Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Miles Davis
"I’ve been in a Miles Davis frame of mind lately,” my friend Cory said passing me a cold Heineken. He picked up the slim infrared remote control for his Bose Wave Music System to adjust the volume. Then he flopped down on his chocolate leather Troy sofa from Crate and Barrel. Cory played Davis’ jazz fusion opus Or the Corner. I stopped by his place. I wanted him to check out the new jazz albums Moonlight by saxophonist Steve Cole and Opus One by saxophonist Shauli Einav. Cole is a smooth jazz bigwig, and Einav is an Israeli saxophonist. I liked both projects.
“I’ve been listening to some of the albums Miles recorded for Prestige,” I said taking a swig of the beer. I placed the bottle on a coaster on Cory’s glass coffee table.
“Did you see the Stanley Crouch and Mtume debate”?
“I saw it on YouTube last week. It was a good discussion.
“It’s been years since I listened to On the Corner,” Cory said.
“Mtume made some valid points. But I have to side with Stanley.”
“You believe Miles was a sellout”?
“He was all about staying current.”
“What’s wrong with that,” Cory asked.
“Rock-n-roll was popular back then, and Miles found away to capitalize on it.” I took another swig. Cory cellular phone vibrated on the coffee table. He picked it up, looked at the LD screen and put the phone down.
“I’m on Mtume side. Miles pushed musical boundaries, and the jazz fusion thing was innovative.”
“I agree with Stanley. Jazz fusion was a fad. None of those bands are around,” I said.
“Even if those bands were still around and selling records, Stanley would still knock the music. Honestly, I can’t stand that guy. He always plays the devil’s advocate. Miles was all about change.”
“Miles was about following trends. When the hip-hop thing started to gain momentum Miles jumped on that bandwagon. He made a hip-hop album. It was really ridiculous. I forgot the name of it.”
“That’s it?
“What’s wrong with him mixing things up”?
“A 60-year-old jazz icon playing hip hop, in my book, was ridiculous,” I said finishing the beer. Cory offered another. I declined.
“Mile had the right to play whatever music he wanted,” Cory said.
“Stanley pointed out that Clive Davis told Miles he needed to up his game because his records were doing poorly. That’s when Miles traded in his Brooks Brothers clothing and started wearing those outlandish rock-n-roll outfits. Miles changed because his record company pressured him to.”
“Mtume said he had many private discussions with Miles about jazz fusion. Miles simply wanted to come up with something new.”
Cory’ cell-phone vibrated again. This time he answered it. It was his daughter, Be bop. Cory grabbed my empty beer bottle, and walked into the kitchen. I heard him tell Be bop I was visiting. Then he asked when she needed to pick her up from Oakland Mall. Several minutes later, Cory asked if I wanted to ride with him. We could finish our discussion, and listen to Cole and Einav me album in the car.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


