Monday, March 23, 2009



You always give your fans worthwhile music. You’never make the same album twice. I admire that quality in a jazz musician. I received your new album “He and She” two weeks ago. I’ve listened to it periodically since then. I decided not to blog about it until I could give it my undivided attention. I made time yesterday. I played the album at 10:30am. By 7:00pm, I was convinced it was worthwhile. "He and She" will appear on my favorite albums of 2009 list. I know the year is still young, and more jazz albums will be released this year. Some of my reads will feel it’s way too early to start compiling a best of list.

It was ingenuous how you structured the music around the lengthy poem you wrote, and how you prefaced each composition with a section from the poem. The compositions felt like short stories. You played nearly every form of jazz imaginable ragtime, swing, be bop, hard bop, modern bop, and the blues. You made each co-exist without any friction or one form dominating the other.

Last year, I recommended “Two Men with the Blues,” the album you co-led with country music icon Willie Nelson. That was an ambitious undertaking that could've been a disaster, but somehow you and Nelson pulled it off, mixing your clean-cut manner with Nelson's gruff laid-back style. I wondered if you’d be able to top that album. I figured you could but it would take some years. Twelve months later, you followed up with “He and She”. I’m glad I didn’t bet against you.

In the past, I've criticized you. Especially when you're out promoting Duke Ellington's music. You're so engrossed I wondered if you considered yourself Ellington's heir apparent. That turned me off. Ellington was indeed a great bandleader and composer. I can understand why someone would want to emulate him. He was sharp and sophisticated. You took it too far. I also wondered if Ellington's spirit kept tabs on you. Or if Ellington visited you in a dream, thanking you for keeping his music alive. Before he stepped outside you dream, he told you to be careful not to become so caught up in his music you stop creating your own.

I boycotted your music and said some nasty things about you. I told a friend how I felt. She asked if I heard you live. I had not.A few months later, you gigged at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. She invited me. I escorted her. She said you should be experienced live. She was right. You swung from start to finish. After that performance, I retracted the ugly things I said about you. I still think about that performance.

I’m not writing you to reminisce. I’ll stop, and resume commenting on “He and She”, which is why I’m writing you. “The Razor Rim” and “A Train, A Banjo, and A Chicken Wing” were the tracks I listened to the most. Every trick you performed on the trumpet making it growl, laugh, groan, and swing pianist Dan Nimmer could do on the piano. Nimmer solo on “Girl” got inside me, and tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding and drummer Ali Jackson wouldn't let my attention loose. I stopped playing “He and She”yesterday evening. Your trumpet is still singing in my ears. You really know how to satisfy your fan's taste buds.

Continue to swing

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