Saturday, April 8, 2017

THE JAMES CARTER ORGAN TRIO PERFORMS OBSCURE DJANGO REINHARDT COMPOSITIONS AT PARADISE JAZZ SERIES CONCERT


James Carter
The jazz saxophonist James Carter returned to his hometown, Detroit, Friday evening with his longstanding organ trio drummer Alexander White and organist Gerard Gibbs to perform music from his current project Django Unchained at the Paradise Jazz Series. Carter has been touring the globe in support of the project, which has morphed into a sort of a tribute to the iconic Gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt. Carter has an obvious affinity for Reinhardt’s work, having explored some of his well-known compositions on the wonderful album “Chasin' the Gypsy.” This time out, Carter has modernized some of Reinhardt’s obscure compositions. Before Carter started the two-hour concert last night, he read off the setlist, which included Reinhardt's “Hedgehog Waltz,” “Castle of Dreams,” “Melodie Au Crepuscule,” and  “Heavy Artillery. Carter also worked in a solo birthday salute to the great jazz vocalist Billie Holliday. Carter performed a soul-numbing rendition of Holliday’s “God Bless the Child” mixed with “Happy Birthday,” which was one of many highlights throughout the concert. The near capacity crowd buckled down for a night of high tier swing that only a saxophonist of Carter’s daring is capable of delivering. Carter was elated to be performing for his hometown, offering one hellacious solo after the other, and closing tunes with his trademark cadenzas. If Sonny Rollins ever relinquish the crown as the reigning king of jazz improvisation, Carter should be the first in line to receive that distinction. Carter’s sidemen were of good form as well. Gibbs has been Carter’s right-hand man coming up on two decades now was the crowd favorite, playing the absolute shit of his Hammond B3. Gibbs is one of the top jazz organists around, and he has a gift for working a crowd. Gibbs loves to clown around. For example, last night there was a moment during a solo where Gibbs played the organ with his chin, and on “Impromptu” he did sort of a tap dance on the paddles of the organ that drove the audience nuts. White has been with the trio for a few years now. He’s the first of the current field of millennial jazz musicians from Detroit to play in a world-class jazz band. By all accounts, White loves the job.  White replaced Carter’s longtime drummer Leonard King.  White is a confident and a tasteful drummer. Tasteful like drummers Joe Chambers and the late Detroit Bert Myrick. The zoom lens was put on White late into the second set on “Impromptu.” It was his first lengthy solo of the night. When he finished, it was clear, at least to me, White is the new engine that powers the trio.

Monday, April 3, 2017

'BEHIND THE SWING: A GLIMPSE INTO THE LIVES OF SOME OF THE WORLD'S FINEST JAZZ MUSICIANS' AVAILABLE NOW

Here's some praise about my new book "Behind the Swing" from noted authors and jazz experts Herb Boyd and James Gallert:
 
There was a time in the fifties and sixties when practically every jazz ensemble of note included one musician from Detroit, or at least one who refined his or her development in the city.  What Charles Latimer demonstrates to a remarkable degree in Behind the Swing--more than a decade of his articles from the Metro Times--is that there were countless other equally proficient composers, teachers and performers worthy of wider recognition. Latimer’s book is an insight aperture of jazz in Detroit, and he embellishes that musical wellspring with lively discussions with a number of notable visitors, such as Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane, and T.S. Monk.  In many ways, Behind the Swing is on the beat and ahead of its time.
--Herb Boyd, author of Black Detroit—A People’s History of Self-Determination (Amistad, 2017)
 
"Latimer's fine compilation pulls together both tradition jazz and Avant-Garde jazz musicians.  His easy way with words and natural curiosity about the music he loves affords him a good starting point for interviews.  I learned many new, interesting facts about the musicians, many of whom have been overlooked by "mainstream" scribes.  I definitely recommended Behind the Swing for serious jazz supporters!" 
 
