Sunday, May 24, 2009


Dear James Frederick,

Two years have passed since I reviewed the Don Mayberry album release concert. My recollection of that evening is little foggy. I do, however, recall leaving the concert disappointed. Mayberry is one of my favorite jazz bassist. I've heard him perform on many occasions mostly as the late pianist Teddy Harris' right hand man.

Mayberry was always animated when he soloed. He closed his eyes, for example. Sweat beaded
on this forehead as he hummed the chord changes. He put his bass through a heavy workout. His bass was just as sweaty as the bassist's brow. After Mayberry soloed, his bass rested against his shoulder like its just completed its first day of boot camp.

That evening, however, his performance was unorganized, and I held the bassist accountable. It was a free-for-all. I bet I wasn't the only person there who felt that way. It was his special night.
It was his opportunity to introduce his new album "Kaleidoscope", a star studded two disc recording, to his many admirers who concern him one of the top jazz bassist on the planet. I recall writing Mayberry let us down. He could have done a better job.

Mr. Frederick, some Detroit jazz musicians have an unshakable jam session mentality. They treat every performance as if it’s that kind of session. That evening Mayberry it was obvious Mayberry winged it and the bassist did not rehearse with the musicians he assembled, which was unfortunate because there was some grade A jazz musicians in Mayberry's band. They seemed like amateurs and I thought it was necessary to point that out.

That was the first time I heard Kate Patterson sing. She was good I recall. However, it appeared Patterson tried to upstage vocalist Shahida Nurullah. I stand by that observation. In your email, you mentioned Patterson and Nurullah are friends. That night they behaved like rivals.

Mr. Frederick, I was unaware Patterson has been battling Leukemia. Her perseverance is commendable. It’s remarkable she's still able to perform. I apologize because I was unable to accept your invitation to hear Patterson at the Jazz Forum concert series, your yearly jazz series at the Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church, with her own band.

I received the invitation a few days after the fact. Next year, if Patterson is slated to closeout the series, and if your invite me again, I promise to attend. For what it’s worth, Mr. Frederick, save for Mayberry's album release party, I've thoroughly enjoyed every Jazz Forum concert I’ve attended.

Charles L. Latimer

Monday, May 18, 2009


Dear Grace,

My name is Charles Latimer. I’m a jazz journalist. I published this jazz blog. I live in Harper Woods, Mi, a small community east of Detroit. I discovered your music last year when Pazz Productions mailed me a copy of “Gracefullee”, the stellar album you made with your mentor alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. The album was one of my favorites of 2008. I was awed. I wondered how such a young person could emote with such depth and feeling.

With that released, you set the bar high. I told a friend it would probably take a decade or so before you could top that album. I was wrong. Last month, I received an advance copy of your new album “Mood Changes”. I’ve invested many man-hours listening and dissecting this album. It’s better than “Gracefullee.

“Mood Changes”, what an appropriated title because the album shows you in many incarnations. It shows you as a writer (four songs on the album you wrote). It shows you're damn good vocalist. I didn’t know you could sing. When I listened to “Comes Love” and “But Life Goes On”, I was shocked how mature you sound. If I wasn’t already hip to your record of accomplishments prior to listening to this album, no one could’ve convinced me you’re just a teenager.

-You have what mystics and spiritualists call an old soul. Grace, that simply means you’ve lived many lives. I don’t want to get too profound or scare you by talking like some nutcase. I ‘m trying to says you definitely have something specials. You’re just a young woman. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and pianist Hank Jones have endorsed you. That alone should be enough to motivate my readers to buy a copy of "Mood Changes".

On “Gracefullee”, you hired guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Rufus Reid. They are A-list players, and you sound just as seasoned as they did. After I listened to “Gracefullee”, I became a fan. You appear to be a serious young woman. Do you travel with a tutor like other child stars? It’s probably tough finding time to study when you’re so busy composing and touring. What kind of stuff do you enjoy when you have downtime?

I wonder if you frequent the shopping malls with friends. You’re probably too busy touring to hang out with your friends. Before I started writing this letter, I took a gander at your website. You’re booked solid for the remainder of 2009. It would be a treat if you stopped by Detroit. Have you every played the Motor City? Detroit is a jazz Mecca. Many renowned jazz musicians got their start here. You’d like playing in Detroit. We have our big jazz fest coming up in three months. You’d have a ball playing Orchestra Hall or Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The jazz fans there are hip. They’d appreciate good jazz music.

Reading your website, I discovered you released your first album as a leader when you’re 12-year-old. I wondered if that’s a world record. Grace, I apologize for rambling. I want you to know how much I love “Mood Changes”. It’s a perfect jazz album from start to finish. I liked your originals “Happy Theme Song”, “Tender Madness” and “But Life Goes On”.

Your blowing is on par with some of the great alto saxophonists such Jackie McLean, Julian “Cannonball” Adderly, and of course Lee Konitz. I implore my readers to buy “Mood Changes”, and if they enjoy it encourage their friends buy the album.

Grace, I’m amazed you play with such facility and emotion. I’m definitely looking forward to watching you grow as a composer, a vocalist, and a saxophonist. You have to stop by Detroit someday. The jazz folks here are welcoming. They would treat you like royalty.

Continue to swing,

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Dear Mr. Mingus,

Thursday evening the Mingus Dynasty performed at Orchestra Hall in Detroit Michigan. I’m writing you to let you know how things turned out. I had a good time. My neck is still sore from bobbing. The septet, which included trombonist Frank Lacy, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, drummer Donald Edwards, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, pianist David Kikoski, and bassist Boris Kozlov played compositions you wrote in 1959, a prolific year for you.

