Sunday, September 25, 2011


I was in Barnes & Noble Friday night. I picked up a copy of your new album “Duets An American Classic”. It was on sale for $9.99, a bargain, and I couldn’t resist buying it. I found out the album was coming out while reading “High Notes Tony Bennett in the studio with Lady Gaga in the New Yorker. You remember that article, right? Your pal Gay Talese wrote it.

Talese gave a blow by blow account of your studio experience with Lady Gaga doing take after take of “The Lady is a Tramp”. I’m a jazz man. I’m not familiar with Gaga’s music, but I understand she’s a hot commodity in the world of popular music.

Talese captured what went on in the studio that day, and I was anxious to hear the final outcome. I was disappointed the duet with Lady Gaga didn’t make the album. Talese is an idol of mine. Man, I wish I could write like him and had his sense of style.

Talese was credited as the pioneer of literary journalism. That’s not true. St. Clair McKelway was the pioneer. McKelway was a reporter, a managing editor, and a rewrite man for the New Yorker back in the ‘30’s when Talese was a kid.

Last year, the book publisher Bloomsbury put out “Reporting at Wit’s End Tales from the New Yorker”. The book is a collection of McKelway’s articles. What does all this McKelway stuff have to do with your new album? Nothing, I’ve been itching to share that bit of trivia with someone.

At any rate, Mr. Bennett “Duets An American Classic” is nearly perfect although the duet with Lady Gaga was left out.

The album feels like a big get together. And you asked all your favorite singers to participate. I bet you didn’t have to ask them twice. When the great Tony Bennett called the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, John Legend, Sting, and Stevie Wonder—six of the big named singers that you collaborated with—came running like they were hit with subpoenas.

At 85, your voice is still in good shape.

Did I have any favorite tracks? Absolutely. I was totally into “The Best is Yet to Come” with Diana Krall, “For Once in my Life” with Stevie Wonder, and the “Very Thought of You” with Paul McCartney.

With this album, listeners get a ringside set at this star-studded get together. Honestly, Mr. Bennett, if of went at it allow, "Duets An American Classic" still would've been a thrill

As for Lady Gaga, my thinking is you were so blown away by her that you decided not to include her on “Duets An American Classic” because someday you want to do an album with her. That'll be an other American classic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


With “at the crossroads,” James Carter is back with his organ trio drummer Leonard King and organ player Gerard Gibbs. They've been working together for a decade , and  have made some excellence jazz albums “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge,” and “Out of Nowhere”. Carter loaded this new album with blues and gospel tunes, and guest appearances. “at the crossroads” isn’t a masterwork like Caribbean Rhapsody, which came out in May. But “at the crossroads” is outstanding nonetheless. Gibbs deserves the lion share of the credit. Long ago, Gibbs earned his spot as one of the top jazz organ players around. All the slick things Carter can do on the sax Gibbs can do on the organ. That no easy feat. Decca makes “at the crossroads” available for public consumption October 4th. 
Yoko Miwa new album “Live at Sculler Jazz Club” is  the best jazz trio album I've come across this year. Around the Boston jazz scene Miwa is a big deal, and after I listened to "Wheel of Life" and "Season of Wither," I understood why. She a has a mean left hand and a restless right one. She plays a little bit of everything  samba, blues, and hardcore bop. On November 17, Jazz Cat Amnesty Records makes “Live at Sculler Jazz available to the public.

Tenor saxophone player Tim Mayer built his chops from scratch. He idolized Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt. That comes through on Mayer's debut “Resilience”. Like his saxophone idols, Mayer has a sound that’s big and wide. Mayer went for broke playing songs by jazz heavies Charles Tolliver, Steve Turre, George Cables, and Lee Morgan. Jazz Legacy Productions releases “Resilience” September 27th. 

This is jazz piano player Geri Allen’s second solo album for Motema Records. Last year, Allen served up “Flying Toward the Sound,”  which was a nob to her idols Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner. The album was praised, but I wasn’t feeling it. It came off as if Allen was home alone, killing time practicing some of her favorite tunes. I,m totally into Allen's new solo outing “A Child is Born”. Allen plays 14 Christmas songs, and she dedicated the album to her immediate family. “A Child is Born” is a jazz holiday album I'll play year around. It will be on the streets October 11th.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Ahmad Jamal
Jazz piano player Ahmad Jamal opened the University Musical Society 18th Annual Jazz Series Saturday evening at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor Michigan. Jamal set the bar high for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and the Charles Llyod Quartet, acts scheduled this season. Jamal, 81, performed songs from his albums Quiet Time, It’s Magic, Awakening and Poinciana.

