Monday, November 30, 2009


Phil HalePhil, your big brother, Milton Hale, is a superb drummer. At the Cadieux Cafe's Soul Jazz Sunday jam session, Milton swung non-stop like a traffic signal on a windy day. I always enjoy hearing him. He never showboats like some of his peers. Last night, was the first time I heard him in awhile. I wondered if he had moved. After the first set, drummer RJ Spangler, who put together the jam session, told me Milton performs around town. I didn’t talk Milton afterwards. He was surrounded. I'm glad his chops are still up. He plays best backing singers. Listening to him play behind the special guest vocalist-I didn't catch her name-who performed "In a Sentimental Mood" last night, reminds me of the first time I heard Milton nearly a decade ago.

He played with vocalist Rene' Marie. He knew when to push Marie, and when to back off. Months later, I saw another side of Milton, playing with the late saxophone player David "Fathead" Newman. Milton raised hell. Phil, excuse me if I’m annoying you by boasting about Milton. I know it was your gig, but you didn't seem to mind your brother commanded the stage. You could've turned the performance into a sibling rivalry, but instead you pushed him, bassist Ibrahim Jones and your special guest guitarist Paul Carey to do their thing.

The trio was marvelous, covering staples such as "So What", and "In a Sentimental Mood", On "Caravan", the band woke up the neighborhood. Jones was excellent as well. I wondered if Jones had a spare bass in his car. He gave the bass a workout. I doubted if it would last through another set. Phil you're a wonderful piano player. I’m used to you as a sideman, but Sunday you showed good leadership skills, encouraging your brother and the others.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Don Mayberry, Steve Woods and Bert MyrickSunday at drummer RJ Spangler's Soul Jazz jam session,at the Cadieux Cafe,I watched you in amazement. Steve, I'm not trying to flatter you. You're just as good as Dexter Gordon was. I'm sure there're many jazz fans in Michigan who feel the same. You are old school tenor player. You’re rooted in the blues, and you like playing bop classics. I only planned to hear one set, but I stayed until 1:30am. When you soloed on "Society Red", Donna Lee", and "Central Park West", I consumed every note like pieces of chocolate.

I've heard you in different settings. Sunday was the first time with just a trio. How long have you played with drummer Nate Winn, and organist Duncan McMillan? You should record the trio. Winn has grown. I also enjoyed meeting your friends. Trumpeter James O’Donnell, drummer RJ Spangler and I chatted about missing the late trumpeter Russell Green. And how interesting was that conversation we had with keyboard player Phil Hale? Do you remember his hypothetical question?

If Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman played the same day at different clubs, and we could only attend one concert, which would we go to? I was surprised we chose Charlie Parker. I figured his band would give the best performance. However, If the show were sold-out, Coleman's concert would've been my backup. When Coleman created buzz in the late 50's he sounded a lot like Parker and Don Cherry like Dizzy. Hale disagreed, pointing out Cherry had a wild streak, and Dizzy did not.

I suggested Hale listen closely to Cherry on Coleman's 1958 album Something Else. I had a similar disagreement with a close friend. With that album, he believed Coleman broke new ground. I argued Something Else was a be bop album with a heavy emphasis on harmony and little attention to melody. Before Hale and I could discuss the matter further, Spangler started the second set, dedicating it to Russell Green. The drummer is a sweetheart. I was thrilled to meet him. The jam session was different from other. At the other sessions, I felt like another face in the crowd. Spanglers' session was like being at a family reunion.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Norah, some jazz fans have been hard on you. Quick to point out your music is not jazz, and you’re not a real jazz singer. I’m a big jazz fan, and I like your music a lot, particularly your new album The Fall, which I purchased Friday for half price. Before I comment on the album, I want to talk about why jazz fans put you down. Your contribution to Blue Note Records--which has just as many pop musicians as jazz musicians--has been remarkable, but under valued by your critics. Blue Note Records is no longer a boutique jazz label. Too many jazz fans have a hard time accepting that reality.

Blue Note was smart to sign you. (The move might've saved the company.) Your album Come Away with Me, for example, sold over 8 million copies. The follow up Feels Like Home was also successful. Profits from those recordings, I will bet, helped bankroll your label-mates Wynton Marsalis, Gary Bartz, Jaaon Moran, and Stefon Harris projects. Neither is platiumn selling recording artists. Norah, your success should be applauded. Jazz fans shouldn’t dislike you because you don’t fit their definition of what a real jazz musician is. Defending you is going to get me in hot water with my jazz purist friends, but somebody has to acknowledge your contribution to Blue Note Records.

