Thursday, November 27, 2008


Monk welcome to my blog. I am thrilled you could visit on such short notice. Where is Nellie? She woke up sick. She decided to stayed home. Yesterday she baked this sweet potato pie for you. She wanted to deliver it herself. She never visit someone empty handed. Thank you. Give me your coat. Make yourself comfortable. Sure, you can keep your hat on. I will be right back. I want to get a pie cutter and two forks so we can eat the pie before it gets cold.

Do you want something to drink? I have Aquafina bottled spring water, Motts apple juice, Silk’s vanilla favored soymilk, and a liter diet Mountain Dew. If I had known Nellie planned to send a pie, I would have purchased a pint of Soy Delicious soy ice cream.

Do you want a small slice or a big one? You do not want any right now. That is fine, but do not wait too long. The pie maybe gone before we finished talking. Sweet potato pie is my favorite, by the way.

Who is that I have playing? That’s Seal’s new album “Seal Soul”. I got the album Friday at Borders Books in Grosse Pointe, MI. Seal is a good singer. The album is a remake of some classic Soul songs such as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long“, “It’s a Man’s World”, and “It’s Alright”. I love the album.

Yes, It is okay if you want to dance. When I first hear “Seal Soul”, I wanted to dance as well, but I did not because I have no rhythm. Sure, go ahead laugh I am telling you the truth. What else have I listened to lately?

Some of your albums. Last Sunday, I listened to Thelonious Monk the Complete Prestige Recordings. I bought the box set years ago, but Sunday was the first time I listened to it. Why did I wait so long? Honestly, Monk I do not know. I had fun listening to the three discs, particularly the disc where you played with Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins.

I damn near worn a hole in disc one. I have listened to a “Little Rootie Tootie” so many times I can recite the chord changes in my sleep. In the liner notes, I read you wrote a “Little Rootie Tootie” for drummer TS Monk, your son. In 2004, I interviewed him. The Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit, published the article. Monkin’ Around was the headline.

TS corrected misconceptions I had about you. Most of the books written about your life and music were inaccurate, he said. He said you were a devoted husband and great dad. You encourage TS when he wanted to become a jazz drummer. You called in a favor. You had drummer Art Blakey give TS a set of drums and free lessons.

TS also defended you. He told me you were not distant or eccentric. If people wanted to contact you, they could have found your number in the phonebook. Monk If you want to read the article, I will email it to you.

I watched videos of you posted on YouTube. I posted three of them on this blog page. Look to your left you will see them. When I watched the videos my ears danced, and I followed the movement of your hand left hand as if hypnotized.

I wonder what you thought about when tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse soloed on Lu LU is Back in Town. You stepped away from the piano, and you twirled. I became a little woozy watching you. The same day, I listened to three of my favorite Monk albums “Solo Monk”, “Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington” and the “Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk”.

“Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington” was the first time I heard you play another musician’s music. Did Ellington encourage you to record his material? Once you completed the album, did Ellington give you feedback?

“Solo Monk”. Do you remember that album? On the cover was an illustration of you dressed in a brown bomber jacket, a white silk scarf flung around your neck, and a leather aviator’s hat with goggles. I imagined you made “Solo Monk” in Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s mansion you nicknamed the cathouse because she owned 140 cats. I envisioned you locked in a room while you composed jewels such as Dianh, Ruby, My Dear, Ask Me Now, and I Surrendered, Dear.

Monk would you mind if I turned off “Seal Soul”, and play Solo Monk? The ballad Rudy, My Dear is your best love song. Last week, I listened to your live date the Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk”.

The audience was inattentive. That upset me. You played some of your best material that night “Epistrophy”, ‘Evidence”, and ‘Round Midnight. The people at the club yapped nonstop. Monk, I wanted to jump inside the album and shout: “Will you people please shut up. Don’t you realize the high priest of be bop is on stage, and you all are ignoring him like a panhandler”.

Monk, I will be right back. My phone is ringing; I have to answer it.

Monk it is Nellie. She wants to know when you will be home. Okay, I will tell her you will be leaving soon. She wants you to stop at the drugs store, and get her some Night Quill and a quart of orange juice.