Drummer Herlin Riley, bass player James Cammack, percussion player Manolo Badrena walked on stage first, and positioned themselves behind their instruments. Then Jamal strolled on the stage to rousing applause befitting a jazz master.

Jamal started the 75 minute set with Appreciation. Then he cruised into After Math and After Jalc. Jamal is an interactive bandleader. He doesn’t just set at the piano hammering away. He used hand signals like a third base coach, signaling to his band mates to solo,  to speed up the tempo, and to settle down.

When Badrena soloed on After Jalc, Jamal stood in front of him, and egged him on. When Riley was wailing  and one of his drumstick flew out his hand, Jamal fetched the drumstick., and he handed Riley it like a  high school principal hands an honor student a diploma.  

I saw Riley last at Orchestra Hall many years ago with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet. It slipped my mind what a freewheeling, and animated drummer Riley is. Cammack is an awesome bass player. All night long, he walked the upright bass like a hot date. Jamal's guys earned their paycheck. Jamal was most valuable player.

Jamal still have that light and buttery soft touch. And the space he leaves between notes  is so wide a trucker could park his big rig comfortably. Jamal closed the set with his classic Poinciana. After that the audience gave him a length ovation. They didn't settled down until Jamal, Cammack,  Riley and Badrena agreed to an encore.   to an encore.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


In 2008, Sonny Rollins put out the Road Show Vol. 1.  The album was bits of his never before released live concerts, and some of his unreleased studio recordings cut and pasted together. As a lifelong Sonny Rollins follower, I hated the first Road Show album. It didn’t suck me in like some of Rollins’ other albums Way Out West, Saxophone Colossus, Night at the Village Vanguard, and Without a Song the 9/11 Concert. Besides, the production quality sunk. 

Tuesday, Road Show Vol. 2 went on sale nationwide. It’s better than the first volumeRoad Show Vol. 2 is filled with guest spots. Trumpet player Roy Hargrove, bass player Christian McBride, and guitar player Jim Hall participate. With that level of star power, it would be tough to make a dud. What pushes Road Show Vol. 2 over the top is the surprise appearance from Ornette Coleman.

Rollins threw a concert to celebrate his 80th birthday, and he invited Coleman. Rollins didn’t know if Coleman was going to show.Well Coleman did show, and he killed on Sonny Mood for Two. Rollins chose that number for Coleman. It has room for Coleman to rove.

Rollins and Coleman are old-timers. They have been pals forever. The birthday bash was the first time they played side by side. The other guest spots on Road Show Vol. 2 are good, especially Hargrove’s playing on I Can’t Get Started and Rain Check and Jim Hall's strumming on In a Sentimental Mood.

But neither guest spot compare to the magic Rollins and Coleman generate.They didn’t horse around. They’re too up there in age for that. They sound like to friends shooting the breeze, catching up on old times. Coleman taking part in the Road Show Vol. 2 is the biggest reason the album is worth having.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Karriem Riggins
Karriem. I want to thank you for proving once and for all there're similarities between jazz and hip-hop. Anybody that left your set at the 20011 Detroit Jazz Festival,  feeling otherwise is a numskull plain and simple. Your group the Karriem Riggins Ensemble with special guest hip-hop artist Common ripped up the JP Morgan Chase Stage, and settled an argument. 

Many avid jazz fans believe there's no connections between jazz and hip-hop. I believe there are. Jazz musicians improvise and hip-hop musicians free style. They are the same in my book. The musicians create on the spot or in the moment. 

I’ve never had a problem with jazz musicians combining hip-hop with jazz. Of course, in the wrong hands, mixing the two could be messy. Branford Marsalis proved that with his album Buckshot LeFonque. But his peers jazz trumpet player Russell Gunn and saxophone player Courtney Pine successfully combined the two forms.. 

Common rhyming about Detroit was totally improvised. When Mike Jellick’s--one of the most in demand jazz musicians in Detroit right now--soloed, he spilled his musical imagination all over the piano.