--James Gallert, jazz historian and co-author of Before Motown (University of Michigan Regional 2001)
"Behind the Swing" is available at amazon.com, barnesandnobles.com, and bookamillion.com

Sunday, March 5, 2017

THE JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA PRESENTED ALL ORIGINAL MUSIC FOR ANNUAL UMS CONCERT


Saturday evening at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI the Jazz at Lincoln Center put on its twentieth-anniversary performance. Each year the JLC Orchestra makes it a plus to offer a 90 minute presentation that’s decidedly different than the previous year. Two years back, for example, the JLC Orchestra performed works from John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, and Charles Mingus. Then the following year the orchestra deviated from its swing era and post-bop comfort zone, performing music from pop giants such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and a host of other pop greats. This time out, the orchestra celebrated 100 years of jazz music by presenting all original works from members of the orchestra. Each composition was influenced by a seminal era in jazz. The orchestra’s captain trumpeter Wynton Marsalis kicked down the barn door with an original titled “The Abyssinian Mass.”  For those in attendance that might have forgotten what an extraordinary jazz trumpeter Marsalis is, his solo I’m certain jogged their memories. Marsalis blew with such force those close enough to the stage could see spit dripping from the bell of his trumpet. Heck, it appeared as if Marsalis’ trumpet was sweating because of the workout he was putting it through. At the conclusion of the composition surely the audience was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt this was going to be a special night of music. Marsalis next called out the orchestra’s bassist Carlos Henriquez. The bassist led the orchestra up and down a soul-stirring original titled “Brooklyn Pyramid.” Before the orchestra sailed on Marsalis offered some heartfelt words for the University Music Society’s President Ken Fischer. Fischer will be retiring in June. Marsalis also offered kind remarks for jazz radio personality and WEMU’s music director Linda Yohn. She’s also retiring this year after 30 years of service to Michigan’s jazz community. After those acknowledgements, the JLC Orchestra got back to business. There was wonderful music from trumpeter Marcus Printup, saxophonist Ted Nash, and a terse drum solo titled “The Drums Also Waltzes” by Detroiter Ali Jackson that would have made the late jazz drummer Max Roach blush. The showstopper for me was Victor Goines original “Untamed Elegance.” Goines dedicated the number to the recently departed jazz promoter Detroiter Wesley “Skip” Norris. Goines played this number so beautifully the devil would have broken down. The JLC Orchestra performed many wonderful originals, but I still believe the orchestra is at its best playing music from Duke Ellington and the Count Basie songbooks and other swing era mavericks. It’s a welcomed change, however, when the JLC Orchestra deviates from its comfort zone.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

AARON DIEHL & CECILE MCLORIN SALVANT PERFORMED FLAWLESS RENDERINGS OF JELLY MORTON'S AND GEORGE GERSHWIN'S OBSCURE COMPOSITIONS AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

Aaron Diehl and Cecile McLorin Salvant
The jazz pianist Aaron Diehl posed a scenario Sunday afternoon during his two-hour set at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. What would’ve occurred had Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin crossed paths. The musicians never met, and although each was accomplished and prolific, their musical styles were different as night and day. Diehl believes if the legends had met there would’ve been a mutual respect of each other’s virtuosity. That is the impression Diehl left during his flawless presentation titled “Jelly and George,” which featured the Grammy-winning chanteuse Cecile McLorin Salvant and pianist Adam Birnbaum assuming the role of George Gershwin. The concert was a mixing of Morton’s and Gershwin’s compositions. The interesting thing was Diehl opted to play obscure materials from Morton and Gershwin. Diehl was gracious enough to warn the audience that if they expected to hear Morton’s and Gershwin’s popular material the audience was going to be disappointed. The concert opened with Diel and Birnbaum trading on Gershwin’s “Prelude One” and “Jelly Roll’s Blues.” Diehl’s quartet clarinetist Evan Christopher, trombonist Corey Wilcox, trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers joined in on “Mississippi Mildred.” Listening to Diel and Birnbaum reinterpreting Morton’s and Gershwin’s obscure material was worth the price of admission, but what took the two-hour set over the top was Cecile McLorin Salvant. In a short time, Salvant has built a solid reputation as a foremost interpreter of the great American Songbook. Salvant isn’t big on stagecraft, but who gives a rat’s ass because her voice is so unbelievably beautiful it gives your soul goose bumps. Guaranteed people will awake tomorrow still thinking about Salvant’s rendering of “Wining Boy” and “Ask me Again.”  Diehl’s lone moment in the sun came during his brilliant soloing on “Finger Breakers.” Diehl’s band was tight as banjo strings on “The Sidewalk Blues.” “Jelly and George” was prefect from top to bottom. Diehl and company present a lot of music, so an encore seemed overkill. The audience was so thoroughly worked up doubtfully they would’ve allowed the musicians to leave Ann Arbor had they refused an encore. As a gesture of appreciation for all the love the audience showed Diehl, he performed three additional tunes.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

