstract expressionist painters in the 1950’s as follows:

“…the canvas began to appear as an arena in which to act… What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”

The same can be said of Moran wherein his piano provides the arena in which to act. His compositions are the result of his encounters with that piano. Though easily capable of swinging through jazz standards, Moran foregoes that convention to create original and amazing “events.” Long horizontal lines — sometimes smooth, sometimes jagged, often played in flowing clusters; a left hand of wickedly complex harmonies from which the connecting melodic tissue springs; and both hands frequently generating the repeated figures that mark the pulsing ostinato energy of minimalist composers like John Adams, Phillip Glass, and  Steve Reich.

On Tuesday at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Moran’s playing was in cadenza mode all night long. The notes flew by with the power, dexterity, and touch of a concert pianist. Lang Lang would have kvelled!

Jason Moran

Jason Moran

All of which raises the question, “Is Jason Moran a modern, classical music composer/pianist/conductor like Thomas Ades, or might he be a preview of the future of jazz? Maybe he’s both. His creations and those of his trio mates, Tarus Mateen (electronic bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) are clearly rooted in jazz, but the sense of classical composition and inquiry is always present in the band’s work.

This threesome known as “Jason Moran and The Bandwagon” have been together for thirteen years, and they work in consort like a mini-symphony orchestra. Piano, bass, and drums are constantly joined in musical conversations, sometimes playing in one mutual voice, sometimes engaging in separate, call-and-response musical dialogs, and sometimes “talking on top of one another” to create dramatically conflicted tonal textures.

Jason Moran Bandwagon

Jason Moran Bandwagon

In their opening number, Moran invented a gentle melodic line with the support of Waits’ soft percussion and a warm bass ostinato by Mateen. Then SUDDENLY Moran found a beginning fragment of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and the band’s conversation exploded, the tempo kicking into high gear. Moran was in 4/4, but Waits was talking back in 5/4, then roaring forward in 7/8. Mateen stayed with Moran’s 4/4 with his own throbbing, four-note walking bass, and Moran responded with his own minimalist repeats of a four-note figure to match   “hon – ee – suck – el” — “hon – ee – suck – el” — “hon – ee – suck – el,” the repetitions becoming as mesmerizing as a Sufi devotional chant.

The set continued with similar surprises. Evoking the mixed-media collages and “combines” of abstract expressionist artist Robert Rauschenberg, Moran occasionally introduced his band’s numbers by playing pre-recorded excerpts from old radio broadcasts — a kind of homage to artistic and political innovators of the past.

With an all-inclusive appreciation of music, Moran fuels his compositions with licks from rock to hip-hop to Debussy. One of The Bandwagon’s numbers began with the playing of an old recording by country blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell. As McDowell’s keening built, Moran at the keyboard copied the singer’s wailings and soon carried the motif into a gorgeous, contemporary blues.  At the start of another number, Moran played a homemade audiotape of the sounds of Thelonious Monk in his Greenwich Village loft TAP DANCING! Moran’s piano segued into his idol’s surprisingly ungainly clumpings and built a line that eventually evolved into his take on “Straight No Chaser” — more complex and interesting than Monk’s original.

Towards evening’s end, I was reminded that there is no art without craft.  And Moran’s musical experience at The High School For Performing Arts under Bob Morgan’s tutelage in Houston, Texas, followed by his continuing education at the Manhattan School Of Music, and then his first professional gigs under the mentoring of Jaki Byard and Monk, clearly nurtured his exceptional talents.

In 2010 he was the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” and recently has succeeded the late Dr. Billy Taylor as The Kennedy Center’s Artistic Advisor For Jazz. For aspiring young musical students whether in jazz or classical studies, the evolving, 38-year-old Jason Moran provides inspiring proof that creating great art requires hard work, exceptional imagination, and the courage to continue experimenting regardless of past triumphs or failures.

Might Jason Moran actually be the most exciting (jazz?) pianist on the planet?

All thoughts welcome…

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In closing: A note to John Adams, Creative Chair and Herbie Hancock, Creative Chair For Jazz, at the Los Angeles Philharmonic:


John Adams’ “Minimalist Jukebox” series a few years back at Philharmonic Hall delighted its audiences, especially with the surprising and little-known “classical” compositions of Frank Zappa! And Herbie Hancock’s presentation of solo Keith Jarrett last year was a night of “classically” elegant jazz.