I did not realize we have talked so long. I better let you go. I forgot to thank Nellie for the pie. Tell her I hope she feels better soon, and the next time you visit, she will come too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Drummer Leonard King Dear Lyman Woodard,

I left after the first set of your CD release party at Cliff Bells. The club got too noisy. I wondered if the crowd came to hear you play, or just to hangout on a Saturday night. A hairless man nudged me. He said I blocked his wife’s view. If he had touched me twenty years ago, I would have punched him. At 41, I am, more tolerant. I paid the $7.00 cover charge to hear you not to fight. Lyman, after he nudged me he offered to by me a drink, which puzzled me. I refused his offer. Maybe that was his way of apologizing. Then he stuck up a conversation. I indulged him. Lyman I am not writing you to discuss that incident. I just need to get that off my chest first. I could not tell my wife because when I got home, she was asleep.

Lyman the party was different than I expected. I thought you were only supposed to play with drummer Leonard King and guitarist Ron English. I was surprised to see organist Gerard Gibbs, trumpeter Dwight Adams, saxophonist Ju Ju Johnson, trombonist Steve Hunter and percussionist Jerry LeDuff. While they played, you set alone. You smoked and drank.

King was the master of ceremony. The drummer was longwinded, and he spent too much time reminiscing. I almost heckled him. I came to hear Lyman not King's stories about the old days. When the drummer finally stopped, the ensemble played a fine version of your composition “Gospel Soul Shouting”.

I enjoy listening to Gibbs play the organ. It is his natural habitat. Gibbs is on par with such great organists as Joey Defrancesco, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Richard “Groove” Holmes. If that comparison is hard to believe checkout Gibbs two albums “To Be and Not To Hammond B3, Livin’ and Learnin’, and Gibb’s solos on saxophonist James Carter’s live albums “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge” and “Out of Nowhere”.

As a pianist, however, Gibbs reaches way beyond his competence level. I respect his ambition. Gibbs would be a solid pianists if he just played the lines, and stopped trying to emulate pianist DD Jackson and Craig Taborn. The tricks they do on the piano come naturally. They are Jame Carter's equals.

Of course, Gibbs never passes on an opportunity to showoff. I realize showboating is part of his DNA. Saturday night, however, his showboating worked. Gibbs sounded self-assured and polished.

Lyman on, "De’ja' vu," another of your originals, tenor saxophonist Ju Ju Johnson and trumpeter Dwight Adams captured and held the crowd attention. Johnson and Adams are journeymen swingers, indeed. I wondered if Johnson plays regularly around town. I used to see him often at the Wednesday night jam session at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. Saturday night was the first time I experienced him as part of an ensemble.

In Michigan, Adams is the go to trumpeter. The man has played on most of James Carter's albums, and has toured with Motown great Stevie Wonder. Currently, Adams is unsigned. Signing him, should be some jazz record label New Year resolution. Adams is to self-effacing, but many regard him as a premier trumpeter. Years ago, I talked with the late pianist John Hicks after a set at the Harlequin Cafe'(the jazz club and restaurant is closed). Hicks said he did a session with Adams. Hicks described Adams as a monster on the trumpeter.

Honestly, Lyman your event felt more like a get together. That bothered me. During the first set, why did you only played one song “Satin Doll”? I know you are retired. You live in Owasso, Mi. That's a long way to drive for one tune. I planned to hear both sets, but I figured the second one would be the same so I split.

Having the album release party at Cliff Bells was a mistake. Either Bert's Market Place or Baker's Keyboard Lounge would have been a better choice. Those jazz clubs attract people who actually like jazz. On the surface, Cliff Bells appears to be a wonderful spot to hear jazz. However, the club is a haven for rude "socializers".

At one point, I could barely hear the band. I experienced the same distractions last Saturday when I attended vocalist Joan Belgrave's set. Management should discourage people from yapping while a band or vocalist perform because it is discourteous

Listening to Gibbs, Adams and Johnson were the highlights. They kept the party from being a flop. Overall, the party was okay. I wanted to hear more of you.
Charles L. Latimer

Monday, November 17, 2008


Jazz vocalist Joan BelgraveDear Joan Belgrave,

I want to explain why I left Cliff Bell’s (the renovated jazz club in downtown Detroit one block south of the Fox Theater) last night after your first set. For the record, it had nothing to do with your performance. You have a lovely voice, indeed. I first heard you sing at the 2007 Detroit International Jazz Festival. Your husband trumpeter Marcus Belgrave invited you to join the band. When you sang the atmosphere on the bandstand changed. The band was boiling over. You made the band simmer. Your hubby was amazed.

Saturday I planned to see the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. I changed my plans when I found out you were performing. I arrived at the club in time to catch your band bassist Marion Hayden, pianist Duncan McMillan, drummer Andre Wright and tenor saxophonist Allan Barnes warming up the stage. I figured I would experience a night of good music, but I could not concentrate.