For a Wednesday afternoon, 100% Barbershop was unusually crowded. Three customers waited on Cory the barber. Dana worked on his tenth head. Kenneth, the new staff barber, swept up hair around his barber’s chair into a black dustpan. Two customers played dominoes waiting for Wes. He'd gone to lunch minutes before they arrived. Be bop, Cory’s 12-year-old daughter set in KB’s, the shop owner, workstation reading the liner notes to guitarist Kevin Eubanks new album Zen Food. KB watched NBA highlights on Sport Center on the flat screen television mounted to the wall by the shoes shine booth. I spoke to Be bop. Then I removed my black leather bomber jacket. I stuffed my wool pageboy cap into the right jacket pocket, and I hung it on the coat rack. After KB and I shook hands, I flopped down in the barber chair. He wrapped a black cape that had a pair of gold scissors embroidered on it around my neck, and pumped up the chair with his left foot. I instructed him to trim down my hair. Then I asked Be bop if she liked Eubanks’ new album.
“He’s cute,” Be bop said.
“You bought the album because he’s cute”?
“Dad gave it to me.”
“Does he like the album”?
“Dad said the music sounds like the soundtrack for a cartoon series,” Be Bop said.
“He can be hard on musicians he dislike,” I said. I heard KB turn on his clippers.
“Dad likes Mr. Eubanks other albums. Dad just hates this one. I told dad he should give it another chance because there’re some really good songs s on the album like The Dirty Monk Café, Adoration and G.G,” Be bop said. She passed me the cd case.
“It’s a good album.”
“Dad said all those years Mr. Eubanks spent playing on the Tonight Show made him soft”.
“I disagree with that.”
“I do, too.”
“The kind of soft jazz he plays is pretty good.”
“That’s a good name for it, soft jazz”.
“What do you like about Zen Food”?
“Besides Mr. Eubanks being really cute, each song made me feel different. On the last track Das It, Mr. Eubanks sounded like he was playing with four hands instead of two, and the way he horsed around with drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith like kids after school was cool. The other thing is Mr. Eubanks on fast tempo songs plays a lot of notes like a rock guitar player. That was cool, too. He’s not a slave to conventional jazz licks. He can excite you and make you sad in the same breath. Naming the album Zen Food, I thought it was going to be really weird and deep like the kind of avant-garde junk my dad has been listening to lately where the musicians almost sound like they don’t know how to play their instruments. But Mr. Eubanks’ album is really understandable and really fun to listen too,” Inez said.
KB said Be bop was destine to be a music critic one of these days. I countered that she was already a music critic. Cory the barber walked into KB’s workstation.
“Bop, are these unsophisticated old farts bothering you,” Cory asked his daughter after he shook my hand.
“Bop can handle herself. She’s back here schooling us about music,” KB said.
Cory told Be bop he had one more customer. Then he’d take her to get something to eat if she was hungry. Bop said she’d wait because she was having fun schooling us.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


"Are you a big Randy Weston fan,” Cory the barber asked then dipped a breaded zucchini appetizer in some ranch dressing. At Mama Rosa's Pizzeria we set at the booth near the cash register. Cory was excited about the new Randy Weston album “Randy Weston and his African Rhythm Sextet the Storyteller Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.
“That has to be the longest album title in the history of jazz,” I said.
“You didn’t answer my question”.
“I heard him live at Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor early this year. He put on a great set. I was really impressed with his bass player Alex Blake.”
“I missed that gig,” Cory said.
“This is my first Randy Weston album”.
“For a jazz journalist, you are way behind. Randy is one of the top pianist in jazz in the game,” Cory said.
“Jazz is old as dirt. I will spend the rest of my life catching up.
“Do I need to bring you up to speed on Randy’s track record”?
“I know he mixes African rhythms with jazz.”.
“Do you like this new album”?
“With this sextet the African thing works better”.
“What do you mean”?
Before I could answer Corey, Sharon, our server, placed a large pizza on the table. Cory pulled out a slice,  bit into it, and then he dropped the slice on his plate. He fanned his mouth with his right hand. The hot slice had burned the roof of his mouth.
“I got more of a sense of the African influence with the inclusion of the saxophone, and the trombone. Blake really brings it home with the percussive way he plays the bass”.
“I wonder how he'd sound in a traditional jazz band,” Cory said. He took another bite of pizza. It had cooled down.
“I can’t imagine him fitting into a traditional band. I think Randy digs Blake because Blake is unconventional.” I said. Then I put a slice of pizza on my plate. Sharon reappeared. She asked if everything tasted okay, and if I wanted another diet Coke.
“Randy's wouldn’t be as amazing without Blake,” Cory said.
“How about his classic Hi Fly”?
“This version is my favorite so far".
“Randy had the audience spellbound”.
“Normally, on live recording, you will hear the people chitchatting. On this album, they’re attentive.”
“You should buy some more Randy Weston albums”.
“I want the earlier stuff”.
“Stopped by the house next week. I'll loan you Get Happy, The Modern Art of Jazz and With This Hands,” Cory said.
“Lets finished this pizza. It’s starting to get busy in here.” I said.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater
If Eleanora Fagan (Billie Holliday’s birth name) were alive, Dee Dee, I would write her a letter expressing what a spectacular concert you put on Friday evening at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI. Dee Dee the letter would say the following:

Dear Mrs. Fagan,
You don’t know me from Adam. I am Charles L. Latimer, a jazz journalist from Detroit Michigan. On November 5th, I attended jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Billie Holliday tribute concert at Orchestra Hall. I’m sure by now you’re familiar with Dee Dee. In my book, she’s one of the top jazz vocalists in the game, and Friday night she put on a marvelous show, performing songs that you immortalized. Bridgewater has stagecraft, and she knows how to engage an audience.