If in the near future the Phil could provide a Disney Concert Hall outing for Jason Moran and The Bandwagon, might the inquiry of “Is it jazz – or something else?” be valuably extended?

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To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.

Jason Moran photo by Tony Gieske. 

Live Music: Dori Caymmi at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast

February 23, 2013

By Cathy Segal-Garcia

Los Angeles, CA.  Here I am, sitting in the Kirk Douglas Theatre, waiting for the world-renowned guitarist/vocalist/composer/arranger/producer, Dori Caymmi, to come out to start the show. A beautiful theatre, slanted up seating, with a medium large stage on the floor, the newest and most intimate of Center Theatre Group’s family of theatres.

We scored a seat in the very front center, so I’m pretty turned on because I love being close to musicians.  Being a singer, I like to feel up close and personal, feeling like I’m actually part of the band.  There’s a stool in the center with an expectant mic, a piano and keyboard, a stool in the center back, and drums.  I’m excited!

The group, a quartet, comes out after an introduction from Jazz Bakery founder Ruth Price. Dori’s voice is at once beautiful and distinct.  A rich baritone, with depth of emotion that make my insides release.  Add that voice to a slow bossa beat, with subtleties of the rhythms and harmonies coming through the players…and it’s romantic and beautiful from the very first moment.

The music is harmonically leading and surprising, which is part of what makes it so amazing to listen to.  Within the same song, there are passages of different lengths, that are significantly different, but they relate and flow out of each other and into the next; like a river, running gently and endlessly, around rocks and curves, on and on.

The 2nd song showcased the pianist, Bill Cantos, singing his own keyboard solo… Wonderful!   Vocally exciting, and great musical ideas… motifs repeating and developing into an exciting build and gentle drop.

Dori Caymmi

Dori Caymmi

A slow, painfully beautiful “Corcovado” was next.  How do the great Brazilian musicians create this gorgeous style, time and again?  Dori is having a love affair with the song, with the notes, the way they sit in the harmony, the Portuguese lyrics….

And yet right after, this sweetheart of a man makes a joke relating to his “depressed versions of Brazilian music,” before going into a mind blowing arrangement of “Brazil.”  I have never heard or imagined a more beautiful and interesting arrangement.  It took me at least  32 bars before I recognized it.  The form seemed different, the chords were definitely beautiful substitutions, and even the melody, sung and played by Dori at first, seemed only slightly familiar. At a slow, sensuous groove, with all the rest, it was truly a holy experience.

Jerry Watts on electric bass was a prominent part of the music.  A versatile and strong musician, in this setting, as each musician, he held his reins and released at just the right times.  Playing his bass like a guitar, his rhythmic choices seemed comfortable and perfect, even with their complexity.

The drummer Aaron Serfaty was unobtrusive in the best way, to say the least.  Percussive, as if adding to an orchestra, light and perfectly rhythmic on his small drum set

Dori , soon to be merely 70 (how lucky are we, to be able to hear him more) was relaxed and talkative in between songs…making the audience love him all the more.  He talked about his father and mother, Dorival Caymmi and Stella Maris, both famous Brazilian musicians.   And an upcoming recording project he will do with his sister (famous vocalist Nana Caymmi) and brother (famous musician Danilo Caymmi)…dedicated to their Dad.  Then he played one of his Dad’s hits …”Acontec Que Eu Sou Baiano.”   Dorival was known as “the poet of the seas of Bahia.”

It was difficult to make notes while I listened; the music was so touching to the soul and the ears that I didn’t want to be distracted from it.  And yet, when I’m excited by music, I want to write about it.

And speaking of making love to the songs…how about making love through the songs?  Like a good lover, the music and the musicians find a sensuous wonderful groove, lock into it, stroke it with notes and harmony until, building slowly and gradually, it’s obvious that it must release…

“The Harbor”…(sigh).  Dori told a beautiful and sad introduction about the music of his father…about how he would tell about seemingly simple things like stepping on pieces of wood in the water that led to the boats.  And how, now, there is no more of that; it’s all been commercialized.  Dori wrote “The Harbor” as an ode to the old way.