Let me stop carrying on. Now I want to comment on your latest offering The Fall. It is a blues album. You spill your guts on throughout. Some of the songs such as Even Though, You've Ruined Me, and I Wouldn't Need You makes me sad, but that's a good thing. labeling you a blue woman or budding blues singer isn’t off base. Writing touching and sad songs is your specialty. At times, you can also be quirky. Not many songwriters could write a love song for their pet. You did that on Man of The Hour. You make it appear that you’re talking about a beau. I played the song twice before realizing you are singing about your dog. I loved Man of the Hour the most regardless. That was an unusual twist on a love song. Good job, Norah. You are a worthy musician. Maybe jazz fans will stop dogging you, and realize you’re a good singer and a great songwriter.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I've always wanted to interview you, Mr. Harris. There're so many questions I would ask you. For example, which do you love more playing be bop or teaching it? What be bop album changed your life? Who exposed you to the music? Was your teacher a taskmaster like saxophonist Donald Walden, and pianist Teddy Harris said you were? I heard you were a stickler. Walden told me that you gave be bop lessons to musicians who wanted to learn, but you would not allow any foolishness. Once you gave him a practice exercise. At the next lesson,the following day, you chewed him out because Walden did not have the assignment mastered. You dogged him so badly the saxophonist nearly cried, but after that he became a model pupil.

Before I go any further, I should tell you about myself. I'm Charles L. Latimer, a jazz journalist. I’ve written stories for the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit, about some of the Detroit born jazz musicians you taught. Mr. Harris, I don't own all your albums, but I do have three classics "Preminado", "Chasin' the Bird" and "Listen to Barry Harris...Solo". The latter I purchased Friday. I also have some recordings you graced. Do you remember making the album? It was your first solo album. You recorded it on December 7, 1960, and jazz critic Ira Gitler wrote the liner notes. Nowadays, few musicians and bands albums have liner notes.

Back in the day, liner notes were important. I used to read them while I listened to albums. I considered it part of the overall listening experience. Jazz critics such as Nat Hentoff, Ira Gitler, and Leonard Feather wrote informative liner notes. I felt as though I knew the musicians they wrote about personally. Today, Mr. Harris, all you get with an album is a bunch of photos. If you want information about a musician or a band, you have to consult

I enjoyed "Listen to Barry Harris...Solo". Your chops were on display. Pianists Art Tatum and Bud Powell, your boyhood idols, would have loved this album. I heard their influence when you played on "Louise", "Teenie", and "Anachronism". Like Tatum, you have an adventurous left hand, and you have Powell's sophistication. Listening to this album, I wondered if you locked yourself up in your practice room on a gloomy day and played the compositions on this album over and over. It appeared as if you had a special relationship with each song you selected.

Mr. Harris, I admire you a great deal. You love be bop unconditionally, and you haven’t stopped playing it. When hard-bop, free jazz, and fusion were fashionable,and many of your colleagues jump ship, you held tight to your be bop roots. The next time you are in Detroit, maybe we could have coffee, and talk about your career.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Scotty, I've had “Pieces of Jade” for two month now. I planned to review the album sooner, but I got sidetracked. Lately, I received many great new albums and. I try to listen to them shortly after receiving them, but sometimes, that is difficult to do, and I fall behind. Growing another set of ears would help. I could listen to more music. Anyway, today I spent two hours with your album, which is a part of Resonance Records Heirloom Series. Scotty, after I got a haircut I went Christmas shopping at Tanger outlet mall in Howell, MI. From my house, the mall is an hour away. I was alone. I didn't have any distractions. "Pieces of Jade" captured what an exceptional jazz bassist you were. You have a huge tone that filled up my ears and my SUV. Jazz critic and historian Joe Goldberg was correct when he stated you handle the double bass like a big guitar.

The trio you assemble was tight knit. Pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca complemented you. You guy performed mostly familiar standards such as "I Hear a Rhapsody", "Green Dolphin St" and "My Foolish Heart". The chemistry you all had was immediately noticeable. The trio had fun playing together.

Neither of you, treated this session as just another day at the office. It would've been great to experience this trio after LaRoca, Friedman and you had performed steadily for a few years, and had worked out the kinks, but that wasn't meant to be. That awful car crash ended your life. You made an indelible mark on the jazz world, performing with greats such as saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bandleader Benny Goodman, trumpeter Chet Baker and pianist Bill Evans.