Karriem, if naysayers need more proof that free styling and improvising are blood relatives, they should watch the cypher segments of the BET Hip-hop Awards show. Top hip-hop artists come up with slick, colorful, and witty rhymes off the top of their heads. 

Ornette Coleman’s album Free Jazz that featured  Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins is a good example of   jazz musicians creating in the moment or free styling.  

Coleman and company weren’t battling or trying to outplay each other. They let their imaginations run free, and what they came up with was out of sight.

The Karriem Riggins Ensemble was more cohesive than your other ensemble Virtuoso Experience. Don’t get me wrong, I liked VE. I’m just pointing out VE had some rough edges. Slum Village wasn’t as hyped as Common was. 

Common fit perfectly with the band of A-list Detroit jazz musicians in the Karriem Riggins Ensemble. Karriem, you  proved that jazz and hip-hop have glaring similarities.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Jazz pianist Jason Moran

Dear Jason,

I’m still pissed your set at the Detroit Jazz Festival was called off. I know it wasn’t your fault. I’m having a hard time letting it go. Man, I was anxious to hear your trio. But Mother Nature made it rain, and the  Saturday evening acts were cancelled. The audience didn’t give a shit about the thunder and the lighting. With your own eyes, you saw people out there with umbrellas, and rain gear, waiting for Mature Nature to cool it.

Jazz fans are dedicated, especially the ones from Detroit. Had Hurricane Irene swept through Detroit the fans still would’ve shown up. I wondered why Mother Nature decided to target Detroit anyway. She’s never interrupted the jazz fest before. She knows good and well this is Detroit's biggest music event of the year. It attracts jazz fans from all over the world.

Maybe Mother Nature and Father Nature had a big fight. Maybe Father Nature forgot her birthday, or came home after his curfew smelling different than when he left home. I'm going to investigate what cause Mother Nature to lose it. If Father Nature provoked her, I'm going to give the rascal a piece of my mind.

Jason, it’s been almost two decades since I’ve seen you in person. In the late 90’s, you played at a bar in Hamtramck, a small city outside of Detroit. I forgot the name of the bar. I was only there that one time. Blue Note Records had just signed a bunch of young lions. The company put together a band, and showcased it in select cities. Mark Shim, Greg Osby, and Stefon Harris were in the band. Neither of you were household names yet.

That show was pretty amazing. A year or so later, jazz concert producer Bill Foster booked Osby at the Serengeti Ballroom on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. You were in the rhythm section.   

I have your albums. I marvel at how you manipulate special effects. On one song, two women gossiped on the telephone while you improvised in the background. I understood the point you're trying to convey. That even meaningless gossip is music, or it can be turned into music. 

On another record, you improvised while someone scribbled in a notebook. Jason that  floored me. Just when I thought you couldn’t get more creative you turned the hip hop classic Planet Rock into a jazz tune.

I missed your set with Joe Lovano at Hill Auditorium a few years ago. My friend Andy was in the house. He said your solo set was beyond amazing. So, you understand why I was hot when your set at the jazz fest was called off. My ears were ready. I skipped some of the afternoon acts. I wanted to be fully rested to hear your trio, Sun Ra Arkestra, and Dave Holland. That’s a lot of swing to consume back to back.  

Saturday, I spotted you twice. First, with your family near the Pyramid Stage. Then I saw you before the Sun Ra Arkestra was set to go on. You were backstage at the Carhartt Stage. I wanted to ask you a few questions. But the timing was bad. You were with your sons. I decided not to bother you.

I wanted to know if someday you plan to record any of Jaki Byard’s songs, seeing as how Jaki influenced you. I also wanted to know if you plan to make a straight ahead jazz trio album without the sound effects. Not that I’m tired of the music you’ve been making. I wonder if a jazz musician as daring and creative as you are could play it straight.

So, Jason that why I was pissed your set got cancelled. There’s a silver lining, however. You are playing with saxophone player Charles Lloyd in Ann Arbor, MI in April. 

All the best,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Jazz singer Champian Fulton
I asked a handful of people I ran into at the Detroit Jazz Festival every year their thoughts about this year’s fest. The consensus was the fest felt different. Honestly, I did not know what to make of that. Did they mean the fest didn’t meet expectations. Or did it exceed their wildest dreams. The only difference to me was the weather was shitty.