JOE LOVANO & BRIAN BLADE & THE FELLOWSHIP BAND DOUBLE BILL WAS A FITTING CONTRAST OF JAZZ STYLES


Joe Lovano
Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano launched the third concert of the Paradise Jazz Series, and drummer Brian Blade’s The Fellowship Band closed it. The two leaders shared a double bill Friday evening at Orchestra Hall in mid-town Detroit where the PJS is held. Both leaders are from divergent points of the jazz spectrum. Lovano is a post-bop heavy, and Blade is, somewhat of an experimentalist. Of the two, Lovano has logged the most frequent flier miles, having a colored career spanning four-plus decades, and also being one of the major faces of the famed Blue Note Records for 30 plus years. Lovano has made over 20 albums. As he’s proven throughout his career, and which was on full display Friday evening, he’s a saxophonist who plays every single note with a sense of purpose and beauty. There’s nothing pretentious about his playing. During his too-short set with his current working band, the Classic Jazz Quartet – pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Peter Slavov, and drummer Lamy Istrefi—Lovano treated the near-capacity audience to some of his original material, opening the set with “Fort Worth”. The quartet burned rubber on that number from the start to the conclusion. Then moved into a slower tempo gem titled “Our Daily Bread”.  There was some fist pumping soloing from Fields and Slavov. It was Lovano who captivated playing sweetly cadenzas at the end  of several tumes. The quart had the stage sufficiently preheated for Blade.

Blade, one of the greatest living jazz drummers, and a key member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet is no stranger to the PJS. He’s performed the series many times with Shorter, and Blade performed the opening 2016-2017 series as a member of the Chick Corea Trio. However, Friday evening was Blade’s first time at the series as a bandleader. It was a gamble booking Blade’s The Fellowship Band, which has a decidedly different approach to swinging. The core PJS demographic favors bop and post-bop. That’s what that core audience have been fed since the PJS launched. Blade is a magician, however, and the entire set he had the audience drooling. Blade performed with only one commercial break to introduce his bandmates saxophonists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, pianist Jon Cowherd, and bassist Chris Thomas. The band played a kind of modernist swing no jazz critic has categorized yet. Blade called tunes from The Fellowship’s discography. The tunes had a recognizable formula, starting at a slow molasses thick tempo, and then midway through the band started hauling ass. Blade chops power The Fellowship much like his chops power Shorter’s quartet. Blade is inarguably one of a kind. And the success of his all too short set Friday evening was a gamble proved worth taking. Pairing Lovano with Blade was a fitting contrast that worked.