Brazilian musicians and singers tend to state the melody as written, milking it with the tone of the instrument and the emotion of the voice.  That’s why listeners fall in love with the basic songs, with their melody and harmony.  American jazz singers, however, learn that the songs of the Great American Songbook were written down very basically.  A singer learns them, then changes them – with the phrasing, the melody, the rhythm.  And I believe not even the composer expected or desired you to sing it as exactly as it was written.

One gets the idea that Brazilian composers want something else.  Or perhaps it’s the culture that leads the performing artists into this kind of musical perspective.  A perspective in which the language and flow of the story – via both the lyrics and the music — communicate deeply the imaginative tales of their rich history and culture.

I left the concert with a lovely CD, my soul filled with beauty, and a desire to sing with Dori.  The perfect response to a perfect musical evening.

To read more about Cathy Segal-Garcia on her own website, click HERE

Live Brazilian Music: Dori Caymmi at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast

June 25, 2012

By Michael Katz

Ruth Price brought The Jazz Bakery back to its once and future home in Culver City this weekend, and Westsiders gratefully filled the Kirk Douglas Theatre to capacity Saturday night for a stunning performance by Brazilian composer/singer/guitarist Dori Caymmi. Caymmi boasts a family lineage that predates the samba and bossa nova movement of Jobim, Bonfa, Joao Gilberto and others. His father, Dorival Caymmi, was one of Brazil’s most enduring songwriters, perhaps best known in this country for “O Cantador” (“Like A Lover”); his siblings, Nana and Danilo, have long been a fixture on the Brazilian scene.

Dori Caymmi

Dori, silver haired now and humorously giving nods to age, has a haunting, darkly romantic voice. Singing almost entirely in Portuguese, he manages to communicate the feelings of loss and yearning almost intuitively. His rich, dark tones draw you into the music and his quartet ably provides the texture to fill in the linguistic gaps.

The first third of the ninety minute concert touched on songs from Dorival Caymmi’s era and beyond. Dori used the familiar melody of Jobim’s “Desifinado” as an opening bridge to “Aquarela Do Brasil.” Ary Barrosso’s anthem has stood up to all manner of interpretation; Caymmi’s is brooding, almost foreboding. He gave way to Bill Cantos on keyboards and synthesizer, and Jerry Watts on electric bass. If you are used to the sometimes lush accompaniment of strings and flutes that have supported Caymmi on his recordings and augmented much of Jobim’s music, the electronics can be a bit jarring at first, but Cantos handled them with a light touch, adding his own vocals later in the set. Mark Shapiro handled the full range of percussion instruments, contributing to the drama inherent in Caymmi’s voicings.

There followed one of Dorival’s compositions, a more upbeat, samba-like tune, and then Jobim’s “Corcovado,” introduced by Caymmi’s spare guitar fingerings, dropping down into a minor chord. Like many of the great Brazilian guitarists, Gilberto in particular, Caymmi uses the guitar in an almost surgical fashion. His performance is less a singer accompanying himself than a duet between voice and strings. Shapiro, in particular, is expert in adding the Brazilian rhythms unobtrusively and on “Corcovado,” Cantos contributed a falsetto vocal, skipping lightly over his keyboard patter.

The middle third of the evening was devoted mainly to Caymmi’s latest CD, Poesia Musicada, which sets to music the poetry of Paulo Cesar Pinheiro. Caymmi performed three songs, all in Portuguese, most of which defied any direct translation – “Estrelo Cinco Pontas” roughly comes to “Five Point Star” — but that was about the extent of it. Still, the romantic tenor of the poetry-set-to-music came through without much need for it. The third song, “Velho Do Mar,” an elegy to the coastal city of Bahia in the era when his father was a young man, communicated a longing for a world left behind that resonates especially well here in Los Angeles.

There were plenty of Caymmi originals left in the program, including “Obsession,” which Sarah Vaughan recorded in 1987 on her Brazilian Romance album (with English lyrics). Caymmi’s rendition, not surprisingly, is dark and dangerous, wordless in parts, with some outstanding keyboard work from Cantos. Toward the end of the set, Caymmi picked up the pace with three numbers from Brazilian Serenata, his 1991 CD that has had the widest following here. Voce Ja Foi a Bahia?, a samba written by his father, turned the mood upbeat, with Cantos again supplying a vocal accompaniment and Jerry Watts utilizing a rounded-off timbre on the electric bass to keep the tone pulsating. Caymmi closed out the set with “Amazon River,” the anthem that begins and ends Serenata, and brought the band back for “Ninho de Vespa,” – literally “Beehive,” a traditional samba-esque tune from the same CD.