My favorite tracks on the albums were the 1960 rehearsal session with Evans, and radio personality George Klabin’s 1966 interview with the pianist. Listening to you and Evans rehearse "My Foolish Heart" was a treat. I felt as if I attended the rehearsal, and watched Evans coach you. I wish more musicians would include behind the scene moments on their recordings. It would give listeners a glimpse of what it takes to make a fine jazz album. In the interview, Evans talked candidly about his relationship with you.

Klabin asked Evans about your work ethic. Evans said you were meticulous, enthusiastic and committed. He discussed your shortcoming as well, noting you had so music you wanted to say on your instrument that sometimes to you overplayed, and it was a challenge harnessing you. The pianist said you sought out experienced musicians that you could grow with. Always pushing yourself was the quality he admired most about you. You didn't show up to a gig or a recording session to just to collect a paycheck.

I got the impression Evan's superb albums "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" and "Waltz with Debby" would've been different--maybe even less successful--without your participation. For me, the icing on the cake was pianist Don Friedman's "Memories for Scotty". The composition was an ode to you. It was emotional. I wondered how Friedman got through it without breaking down. He had his piano weeping. Scotty, like trumpeters Booker Little, Clifford Brown, and Fats Navarro you died too soon. Alive you made some wonderful music, and some of that is documented on “Pieces of Jade”.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I have to be honest, Brad. After I heard your band last night, and listened to your new album "First Call" this afternoon, I'm convinced The Brad Felt Nu Quartet Plus is the best regional jazz band working. More fans of the group should’ve come to the album release gig Thursday night at Cliff Bell's. Nu Quartet Plus which has four banner swingers saxophonist Steve Woods, drummer Bill Higgins, pianist Gary Schunk, and bassist Nick Calandro put on a great show. On this album, you somehow maintained the same high swinging level as in the band's live show. Nu Quartet Plus cannot be pigeonholed.

"First Call" will appeal most to jazz fans that crave variety. As a composer, you took risks. "If You Came to Me for Love" was a free jazz ballad, surprisingly. Not many composers could've pulled that off. As a bandleader, you gave your employees freedom, but you did not allow them to run amok. You have two proven veterans Woods and Schunk. On "The Truth About You" and "Empathic", Woods sounded much like his idol the great tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef. (I hope Woods take that as a compliment.) And Schunk has a creative left hand. That's enough about them. Brad, you made the ugly looking euphonium sound so handsome. This is a hot album, and your Nu Quartet Plus--I'm willing to wager--if the bands stays together will build a bigger following. More people should’ve come to the release party. They missed out,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I told my friend, William, Justin Time, the label you're signed to, released your new album "The Devil Tried to Kill Me" November 3rd. William joked you've made more albums than any jazz saxophonists dead or alive. I wanted to know how many recordings you’ve made as a leader. So I searched the web. In three decades, you've made over a hundred albums. That number ballooned when I included your work with the World Saxophone Quartet. The "Dave Murray Octet Plays Trane" and “Sacred Ground" are my favorites. William said he planned to buy your new album. I gave him my take of it. "The Devil Tried to Kill Me" is a mix of jazz, poetry, hip-hop, the blues and world music. Mixing different music forms has become your thing. Sometimes mixing things up work, this time it did not. Making this recording an ode to Africa was thoughtful, but on "Africa" TAJ Mahal comparing the continent to a hospice patient, and wishing he had the means to nurse it back to good health sounded silly. David, including rapper Sista Kee on "Southern Skies" messed up the magic you and Mahal had. "The Devil Tried to Kill Me", David, needed some heavy editing. William dismissed my comments about “The Devil Tried to Kill Me”, saying I was being too mean, and he’s still going to buy your album.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Drummer Dana HallDana, you've logged many man-hours as a sideman, working for jazz greats such as the late tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, vocalist Maria Schneider, and pianist Kenny Barron. With the soon to be released, "Into the Light", your debut album, you'll show a wider audience what you're made of. Your resume' is too enormous too talk about so I'll just comment on "Into the Light", which will be on my favorite album of 2009 list.

Do you value jazz bloggers and critics take on your work? I hope you will take my comments to heart. "Into the Light" is a fun coming out party. I bet your band-mates trumpeter Terell Stafford, tenor sax player Tim Warfield, bassist Rodney Whitaker and piano player Bruce Barth would've done the gig for free if you had ask them. You know the quality of talent needed to make a good jazz album. Neither musician had to change the way they play. Their styles blended with yours, and you engaged and challenged them from start to finish.

On the opener, "I Have a Dream", Tim Warfield ate the changes like a home cooked meal. When Stafford soloed, he made my car speakers smoke. Whitaker, and Barth, both noted swingers, did not make a fuss. They kept time and guided the band through the course that you mapped out.

