Tuesday, October 12, 2010

this and that

I've been losing readers by not updating the blog, so I guess I have to get back into if I want the blog to stay alive. I generally post when I have a new album coming out, and I do. It is called "Jazz Brasil" and features 2010 NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron, along with Nilson Matta, who co-produced it, on bass and Marcello Pellitteri on drums and percussion. The picture is of the guys at the session. That's Nilson to my right, Marcello up front and the jazz master, in fact as well as in name, Kenny Baron on other side of me. The timing couldn't be better. The album was actually recording in 2009 before I recorded "Timbasa." After listening to both recordings, Randy Klein the president of Jazzheads, decided to put "Timbasa" out first since my last album for the company "Lua e Sol" was Brazilian jazz. I agreed with him since I was sure that "Timbasa" would be well-received and reconnect me with the Latin jazz radio stations that had pushed "Con Alma" up to number one on the radio play charts. Waiting to release "Jazz Brasil" ended up being perfect timing. Hopefully the album coming out soon soon after Kenny got the Jazz Master award will give it that extra boost.

Not that it needs is. I think the music stands on its own two feet. I felt a lot of pressure playing with Kenny, but you would never know it from the finished product. The album is relaxed, swinging and musical throughout. Playing with Kenny Barron enabled me to return to my bebop roots and he loves playing Brazilian jazz, a motivating factor in his doing the date with me. Kenny is a complete professional as was everyone else and the session went like clockwork. Once again, no rehearsals, head arrangements in the studio and a natural blending of very compatible players. We played a mixture of jazz standards by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, some originals and tunes by the best of the Brazilian composers, Ary Barroso and Jobim. We also did a cover of one of Herbie Mann's biggest hits, "Memphis Underground." I spent few years playing with Herbie when I was a trombone player and Nilson played with and loved Herbie Mann. It was his idea to play a Herbie cover, something I would have never thought of doing. It's worth remarking that the Brazilian musicians who played with Herbie really love him . Romero Lubambo calls him 'my American father.' Both he and Nilson say that I remind them of Herbie when I play. I can't see the similarity; my concept, playing world music with the best musicians I can get is straight out of Herbie's playbook. I see him as the source of how I see the flute in jazz, but honestly, I don't see myself as sounding like him at all. Part of it is that I can't swing as hard as he did. Very few people can. Herbie could swing and bring an audience to its feet. The album I recorded with him called "Standing Ovation at Newport" is a case in point.

One of big crowd pleasers we played was called 'Mushi, Mushi,' which is how you say 'hello' on the phone in Japan (Herbie was very big in Japan). It featured Patato on conga and the two bones. It was the last tune on our set at Newport. But instead of stopping the tune when it was finished, Herbie kept on playing by himself. The band had ended big, but before the people could applaud, there is Herbie standing in front of microphone, doing his patented hip-movements, and playing air. That's right AIR. He is just blowing into the flute, making no sound other than the percussive effects of his tongue and the air into the microphone. Actually Jimmy Guiffre, the clarinetist, did that on a few recording, using air, tonguing and key clicks in a very subdued and almost hypnotic way. Herbie, on the other hand, was kickin'. Patato went to the apron of the large Newport stage and started clapping on 2 and 4. The audience picked it up, a perfect rhythm section of thousands of people, and not with a rock drummer slamming back-beats, but with Herbie Mann swingin' the shit out of air. They wouldn't let us off of the stage, which was slightly embarrassing as the next act was an all-star band led by Earl 'Fatha' Hines, and featuring greats from the 30's and 40's. Herbie certainly could swing.

I on the other hand am obsessed with what I call 'saxophone' standards, to play changes and make a harmonic as well as melodic contribution. I recorded "Memphis Underground" on bass flute to keep comparisons with Herbie to a minimum. Another tune we recorded also has a strange history. Nilson played with Joe Henderson and he suggested we play "Isotope," a favorite of his when he played with Joe. I also played with Joe when he had a big band in New York in the 60's It was right after Thad Jones/Mel Lewis became a big Monday night draw at the Village Vanguard and another west village club, the Half Note, started to use big bands one night a week as well. I played with a number of big bands there, Clark Terry, Duke Pearson and Kenny Durham but playing with Joe Henderson's big band was something else. For one thing we only had about a half dozen arrangments so to play a whole night, Joe had to figure something out. For one thing he played duets with Lee Koenitz, when of the all-time most transcendental experiences of live music I have ever experienced sitting on the bandstand (another was Chick Corea accompanying Johnny Hartman when Herbie's band played the Apollo Theatre). Joe's charts were all tenor sax features and Joe would open them up the last set, letting other members of the band be the featured soloist. My feature was on "Isotope." What goes around comes around.

The album with Kenny Barron will be available shortly (its release date is November 9th) although we won't be doing promotion until after the first of the year. I'll talk more about the date when I have the recording and put up some tracks on myspace.

The other reason that I have for writing another blog is that a live video of me surfaced. I played a concert at Montclair State University with Jeff Kunkel who is head of the jazz department there. Bill Mooring is on bass and Rogerio Boccatto is on drums. I'm playing the melody on bass flute and solo on alto. The tune is an original by Jeff.

There may be something weird with the video on your screen. I noticed that although the entire video shows on the preview page, the right side (with me) is cut off on the webpage itself. If you double-click on it it goes to myspace and you get to see me as well as the other guys.

I have something else to report, although it is not related to my music. I finished a first draft of a book based on my recent work in logic and reflecting a number of earlier publications. The reason I'm mentioning it is that it is a significant accomplishment and one that I have been putting off for years. Pressure from my job gave me the basic incentive and my son Jack, the philosopher, showed me how to do it. He said, 'guys who publish aren't smarter, they just do the work.' And so I did the work. The funny thing is that I get totally into writing when I do it. Basically, when I'm home I'm at my desk practicing. I keep the computer on, occupying myself during endless long-tones and scales by reading the news and etc. I keep track of emails that way so that they don't build up, using small tasks like answering mail to break up the practicing into reasonable units without taxing my chops. But what has been happening since I got back from giving logic papers at conferences this summer is that I sit down at the computer in the late morning with my flute on a stand next to me and if I open a file for a book chapter I get completely engrossed. When things were coming to a head with a chapter I would find myself in the evening without having touched my flute. I have completely lost track of time for over 8 hours in the past several weeks while I became totally absorbed in writing. I find myself not even having started to practice at 10pm or later, having spent a whole day in 'logic land.' It is a strange place to be in. Totally absorbing. And strangely, no matter how difficult it is, and I have been dealing with technical stuff far above my pay grade (catching up with the latest developments in logic with skills from the 1970's), it is far less of a struggle than articulating in the lowest half octave on the flute. Philosophy comes very naturally to me, and music has always been hard work. Yet, my whole self-concept, my aspirations and my desire to make a lasting contribution are all involved with being a jazz musician. Strange to say, although philosophy has been very good to me and I think that my work is reasonable important, music is still at center of how I see myself and ultimately it is what I see as the accomplishment of my life. Go figure!