Her set Friday night was successful because Bridgewater didn’t try to emulate your style. Listening to Bridgewater workout on “Fine and Mellow”, “Strange Fruit”, and “God Bless the Child”, I wondered if she conversed with your spirit in the dressing room before the show began. Mrs. Fagan, it felt as if your spirit gave the vocalist a pep talk. If such a conversation transpired Bridgewater carried out your advice to the letter. Let me recap some of the highlights.

Bridgewater had an excellent band that she’s totally in love with saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Bridgewater is no spotlight hog. She shared the glamour with her band-mates, and she engaged in an improvisational exchange with each. On “Fine and Mellow”, she traded measures with Handy-who she affectionately referred to as the Handyman. They shared a kinetic connection all night long.

Two songs later, she called out Hutchinson. Mrs. Fagan, it was the first time I witnessed an improvisational exchange between a drummer and a vocalist. Bridgewater and Hutchinson traded notes like stockbrokers. Near the end of the concert, Bridgewater and Davis had a duet.

Davis is a sensational jazz bassist. They played a song you wrote in the 30’s “My Mother’s Son-In-Law”. At the end of the composition, she worked in a few choruses of “Hit the Road Jack”. The audience went bananas. The sure-footed pianist Gomez arranged all the material her band played, and he stretched out on several up-tempo selections, but overall he was more of a behind-the-scene-guy.

As for Bridgewater, she’s a very sensual vocalist. Mrs. Fagan forgive me if I sound perverted. Bridgewater seemed to make love with every note she sang. She prefaced songs with plenty of sexual innuendo. Honestly, it became tiresome at times, but that's the only bad thing I can say about an otherwise great performance. She knows how to captivate an audience.
Charles L. Latimer

So Dee Dee, if Lady Day were still alive this is the letter I’d spend her. You really honored Holliday in grand fashion. I bet she would appreciate that you did so without emulating her style.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Trumpeter Eddie Henderson
Be bop, Cory the barber’s 12-year-old daughter stormed pass KB's work station carrying her book bag. She slammed and locked the restroom door. A minute or so later, Cory walked into the shop. Cory wore a Levi denim jacket, a Detroit Tiger’s baseball cap turned backward, and a new pair of Timberland work boots. He hung the jacket on the coat rack next to the shoeshine booth. Cory knocked on the restroom door. He told Be bop she could forget going record shopping at Melodies and Memories Saturday. Cory was hot. He ignored me and KB who was trimming up my hair. Whenever Cory is upset, he cools down by playing Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”. He couldn’t find it, so instead he played “For All We Know”, the new album by trumpeter Eddie Henderson. When I arrived at 100% Barbershop for my bi-weekly cut, KB was the only barber there. Cory usually opens the shop. KB explained Cory received a call from Be bop’s school. Mrs. Cotton, the school’s principal, suspended Be bop because she got in an altercation with a fellow student. Be bop threaten to beat up a classmate because the classmate said James Carter, Be bop’s favorite jazz musician, was overrated. Cory believes Be bop inherited her bad temper from her mom.

Eddie Henderson version of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz played throughout the shop. Cory flopped down in the shoeshine booth chair.
“That girl is becoming more and more like her mother everyday. Those kids at that school are too smart for their own good. Be bop got into an argument about James Carter.”
“She loves James as much as she loves you," I said.
“You got that right”.
“Is thatMiles Davis”?
“No. That’s Eddie Henderson”.
“He still sounds like Miles”.
“Miles influenced him.”
“You would think as long as Eddie has been on the scene he’d have his own voice by now.”
“He’s carrying on a tradition of lyrical trumpeting. In my book, there’s nothing wrong with sounding like Miles,” Cory said.
“That’s a hip arrangement of ‘Jitterbug Waltz.”
“Do you think it’s better than Eric Dolphy’s version on Music Matador?
“The arrangement is hipper. Eddie’s opening passage is deceptive.”
“How so”?
“He makes it seem like he’s going to play a ballad,” I said.
“I thought the same thing when I first heard it.
Like Miles Davis, Eddie treats every note like precious pieces of art.”
“He puts a lot of distance between notes, too.”
“Yeah, he gives John Scofield and Doug Weiss plenty space to do their thing improvisationally speaking. I like the fact that Eddie left the piano player at home, and replaced him with a guitarist.”
“You can’t go wrong with Scofield.”
KB saw Be bop slide a sheet of paper under the restroom door. He turned off his clippers, walked over to the restroom and picked up the note. Then he read it, giggled, and he gave it to Cory. He read the note aloud.

