Yesterday I saw the Joe Lovano Village Rhythms Band play a series of afro-beat style tunes, mostly composed by Joe, at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, as well as listening to a talk with Joe about his new band.
First I’ll start with a bit of background history: The Village Rhythms were named after an album of Joe’s and inspired by the sounds he and his friend heard when they played at Fela Kuti’s ‘Shrine’ in Lagos. Most of the tunes played were the same brand of Afro-Beat played by Fela.
With a rhythm section including Abdou Mboup (an amazing percussionist whom I hadn’t heard of before yesterday), Liberty Ellman (Guitar), Michael Olatuja (Fender Bass) and Otis Brown III (Drums) the floor was literally vibrating! In the talk Joe Lovano said a Blue Note album (hopefully also in vinyl!) of him and the Village Rhythms would come out around next year. My advice is to pre-order as soon as possible!!
I would like to dedicate a paragraph to Abdou, who was also an brilliant multi-instrumentalist. His extremely expressive, virtuoso and mesmerising playing of the Kora and Talking Drums never failed to amaze me http://www.abdoumboup.com
The reason I haven’t posted in ages is because my parents took me on holiday to Connecticut: to see my best friend, Boston: to see Berklee College of Music, New York: to see some of our best family friends and we even got to go skiing (Thanks!) ! One the of things I got to do (which was jazz-related) was go on an amazing jazz tour in Harlem with Big Apple Jazz: http://www.bigapplejazz.com . Some of the features included seeing the place where the famous photo – A Great Day In Harlem – was taken, going to a jazz club which nobody actually knows about and being able to play in a jam session at the Shrine Jazz Club: http://www.shrinenyc.com ! Our tour guides, Gordon and Amanda, were great and knew so much about jazz history and places in their neighbourhood! I also got to visit Bleecker Street Records which had a great selection of jazz vinyl for a cheap price: http://www.bleeckerstreetrecordsnyc.com/store/bleecker.html
Here’s the link to Amanda’s YouTube channel and me in the jam session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N7ekf7GHkY (please don’t laugh at me, it was my first ever jam session 🙂
When the Beatles first came to America they told everyone they wanted to see Muddy Waters; one reporter asked: “Muddy Waters … Where’s that?”
Paul McCartney laughed and said, “Don’t you know who your own famous people are here?”
McKinley Morganfield was born in April of 1913. The world knows him a little better by his stage name, Muddy Waters. He grew up on a plantation in Mississippi, and learned to play the blues from the source, in the Mississippi Delta. Many important blues musicians never left these humble country roots, and produced music with raw emotion and expression that cuts to the core of the human existence.
What separates Muddy Waters from these Delta bluesmen is where he took the blues and delivered that music to the world. In 1943, at the age of 30, he traveled north to Chicago to become a professional musician…
Hoochie Coochie Man
-Jimmy Smith arr. by Oliver Nelson
One day a band of 25 warriors under one leader set off to a distant land to do battle. This happened on June 14th 1966, when Jimmy Smith and Oliver Nelson’s big band set off to RVG’s (Rudy Van Gelder’s) miracle factory: Englewood Cliffs. There they did battle with old blues standards, turning them into something new and exciting.
Their first battle is with Willie Dixon’s I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man, a classic blues in C. Jimmy Smith’s powerful vocals and Buddy Lucas’ expressive harmonica playing are a strong mix. Jimmy Smith demonstrates his technical command of the Hammond Organ in his amazing solo and Bob Cranshaw (Fender Bass) deserves a mention for his brilliant comping during Jimmy’s solo.
Next up is One Mint Julep, a Rudy Toombs rhythm and blues tune. It starts with a big band intro followed by a grooving straight 8s section but shortly changes into swing. The bluesy tune ends with the #II°7, II-7, I6 (second inversion) “Basie Tag”. This tune reminds me of Boss City on Goin’ Out of My Head – Wes Montgomery (Verve).
Now rounding up side 1 is another blues in C, Ain’t That Just Like A Women. As in track 1, Jimmy and Buddy have a ‘conversation’ between vocals and harmonica. I found Jimmy Smith’s organ solo really captivating and at the end I couldn’t help but play along!
Next up we have the John Lee Hooker standard Boom Boom. I love Oliver Nelson’s interpretation of the opening guitar riff and Jimmy’s cool gospel clichés. Jimmy Smith’s vocals are amazingly ‘worn’ and ‘seasoned’ for a 32 year old. As with all Jimmy’s solos on this album, they rise to a climax and cut back to the head creating a feeling of resolution.
Our penultimate track is Blues And The Abstract Truth. As the title suggests the tune is very abstract but very pleasing to the ear. I find the head more like bebop than blues. The tune switches to swing for the solo. One observation I made was that Jimmy Smith had a talent to create fast, Bud Powell inspired lines. This track sounds a bit like the Wayne Shorter tune Witch Hunt.
Finally we have TNT a catchy tune with a strong rhythm. As it says in the liner notes “TNT is everything the initials imply: highly explosive!” After the solos Jimmy interprets the melody creatively and I also think Bob Cranshaw deserves another recognition for his great comping.
Another thing I would like to mention is the mistake on the album cover where it says “Hoochie Cooche” not “Hoochie Coochie”!
I rate this album 9.5/10, Jimmy Smith’s organ and vocals are exquisite, Oliver Nelson’s arrangements are amazing, Bob Cranshaw’s comping is brilliant and the rest of the band is great.
This year marks the centenary of one of the great unsung heroes of jazz history, a man who was also half (and sometimes, arguably, more than that) of one of the greatest musical partnerships of the 20th Century – and the composer of such classics of the jazz repertoire as Take the A Train and Lush Life. His name was Billy Strayhorn.
In late 1938, this quiet young musician in his rather past-its-best Sunday suit was taken backstage in a Pittsburgh theatre to be introduced to the great jazz bandleader and composer of the day, Duke Ellington. As Ellington rested between performances, relaxing on a reclining chair while his valet tended to his hair, the 23-year-old Strayhorn was ushered in.
Strayhorn & Ellington on the set of Anatomy of a Murder for which they wrote the score. Director Otto Preminger looks on.