Back stage before the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra’s set began, I overheard a female DJF staffer tell Maxine Gordon—tenor saxophone God Dexter Gordon’s wife—the DJF is the only music fest in the world where you get to experience summer, autumn, winter, and spring in the same weekend. Friday it was hotter than Arizona in July. Monday, it felt like winter.

Mother Nature had a chip on her shoulder. Or she was testing us, wanting to weed out the real jazz fans from the people who attended the fest because they did not have other plans. The shitty weather did not keep the real jazz fans away. 

I bounced from the Carhartt Stage to the Pyramid Stage, to the JP Morgan Chase stage. As I hammered out this last jazz fest review, my dogs were aching something awful. I heard some fantastic jazz music Monday. 

I caught Gary Burton’s performance at the Carhartt Stage. Burton played with his new band Julian Lage, Antonio Sanchez, and Scott Colley. They worked out on material from Burton’s first album for Mack Avenue Records Common Ground.

During the set, I almost lost my cool. A jerk sitting to my immediate right was yelling while Burton played the most beautiful solo I’ve ever heard a vibraphone player play. I couldn’t hear the name of the tune, and when Burton was wrapping up the solo, the jerk tapped me on the shoulder. He told me if I cut off my mustache, I’d look exactly like news reporter Bill Proctor. 

Honest to God, it took all the strength I could muster not to slap the shit out the jerk. One of the greatest jazz vibraphone players ever  was 50 feet from me spilling his soul on the bandstand, and I could hardly enjoy.

The crowd loved Burton. They begged for an encore. Burton obliged. He played a slick version of the Milt Jackson's jewel Bag's Groove.  I darted over to the Pyramid Stage to hear jazz singer Champian Fulton’s  hour-long set. It was her first time in Detroit. She came with her A game

I never heard of her. But when I spotted Andy Rothman of the Detroit Groove Society and  the Detroit Free Press jazz critic Mark Styker sitting in front of the stage, I knew I was in for something special. Fulton didn’t disappoint. I sat next to Rothman and a fellow named Jose S. DaCosta. The business card he gave me said he runs a jazz program in Rochester, New York called Exodus to Jazz

After Fulton sang The Song Has Ended, and Love So Much, Rothman whispered in my ear Fulton plays the piano like the great Erroll Garner. Then DaCosta whispered in my left ear Fulton plays like Detroit piano player Johnny O’Neal. Rothman and DaCosta had a point.

I was sold on Fulton after she sang If I Had You. Diana Krall sang the song on her breakthrough album All for You A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio. Krall’s take was my favorite until I heard Fulton sing If I Had You

I arrived at the JP Morgan Chase Stage roughly 20 minutes before jazz drummer and hip-hop producer Karriem Riggins was scheduled to perform with Grammy winning rapper and raising move star Common.  This was the second year Riggins put together a jazz and hip-hop hybrid concert. Last year, Riggins presented Karriem Riggins and Virtuoso Experience with special guest Slum Village. It went over big. This time, Riggins collaborated with Common. 

Riggins showed a rapper free styling is the same as a jazz musician improvising. Both are creating on the spot. That is what Common did when hit the stage. He free styled about how much he loves Detroit. “Detroit has so much soul even the white people has soul,” Common rapped. My favorite jazz fest solo was Riggins free styling at the end of his set. His rapping skills are nearly as amazing as he drumming. 

Back at the Carhartt Stage, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, played the music of Christian McBride. Singer Ernie Andrews was the special guest.

The DJFO premiered four songs from McBride’s upcoming album That Good Feeling. I got my hands on an advance copy of the album. It’s McBride’s first shot at a big band album, and he nailed it. The jazz fest finale was a ploy to promote the date..

Andrews’s performance wasn’t nearly as amazing as his set last year. This time, Andrews traipsed through the Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn songbook. Andrews’s interpretation of Sophisticated Lady and Take the A Train wasn't half bad.

Adding to the mix Anat Cohen, Regina Carter, and a group of teenage trombone players was overkill, , which the Detroit Jazz fest has been guilty of before. I would have loved an other taste of McBride’s new album.This just my opinion, the finale felt spur of the moment. It was McBride’s coming out party, and he deserved more of the spotlight.