“Mr. Stubblefield, you are hypocritical. It isn’t fair that you put me on punishment for standing up for my favorite jazz musician. I know I could have handled the situation with Raquel a little better. But I hate her. She is so stupid and fake. I knew you’re embarrassed when principal Cotton told you about the argument I had with that ugly cow. I guess you are right. I inherited mama’s bad temper. Dad I have witnessed you lose your cool on many occasions. What about the time when you loan Uncle Billy the “Booker Ervin and Brass” album and he returned it all scratched up. You called him every bad name under the sun and refused to speak to him for months although he’s your only brother. You behaved just as foolishly and as childishly as I did today, but you didn’t see fit to punish yourself like you punished me for giving Raquel a piece of my mind. In fact, the next day, you went to hear Kurt Elling at the Music Hall. Daddy, will you please reconsider by punishment. I haven’t been to Melodies and Memories in a long time. I was looking forward to hanging out with you Saturday. I‘m sorry that I threaten to beat up Raquel. Honestly, it’s partly your fault because you turned me on to James Carter’s music in the first place. If necessary I will-although reluctantly-apologize to Principal Cotton and horse face Raquel.
your loving daughter who has been a straight A student since pre-school

After Cory read Be bop’s note, KB and I laughed. Whenever Be bop is mad at her dad she refers to him as Mr. Stubblefield.
“Be bop is a piece of work,” KB says turning on the clippers.
I heard the restroom door click. Be bop emerged. It was obvious she had been brooding. Her eyes were red. She finally spoke to me and KB, and she hugged her dad. Cory had cooled down. She told her dad she was hungry. He fished some money out his pocket. He told her to go next door to Jet’s Pizza. She asked if we wanted anything.
“As a rule, I hate when there’s no piano player, but Eddie makes it work,” I said.
“Billy Drummond sounds amazing, too,” Cory says. His solo on “Be Cool” was tasteful.”
“That’s a good way to describe his overall style”.
“Eddie can play the shit out of a ballad. Listen to his phrasing”.
When Cory made that statement, Henderson was soloing on “For All We Know”. Scofield followed, soloing softly like snow melting on cotton.
“Miles played ballads beautifully.”
“Better than any other trumpeter I can think of.”
“I won’t argue with that,” Cory said.
“You have to let me borrow this album”.
Before Cory answered Big George, one of Cory’s regulars, walked in. Be bop was behind Big George, carrying a small Jet’s Pizza box. Cory motioned Big George to sit in his barber’s chair. KB handed me a mirror so I could inspect my haircut.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Plus Loin Music, the French record label, mailed me your third recording “Nina”, which is sort of a tribute to your musical hero Nina Simone. I listened to the album several times before I read the press release. This album doesn’t feel like a tribute album because you’re so original. You have depth, and it's impossible to categorize this album. You didn’t get carry away with the arrangements. Your rhythm section guitarist Marvin Sewell, bassist Francois Moutin, and drummer Andre Ceccarelli weren’t overprotective. You’re able to pull off many styles. However, you’re most recognizable gift is serving up a love song. “Do What You Gotta Do” and “Wild is the Wind” slowed down my heartbeat. On “July Tree”, you and Sewell behaved like newlyweds. Your voice is easy to love. On “Mood Indigo” Sewell playing had a celestial quality that blended with your soft phrasing. Kellylee, I receive many albums by female jazz vocalists. Most are cookie-cutter and unmemorable. “Nina” is flawless like a pricey wedding gown. Moreover, you never set out to emulate Nina Simone’s style although you chose to performed songs she made her own.