The audience was noisy. Especially, the couple seated to my left, and the perfumed women behind me smoking. The cigarette smoke turned my eyes red, and made my chest hurt. I moved twice, but not far enough. I could barely hear you sing. I was busy coughing and rubbing my eyes.

What snippets of your performance I heard I liked. You are different from most jazz vocalists I have experienced. You sing more than jazz standards. You mix things up. You sang an obscure Billie Holiday song. Then you followed up with the song Grandma’s Hands” popularized by Bill Withers. Mrs. Belgrave did you hear the talkers? Did you want to confront them?. I could not tell if they upset you. You were so poised.

Mrs. Belgrave, I should have confront the talkers, and then demanded a refund. I did neither. I left instead. Driving home, I wondered if the club would lose business if they band smoking and talking while the musicians perform. I know Cliff Bell’s is a bar. Some people, however, actually go there to hear live music, and they should be able to without distractions . I hope the next time you perform at a local jazz club the audience will be attentive.

--Charles L. Latimer

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Dear Lafayette Gilchrist,

I want to share with you a debate I had with my friend Omar (by the way that is not his real name). I wrote a blog in September praising saxophonist David Sandborn’s new album Here & Gone. I wrote that Sandborn had mastered saxophonist Hank Crawford’s style. My observation upset Omar. Omar said Sandborn is a thief, and he profited from copying Crawford.

I disagreed. Sandborn has always acknowledged Crawford was his chief influence. I told Omar it is tough for musicians to stop playing like the musicians who influenced them. Many alto saxophonists copied Charlie Parker. I cited saxophonist Ornette Coleman as an example. To this day, Coleman still sounds like Parker, and trumpeter Wallace Roney has profited from blowing like Miles Davis. Omar and I could not see eye to eye on the matter. We decided to stop debating.

Lafayette, last year, I blogged that you sound like the late pianist Don Pullen, and Omar agreed after he listened to your solos on saxophonist David Murray’s album Scared Grounds. However, on Soul Progressin’, your new album, you have found your voice.

I noticed immediately your style changed. On the Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist (2004), Toward the Shining Path (2005) and Three (2007), you explored every inch and crevice of the piano, and bunched together many notes. That approach worked. On Soul Progressin’, you came across as a selfless front man. Your playing was precise, and you spaced out the notes you played, while encouraging your band-mates to fill up in the space.

You wanted your sidemen to get all the attention. Each of the seven tracks on Soul Progressin’ sounds as though you wrote one song for each member. Soul Progressin’ served as their official coming out party. You essentially put bass clarinetist John Dierker, tenor saxophonist Gregory L. Thompkins, alto saxophonist Gabriel Ware, trumpeters Mike Cerri and Freddy Dunn, bassist Anthony “Blue” Jenkins and drummer Nathan Reynolds in an environment where they could be uninhabited. You succeeded big time.

After I listened to Soul Progressin’, I wonder if those musicians earned their stripes playing in big bands, or if they were your friends from your hometown, Baltimore. Soul Progressin’ has a big band feel especially on cuts such as Detective’s Tip, Uncrowned, and Many Exits No Doors. The little tricks you did at the end of Detective’s Tip made the hair on my forearms, neck, knuckles and lower back dance.

Lafayette I plan to tell Omar to buy Soul Progressin’. I want to know if he also feels you have shaken your Don Pullen influence.

-Charles L. Latimer

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Guitarist Earl Klugh Dear Earl,

Yesterday, I made a tough decision. Saxophonist Joe Lovano performed at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor. Pianist Jason Moran opened for him, and bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding is a member of Lovano's quintet. I missed her set at the 2008 Detroit International Jazz Festival. I wanted to hear her. (In September, Jazz Times magazine published an article about her success). Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts played at the Jazz Café’. I had to choose which concert to attend. I narrowed my choice down to your performance at Orchestra Hall and Lovano’s. Watts will play two sets tonight. If I am up to it, I can catch either the 10:00pm set or the second at 12:00am. Yesterday I mulled over which concert to attend. At 5:00pm, I finally decided to catch your set.

I purchased your new album Spice of Life last month, and I enjoyed every inch of it. Spice of Life was your first studio album in three years. "Naked Guitar" (2005) was your last album. I wondered why you stayed away so long. Before the intermission, you explained you had a beef with the brass at Warner Bros Records, which delayed the projects you had planned.

This morning I played the Spice of Life while I tidied up my home office. The music soothed me. In 2003, I took an oath. I promised myself I would be more receptive to smooth jazz. My feelings about that music changed that year after I heard saxophonist Everette Harp and keyboardist Bobby Lyle at the Idlewild Jazz Festival.