All in all, it was a rewarding evening for the jazz-starved Westside. It was great to see the Kirk Douglas theatre filled and we can only hope that the new Bakery will be laying it’s foundation before too long.

Brick Wahl: Keeping It Real 2

February 26, 2012

By Brick Wahl

Just realized there are still comments bouncing around on this. Don Heckman’s got clout….

My whole point in that original rant is that if things continue as they are there will be no place left to play. The jazz scene has shrunk by at least two thirds in the past ten years. Clubs literally cannot afford to book the stuff. It not only does not draw people, but it literally drives them away. People leave. They listen a bit, get bored, pay their tab and leave. More leave than don’t leave in many, if not most cases. You book jazz and you will have empty rooms. The exception is the Blue Whale, but that exists because USC is nearby and has such a strong jazz program. It’s the hang for all those kids and their friends, and for jazz fans who can’t believe there is a club booking such cool crazy shit like you can see at the Blue Whale. The downside of that is that those kids don’t buy a lot of drinks and even less food. College kids are broke, and college kids who study jazz are, um, bookish….and party they don’t. If people don’t party the club doesn’t make any money. And if clubs don’t make money they close….or change music. Even the Blue Whale complains about a lot of lousy turn outs (though they seem to be doing well whenever I’m there.) .

Brick Wahl

And, oh yeah….the Movable Feasts are big successes…but they are concerts…. They are presented as concerts, marketed as concerts, structured as concerts. Concerts have always done much better than clubs. They feature well known names from NYC or Europe. Plus the place has, I believe, student rush tickets. And most importantly of all…the Jazz Bakery does not rely on bar tabs and door money for its funding. It is supported by patrons. That’s how it stayed open all those years when no one was showing up a lot of nights. But as far as genuine jazz clubs — not performance spaces but clubs that try to feature jazz a few nights a week — well, those are disappearing fast. Vibrato makes its money off its menu. Blue Whale by being a hip college joint with a vast pool of young talent to feature.. And there’s scattered other spots that have the weekly jazz night that does well. But they are few and far between, and certainly not part of any city-wide jazz scene, a scene that existed a few years ago.

So players can say that they play for themselves and don’t worry about whether people like it or not (and I think that is the general attitude)…..but that means that within a couple years there will be virtually nowhere to play And certainly almost nowhere to play for pay. I used to fully support that attitude, I loved it. Then I noticed that all the clubs were gone.

Btw…one of the signs of the shrinking jazz scene is its fragmentation….there’s a young experimental scene that’s centered at the Blue Whale; there’s a very white mainstream jazz scene that finds a home at Vitello’s, and the black cats hang on at Nola’s and a couple other small spots. There always was a young cat-old cat divide and a white cat-black jazz divide in LA, certainly in the seven or eight years I was writing things up. I was always trying to get the scenes together more. To mix ideas, influences, players. But the opposite has occurred. I don’t know what to say about that. Except that I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Incidentally, saw Jon Mayer at a bare Desert Rose a couple Saturdays ago. He was brilliant as ever. Highly recommend seeing him there if you’re near Los Feliz on a Saturday night. And Ben Wendel and combo at a very packed Blue Whale a couple weeks ago was a thrill, man. Loved every second of it. And so sorry to see that Mssrs. Melvoin and Holloway slipped away this past week. Oh well.

OK…..I’ve run outta words…..take care everybody….

To read Brick Wahl’s Keeping It Real 1 click HERE.

Keeping It Real: A Minority(?) Opinion From Norton Wright

February 9, 2012

A few weeks ago we published a commentary from Brick Wahl regarding today’s jazz clubs, the musicians who perform in them, and the audiences who come (or don’t come) to hear them.  Click HERE to read Brick’s entire post.  In many respects, the commentary was directed at the musicians themselves.  We’ve had many responses – all of which are attached to the commentary.  But when we received the following brief essay from Norton Wright — an occasional iRoM contributor, a long time jazz fan and a fine artist who has created a series of abstract paintings inspired by various jazz artists – we decided to publish it on its own.  Norton suggested we title it as a minority opinion, but we think it may be more than that (thus the question mark).  (To read an earlier Q & A with Norton and view more of his paintings, click HERE.)