The festival met expectation no more no less. The only disappointment was I didn’t get to hear Dave Holland, the Sun Ra Arkestra and Jason Moran. Those performances were cancelled because mother nature had a chip on her shoulder. 

Bass player Christian McBride

Monday, September 5, 2011


Piano player Aaron Diel
I soaked up a lot of music today at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I started the day at the Carhartt Amphitheater. The Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra performed. Bass player Rodney Whitaker was the conductor, and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts was the special quest. On the MSU campus, the orchestra is known as the Be bop Spartans. For a collegiate band thery are pretty good. The orchestra jump-started their set with bop piano player Duke Pearson’s New Girl. Then the orchestra showed they have range by playing an uber-hip verse of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. That got the crowd goosed up. 

 Before Watts joined in, Whitaker daughter, Raquel, sang a blues by Chicago Pete. Raquel has a fairly decent voice, but she needs to work on her stagecraft. The best part of the set came when the Be bop Spartan’s played Oliver Nelson’s arrangement of Down by the Riverside. Whitaker alter part of the arrangement. Instead of letting the saxophone section battle, Whitaker let the trumpet section duke it out. 

A cutting contest is more of a saxophone player thing, but Whitaker likes to buck convention from time to time, so he thought it be novel to let his trumpeter players have at it. Whitaker raised some wonderful jazz musicians De’Sean Jones, Thaddeus Dixon, Noah Jackson, and Ben Williams. All have promising careers. I heard Williams’s first album for Concord Records State of Art is currently the hottest jazz album on the market. Watts joining the Be bop Spartan didn’t enhance their set any. Watts played a handful of aggressive solos. 

J.C. and E Dog's celebration 
I shot over to the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage to take in some of Regina Carter’s performance. Carter is always a big draw whenever she plays the festival. When I arrived at the stage, Carter was hand feeding the standing room only crowd tunes from her latest album Reverse Thread

I didn’t stick around. I headed back to the Carhartt stage to catch the J.C. Heard Tribute Band under the direction of trumpet player and arranger Walt Szymanski, Heard’s point-man for many years. Szymanski also dedicated the set to the recently departed tenor sax player Scott “E Dog” Peterson. Szymanski did something that damn near had me weep. 

He had Peterson’s tenor sax on the stage.Then Szymanski told the crowd Peterson would be playing with the band in spirit. Today five big bands played at the Carhartt Stage. The J.C. Heard Tribute Band smoked them all. 

Anat Cohen
 Her inner swinger 
My next move was to check out Anat Cohen at the Absopure Pyramid Stage. It was the third time I’ve seen Cohen in person. The first was at the Detroit Groove Society’s concert series. Anat played two killer sets with guitar player Howard Alden. I fell for Cohen after the first set. Not too long ago, I saw her at Orchestra Hall. She played a double bill with the Hot Club of Detroit. Her set was rush and she didn’t open up like she did at the Detroit Groove Society hit, and at the Pyramid Stage yesterday afternoon. Cohen can swing her butt off, and she has an abundance of stagecraft, and she knows a thing or two about getting her audience involved in her performance. 

 The Riel deal 
At the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage Aaron Diehl Quintet, set began 20 minutes late. Before Diel, Wessell “Warm Daddy” Anderson, Lawrence Leather, and Dominick Farinacci took the stage, an executive from Mack Avenue Records announced Diel is the newest member of the Mack Avenue clan. I enjoyed Diehl’s set, particularly his take on Nat Adderly's tune Little Boy with the Sad Eyes. Hands down, Anderson was the crowd’s favorite. Diel playing is a mix of Duke Ellington and Kenny Barron

If I had my way, the young Detroit jazz musicians I’ve come down hard on recently, would’ve been required to attend Diehl’s set. They could have picked up some pointers from Diel about being professional, and presenting a complete package to an audience. Diel’s staff was dressed impeccably. They were rehearsed, and they had strong game plan. 

 Wilsonian grain 
Last year, Maria Schneider’s Orchestra tore up the Carhartt Stage. Alto sax player Steve Wilson was Schneider’s right hand man. This time around, Wilson was the boss. At the Absopure Stage, Wilson showed off his band Steve Wilson and Wilsonian Grain. It’s a fierce band. Wilson and, bass player Ugonna Okegwo are the brains of the quartet, and drummer Clarence Penn and piano player Orrin Evans are the muscle. Wilson cut down the changes to Thelonious Monk’s Well You Needn’t like a weed whacker. The entire set Evans put a hurting on the piano. 