Whitaker played a lovely solo on "For Rockelle", which he wrote. (It appeared the bassist borrowed heavily from the structure of "My Funny Valentine.) The title cut "Into the Light" was a free jazz field trip. I got lost in the various tempo changes, and it was the most reckless I ever heard Warfield blow. You slugged it out with Warfield on "Jabali". You and Barth had an heated improvisational debate on "Tin Soldier". Whenever you soloed, Dana, I heard drummers Joe Chambers, Art Blakey, and Jeff "Tain" Watts influence on you. You ought to be proud of this debut album. It is almost flawless.

Origin Records will release "Into the Light Tuesday November 17, 2009.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Friday night is date night. I take my wife to dinner or to a movie. Sometimes I do both. Yesterday, driving to the Thai Bistro in Grosse Pointe, we listened to your album "Dream Dancing". The album had us in a trance. At dinner, my wife asked about you, and the rhythm section, which she really liked. I told her I heard you for the first time at Baker's Keyboard Lounge a few weeks ago, singing with the vocal jazz quartet Metro Jazz Voices. The wife said your voice is lovely, and your strength is singing love songs. On "Darn That Dream" and Sweet Dreams" you voice is satisfying as comfort food.

Meri, I think the wife is trying to replace me as the family jazz critic. My wife pats her hand on her knee when she is really into a piece of music, but while your album was on, she also did a little slow dance in the car seat, which meant she loved your album. Before we reached the restaurant, she had me replay "All Night Long" twice. Of the eleven songs on the album, that's her absolute favorite. I like the entire album. Tenor saxophonist Carl Cafagna and pianist Scott Gwinnell are good in their supporting roles. They are powerful players, but they don't overpower you.

This year, I've received many album my female jazz vocalists. Some were noteworthy, and others not so. "Dream Dancing" is one of the best I have experienced. I disliked the other vocalists albums because of the arrangements. They had string accompaniment, which overwhelm them. That's not the case on your album.

On "Close Your Eyes" and Corcovado (Quiet Nights), for example, your voice blends nicely with the string instruments like butter melting on a stack of pancakes. The eleven songs you chose for this album fit your voice perfectly. My wife asked if I had written about "Dream Dancing" yet. I said I had not because the album is three years old. I only review current releases. She said I should post a review anyway. This is a great album no matter when it came out. Then she gave be a short lecture, saying I should use my jazz blog to help local jazz musicians, and I should encourage my readers to buy “Dream Dancing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


At 10:00am, I played "carl cafagna & northstar jazz Live at the detroit jazz festival”. It is 11:05pm now, Carl, and I’m still listening to it. I carried the album with me while I ran a few errands. Driving to Mississippi Muscle Gym in St. Clair Shore for my Tuesday afternoon workout, I played it. I pretended I subbed for you on “Waxwing”, while showering after my workout. In my mind, I sped through the chord changes, and the crowd went nuts. Shopping for a bookcase at Pier 1 I strolled about humming the melody to “Liberty (Elvin’s joint)”.

As I write this post, I’m playing the album yet again. I’m hooked. Carl, Northstar Jazz is a fantastic sextet. For nearly a decade, post-bop bands such as Bop Culture, Urban Transport, Sean Dobbins and the New Jazz Messengers, and the Hot Club of Detroit have surfaced on the Detroit jazz landscape.

This year, I've seen you in various roles. I heard you for the first time with the Scott Gwinnell Orchestra and the Hot Club of Detroit this summer. Last week, I heard you sing with the Metro Jazz Voices at Baker’s. On “carl cafagna & northstar Live at the detroit jazz festival”, which I bought at that night, I’m experiencing you as a boss.

You are a self-less bandleader. Did you form this band as a showcase for your band-mates trumpeter Dr. Scott Cowan, saxophonist James Hughes, bassist Shannon Wade, drummer Scott Kretzer, and pianist Scott Gwinnell? It appeared so. Gwinnell really stood out. On the "Soulful Mr. Timmons", written by pianist James Williams for the late pianist Bobby Timmons, Gwinnell played as if Timmons' spirit was standing over Gwinnell's shoulder encouraging him.

Carl, I was hard on you in my review of the Metro Jazz Voices performance last week. I wondered why some saxophone players want to sing. Are you all frustrated singers? I said your singing was rough. On “Live at the Detroit jazz festival”, I enjoyed when you sang “Just a Close Walk with Thee". I liked spending time with your album today. It’s close to mid-night. Time for me to finally put the album away, and go to bed.