For the most part, they stayed to the original way you composed the music. Of course, they tinkled with some of the composition. They adjusted some chord structure here and there, and slowed down the tempo on several of your signature pieces. You’re a brilliant composer and you weren’t afraid to speak your mind through your compositions.

Honestly, Mr. Mingus, I felt bad for the septet. I audience at Orchestra Hall wasn’t into the performance at all. Most of the people that attend the jazz series there have conservative ears. Your brand of jazz was too hip, which may explain the lousy turnout. A handful of folks appeared to be interested, but most seemed lost.

I figured the audience would perk up a bit when bassist Boris Kozlov called your gospel-inspired number “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”, which was the opening track on your landmark album “Blues & Roots”. At the part of the composition where the musicians stopped playing, clapped and encouraged audience participation the crowd was flat and could not keep up with the tempo. The audience seemed to be made of concrete, and the holy spirit of your composition couldn’t penetrate them.

Mr. Mingus, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring stole the show. I wondered if any Blake critics have compared to tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin who was the saxophonist on “Blues & Roots”. You would've recruited Blake. Like Ervin, Blake had a fat tone. Herring channeled the spirit of two of your ex-employees alto saxophonists Jackie McLean and John Handy.

I’ve been an admirer of your since I read the book co-authored by Janet Coleman and Al Young titled “Mingus Mingus Two Memoirs”. They wrote about their encounters with you. I knew about your reputation, but I only owned a few of your albums. I got a kick out of the solo piano album you made in 1963 titled “Mingus Plays Piano”. The other album was “Mingus Ah Um”. The Mingus Dynasty played several selections from that album “Fables of Faubus”, “Jelly Roll” and “Open Letter to Duke”. Your odes to Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington were by top two compositions the octet performed Thursday.

You capture their personalities. It seemed as though you knew Ellington and Morton (Even saxophonist Lester Young) better than they knew themselves. You had a reputation of a brute and bully.

I heard about how you’d berate a crowd it they talked while your band performed. Mr. Mingus, I would’ve done the same thing. I also heard you punched out your employees when they didn’t play a part just as you had composed it. That bothered me. I concluded you’re a big bully. Did any of those employees ever fight back? You hand a gentle streak too.

Miles Davis told a funny story about you in his autobiography. Miles said drummer Max Roach had purchase a new Cadillac and he loan it to you. You damaged it. You smashed the car into a tree to avoid running over a squirrel. I got a kick from that story, and
I wondered if Roach berated you, punched you out, or insisted you pay for the damages. Miles didn’t say. Nothing could sully the fact you’re a great American composer. Did you feel you’d received all the accolades you deserved? You were just as good as Duke Ellington and the Gershwins.

Mr. Mingus, as I listened to the Mingus Dynasty Thursday night I wish I was at the Atlantic Studio in New York in 1959 when “Blues & Roots” was born. I would a hawked my soul to have witnessed you swinging with Booker Ervin Jackie McLean, Jimmy Knepper and Mal Waldron the name some of the jazz luminaries who blessed that album. I wasn’t lucky enough to have been a young adult in 1959. The constellation is when you passed away you left a wealth of great music, and the musicians in the Mingus Dynasty have dedicated themselves to preserving your genius.


Charles L. Latimer

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Carl and Rodney-

I have to be frank. The first time I heard your new album “Work To Do” I disliked it. It seemed as if you and Rodney couldn’t decide if you wanted to make a smooth jazz album or a straight ahead acoustic date. Because I respect the work both of you have done over the years as sidemen and bandleaders, I decided to spend for time with “Work to Do”, and maybe my initial feelings about “Work to Do” were wrong.

The album grew on me. Normally I listen to an album repeatedly before I comment about it. I rarely rely on my first impression. When I heard to “What’s Going On”, which featured smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum, I figured you and Rodney had double-crossed your fan base by joining the ranks of smooth jazz musicians. It was beneath you guys to dabble with smooth jazz.

Surprisingly, “What Going On” and “With You I’m Born Again were the tracks I replayed the most. With this album, you and Rodney showed you could dabble with smooth jazz without sullying your reputations as superb jazz traditionalists. As for whalum, the guy proved he could play with jazz musicians that have sound bop pedigrees, and he could thrive outside of his smooth jazz comfort zone. The tenor saxophonist was aggressive throughout. For this album, Whalum checked his pretty boy playing style at home.

You and Rodney run a tight ship. There was no grandstanding. Each player was respectful. My favorite moments were trombonist Vincent Chandler solo on “For Garrison (Both)”. Chandler channeled JJ Johnson spirit. Pianist George Colligan played at a high level of sophistication from start to finish. Whitaker, a hardnosed bop bassist, showed he has an angelic side on the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby”.

Throughout the album, Carl, your licks were like drummer Philly Joe Jones' licks. You tactfully make your presence known. You served pointed solos. You’re never self-indulgent. You’re an easygoing drummer. As leaders, You and Rodney delegated the bulk of the workload to your sidemen and they excelled.

Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring stood out the most. You and Rodney egged him on. In fact, both of you were like enthusiastic college cheerleaders, giving each musician support. You're unselfish co-leader. You and Rodney make a formidable duo, indeed.

You guys are wonderful bass and drum tag team in the tradition of duo such as Jimmie Garrison and Elvin Jones and Ron Carter and Tony Williams. That's not over praise but proven fact.

I’ve listened to “Work To Do” six times today. "Work To Do" is a fantastic date that mixed straight ahead acoustic swing with smooth jazz. I implore my readers to buy a copy Tuesday May 5th, the official release date. I don’t make guarantees, but If for some reason; my readers don’t share my enthusiasm after listening to "Work To Do” I’ll reimburse them.

Continue to swing