Monday, February 6, 2017

FAMILY, FRIENDS & DETROIT'S JAZZ COMMUNITY CAME OUT FOR JAZZ TITAN SKIP NORRIS' HOME GOING

Wesley "Skip" Norris
When word spread January 26th via social mediaS that jazz titan, concert promoter Wesley “Skip” Norris was in a fatal car accident a collective sadness hit Detroit’s jazz community, and surely in other cities where jazz is a big part of the city’s cultural fabric. Although Skip epitomized what writer Ralph Ellison dubbed many decades ago a Renaissance man, a man of intellectual hunger, depth, and character Skip’s most recognizable and celebrated trait was his advocacy of jazz. In all the years as a jazz journalist and jazz blogger, I never met an individual more passionate and knowledgeable about jazz than Skip was. Over the years, I would see or hear Skip at many of the jazz concerts around Detroit and Ann Arbor. On many occasions, I wondered about that dapper man in the audience egging on the musicians, shouting out their names at the conclusion of an inspired solo. I became formal jazz friends with Skip after interviewing him about a new concert series he was putting on at the Northwest Activity Center called Jazz at the Center, which in its brief run had world-class jazz acts such as trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer/bandleader Ralph Peterson, and the all-star jazz ensemble the Cookers. From that time forward, I made sure I caught every concert Skip had a hand in producing, including the JD Allen, Joe Locke, and Joey Calderazzo hits at the Detroit Groove Society concert series. And whenever, I ran into Skip at a show in town I was always a recipient of one of his bear hugs. I was sincerely awed by Skip’s encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, and more so that he was personal friends with just about every jazz musician of note throughout the country. And he seemed to have a warehouse of stories. At Hartford Memorial Baptist Church Monday Skip’s family, friends, and many from Detroit’s jazz community participated in a home going service befitting a man who lived a truly exemplary and blessed life. Those who got a chance to share their experiences and recollections of Skip characterized him foremost as a man of unyielding faith. Everybody who wanted to speak about Skip wasn't afforded the opportunity. Had they we’d still be in the church listening. It was easy to take from the speakers that Skip was genuinely beloved. Ronald Robinson Lockett, one of Skip's dearest friends, jokingly said that God took Skip from us because God needed someone with Skip’s know how to promote jazz concerts in heaven. There was jazz music during the service at the appropriate moments from bassist Robert Hurst, saxophonist Victor Goines, and drummer/trumpeter Ralph Peterson. During the remarks section of the service, another of Skip’s closest friends Jacques Mullins noted during the service the greatest testament to a man is to see how many people come out for his home going. Hartford Memorial was filled with people who as another speaker pointed out loved them some Skip Norris.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

THE JOEY CALDERAZZO TRIO'S PERFORMANCE WAS THE ICING ON A BANNER SEASON FOR THE DETROIT GROOVE SOCIETY HOUSE CONCERTS SERIES

Pianist Joey Calderazzo

The founder of the Detroit Groove Society house concerts series, Andrew Rothman, gifted the supporters of the series with 100 minutes of high echelon jazz music courtesy of the Joey Calderazzo Trio. Saturday night, the trio closed the DGS’s 2016 season. Ranked by some series regular's as the DGS’s best season yet. Veteran jazz promoter Skip Norris—who’s co-produced some of the DGS’s concerts—commented before introducing Calderazzo’s trio that Rothman has figured out a new way for lovers of jazz to experience live jazz. The DGS’s 2016 season had memorable concerts by trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, vibist Joe Locke, and pianist Dan Tepfer. The Joey Calderazzo Trio presentation was the icing on a banner season. The tips of Claderazzo’s fingers were still smoking from his sets Friday night at the Jazz Café in Detroit. Claderazzo’s had to same bandmates bassist Ben Wolfe, and drummer Donald Edwards. The entire concert the trio went back and forth from unadulterated burners to heart melting tunes such as “Hope,” an original Calderazzo wrote for the late great saxophonist Michael Brecker. Calderazzo made his name in Brecker’s band.  Now Calderazzo is best known as the heart of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. And as a session leader, Calderazzo has put out 13 albums as a bandleader. Calderazzo is a very physical and sometimes animated jazz pianist as he showed tune after tune Saturday night. Calderazzo played every popular branch of jazz under the sun. The house was shaking when the trio played the first two tunes. I overheard the guy seated in front of me tell his companion he believed the curtains were going to catch fire during Calderazzo’s soloing on “Cheek to Cheek,” and “To Wisdom The Prize. There was the requisite twenty-minute intermission not to, it seemed, to give the musicians a break, but rather to give the house piano a breather. If there was one downside to an otherwise terrific concert it was Wolfe and Edwards also globally respected bandleaders didn't get an equal share of the spotlight. Calderazzo was on fire and Wolfe, and Edwards had their hands full.