 By Norton Wright

Contrary to Brick Wahl’s recent “Keeping It Real” advice to jazz musicians, my thought is that jazz is more than a career and certainly more than a hobby — it’s a calling. Jazz musicians and their audiences have always been a proud minority, oft times working to make a living in non-musical jobs by day so that we can all swing at clubs at night. The closing of so many jazz venues here in Los Angeles is indeed gloomy news but no reason to give up on the rich and ever-changing art form of jazz music. Though in L.A. the convenience of Charlie O’s, Donte’s, Shelley’s Manhole, The Troubador, et al is a thing of the past, Ruth Price’s Jazz Bakery/Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute 1655 N. McCadden Place (just off Hollywood Boulevard) is packing in audiences four hundred strong.

Norton Wright

Like her original Jazz Bakery, Price’s Movable Feasts could point the way to a jazz renaissance for venues where the expensive overhead of food and drink (and their accompanying noise!) are jettisoned in favor of making the music the sole focus of the evening. And if you still prefer some carbo-loading with your jazz experience, the International Review of Music and other internet sources list an abundance of jazz venues where – contrary to Brick’s critique – the fan base has not melted away to non-existence, and performing jazz artists are not “looking into a crowd and seeing nothing but colleagues and students.”

Am I mistaken but did I get the vibe from Brick’s article that he has something against musical knowledge when he advises today’s jazz artists that –

“You all seem to hear the technique, the mechanics, you can see the music in your head. It unfurls in your skull like one of the Auto Club road maps, showing you where everything is and how to get there. But we listeners don’t hear it that way. Not at all. We can’t. We hear just this great, exciting music. We dig the groove, or get kicked up by the swing, or are blown away by some intense solos. That’s what we hear. I shouldn’t speak for other critics, since they aren’t as musically illiterate as I am, but I can for the fans, since that’s all I am. And that is how us fans hear those records. Illiterately. We don’t know what’s going on like you all do, but we dig them. Dig them a lot. We don’t have to be music majors to understand them. They had elements that appealed to us…the swing, the groove, the attack, the passion, the feeling…..”

My reaction to the above is that “…the swing, the groove, the attack, the passion, the feeling…..” are valid criteria.  But for many jazz fans, there can be even more. Certainly a college degree is not necessary to enjoy art, but I do believe that the more you know about any human activity, be it the arts, politics, medicine – even wine tasting – the more you’ll enjoy it.

Norton Wright's painting "Four Miles" (Saluting Miles Davis)

Making this point is the Miles Davis quote criticizing his idols for not learning more about other styles of music –

“ I couldn’t believe that all them guys like Bird, Prez, Bean, all them cats wouldn’t go to museums or libraries and borrow those musical scores by all those great composers, like Stravinsky, Alban Berg, Prokofiev.” (from Ashley Kahn’s book “Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece”).

My feeling is that knowledge enhances musical appreciation substantially more than Brick’s reference to an Auto Club road map showing you where everything is and how to get there.

A closing thought. The jazz scene has indeed changed from when I was a young whelp in NYC, and a luminous array of jazz clubs beckoned round the clock – Bop City, Birdland, The Composer, The Embers, The Hickory House, Basin Street, The Vanguard, The Half Note, etc. But those were simpler, easier days. Now Americans have so much audio and visual stimuli available to them 24/7 that jazz is still only the province of a proud and resilient minority.


We’ll find you — from Vitello’s in Studio City and Catalina’s in Hollywood to the Blue Note in NYC, Milan and Japan, from Jazz Alley in Seattle to the Attucks Theater in Norfolk, Virginia, from A-Trane in Berlin to Aketa No Mise in Tokyo – on Kjazz Radio 88.1FM – on’s CD buying service – and in the jazz studies programs and universities and high schools across the country. Bravo and  brava to you guys and gals who keep the jazz torch burning!

P.S. In the late 1950’s, the late jazz critic Whitney Balliett defined jazz as “the sound of surprise”… Ain’t it cool that now, five decades later, we can still find jazz venues presenting something more surprising than Madonna grinding her 54-year-old tush at the recent Super Bowl for a TV audience, so many wincing at the possibility of yet another “wardrobe malfunction”!

Photo by Faith Frenz.


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