Both were members of the new Jazz Crusaders. The leader, trombonist Wayne Henderson, was the only original member. I recall Henderson strolled onto the bandstand. He wore a checker apron and a chef hat. He looked ridiculous. I was puzzled. I could not tell if Henderson was cooking barbecue before the Crusaders set started, and forgot to change. Harp and Lyle swung, and that surprised me.

Earl, I have to level with you. I never mentioned the oath to my jazz friends. You have to understand, my friends are “jazz purist,” and they hate smooth jazz. I did too, but not anymore. Smooth jazz musicians work just as hard as the musicians who prefer to play be bop, hard bop, acid jazz and free jazz. Smooth jazz artists also have loyal fans.

I attended your concert, and I enjoyed every song you played. I bet the audience awoke this morning with sore necks. They bobbed their heads nonstop for two solid hours. Earl, when you performed "Canadian Sunset" I wanted to remove my loafers, and waltz up and down the isle. On “Driftin"—the fifth song on the Spice of Life—I wanted to snuggle with the blonde-haired lady in the black evening dress with an ornate silk scarf covering her neck seated to my right, but I did not. It would have been inappropriate.

Earl, your playing was soothing and hypnotic. The devotion you showed your band-mates keyboardists Al Duncan and David Spradley, drummer Ron Otis, saxophonist Lenny Price, and bassist Al Turner impressed me.

You told the audience about their individual accomplishments, and you plugged their future projects. You were gracious; you had stagecraft; you shared the spotlight as well. That was thoughtful, indeed.

You cruised through the performance. Price and Spardley showboated some, but the audience ate it up. They cheered when Price ( a native of Inkster, MI) sashayed from the south end of the stage to the north end during his solo on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". When Price dropped to his knees like the godfather of soul James Brown the audience went nuts —what showmanship I thought Price had.

I was surprised when you said Spardley was a ex-member of the Parliament Funkadelic, and he wrote "Atomic Dog," one of the Funkadelic’s smash hits. Spardley looks like a soccer-dad not the kind of fellow who played in such an outlandish funk band. When he soloed, however, it was obvious he made his bones in such a band. Earl, I am glad I chose you. I wondered, however, if the people who attended saxophonist Joe Lovano’s concert had as much fun as the folks at your show.

--Charles L. Latimer

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Bandleader and Saxophonist Oliver NelsonDear Oliver Nelson,

Monday I received The Blues and the Abstract Truth Take 2. Pianist Bill Cunliffe recorded the album. This was the first time I heard him. The liner notes discussed why Cunliffe made the album, but offered little about the pianist career. So, I googled him.

I discovered the pianist was born in Andover, Mass. He attended Duke University, and studied with pianist Mary Lou Williams. In 1989, he won the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Pianist Award. He toured with the Buddy Rick Big Band, and performed with Frank Sinatra. Blue and the Abstract Truth Take 2 is Cunliffe’s 14th album. After I read about Cunliffe, I did some background work on you.

I learned your brother played with trumpeter Cootie Williams. Your sister was a pianist, and you started on the sax at 11. You made six albums for Prestige. Then your classic Blues and the Abstract Truth for Impulse Records. That album increased your stock. Oliver I have to be honest. I only own two of your 18 albums Blues and the Abstract Truth, and Screamin’ the Blues, which made you 48 years ago.

You played the tenor and alto; Eric Dolphy played alto and the bass clarinet; Roy Haynes worked the drums. I bet you guys were smoking so much the neighbors called the fire department. Oliver do you know Cunliffe? Have any of your peers heard him? If not, you should get a copy of Take 2, and encourage your friends to do likewise. Cunliffe is a straight to the point pianist. As a leader, the man runs a tight ship. He kept his band on course.

Playing the songs from the original Blues and the Abstract was a huge endeavor, but Cunliffe succeeded. He made a few changes. He used a trombonist instead of a bass clarinetist. He tacked on two originals Port Authority and Mary Lou’s Blues. I wonder if your spirit was at the session coaching the band. They sounded so inspired Oliver when you buy the Take 2 pay close attention to Cunliffe’s take of Stolen Moments, and Hoe Down.

On Stolen Moments, trombonist Andy Marten and alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton cruise throughout their solos. On Hoe Down, Cunliffe, and trumpeter Terrell Stafford raced through the changes like competing in a triathlon. Oliver, I really enjoyed Blues and the Abstract Truth Take 2. I believe you will as well.
--Charles L. Latimer