Joe Lovano
 Lovano hating 
I closed the night back at the Carhartt Stage. Joe Lovano band Us Five played. Lovano called tunes from his albums Bird Songs, US Five and Symphonica. Some of my jazz buddies hated Lovano’s show. They could not understand why he used two drummers. And they said his chops are average at best. I didn’t have a problem with Lovano’s set. Neither did the crowd. They gave him two standing ovations. On the third number, Lovano almost blew a hole in the moon. Deep down Lovano wants to be a free jazz saxophone player. I saw that during his solo on Yardbird Suite.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra
Today was the first full day of music at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I planned to catch Kimmie Horne, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Jason Moran, and Dave Holland. I got a late start. I missed Horne’s set, but I bumped in the Horne and her manager Michael Cash on my way to hear trumpet player Sean Jones. It was the first time Horne hit at the festival in a while. I asked her if she was pleased with her set. She was.

I caught the tail end of Jones’ set. Jones had just called Forgiveness (Release), the closer on his latest album No Need for Words. He took the audience on a rollercoaster. Forgiveness was my favorite song on that album because It was the first time I heard Jones play free jazz. His staff Orrin Evans, Brian Hogans, Luques Curtis and John Davis  threw down. The audience loved it. I wonder if Jones plans to play more free jazz stuff in the future. 

 After Jones’ set, I bumped into photographers Karen Fox and Nina Simone Simms-Bentley. They talked about how different the festival feels this year. It was hotter than hell in August. I think the heat had gotten to them. Before I headed to the VIP section, I chatted with the Detroit Free Press jazz critic Mark Styker, and his wife Candice. Styker told me the University of Michigan Press will published his first book next year. The book (he didn’t tell me the title) is a collection of article he’s written about Detroit jazz musicians. 

 In the VIP section, I asked my friends Marc Arden and Luis Torregrosa—in my book the smartest jazz fans on the planet—to name their favorite acts so far. They said Warren Wolfe & WolfPac, and Derrick Gardner & the Jazz Prophets. I have an extra copy of Wolf’s new album on Mack Avenue records. I promised Marc I would give it to him tomorrow. 

 Then I told Luis that guitar player Bobby Broom disliked my review of his new album Wonderful!, and Broom wrote me nasty note questioning my jazz acumen. Luis got a kick out of that. Luis heard Wonderful!, and agrees with me that it was not a good album. 

 I didn’t eat while in the VIP section. I wanted to save my appetite for the Sun Ra Arkestra set at 7:00pm at the Carhartt Amphitheatre Stage. Fifteen minute before the Arkestra was set to hit the stage it started thundering and lighting something awful. 

The set was delayed 30 minutes. When the rain stopped, the Arkestra, led by sax player Marshall Allen, took the stage. They were decked out in sequined jackets and matching headdress. The thundering and lighting knock out the power. The microphones were dead, and the stage was unlit. That didn’t stop the Arkestra. 

 The horn section paraded around the stage as if nothing was wrong. After the fourth tune, a festival staffer announced another storm was coming. The remaining sets were cancelled. For a moment, I thought a riot was going to break out. A woman yelled out “It’s just water for goodness sake”. The audience wanted the show to go on. A storm ain't enough to scare away diehard jazz fans 

 Tomorrow is another full day of music. Jeff “Tain” Watts, Joe Lovano, Regina Carter, Vijay Ayer, Anta Cohen, and Paquito D’Rivera are scheduled to play.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


“After I recorded this album, I told my dad if I get hit by a car tomorrow it would be okay because I made this album. It is that personal for me,” said saxophone player Rahsaan Barber, 31,  about Everyday Magic, his new album Jazz Music City released Tuesday. Barber has big aspirations for Nashville, his hometown. He wants it to be a jazz hub like New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Everyday Magic is the initial step toward that goal.

Barber was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. His dad was a bass player. His mom was a sister, and his grandmother was a piano player. His twin brother Roland (their dad named them after the jazz saxophone player Rahsaan Roland Kirk) plays the trombone. In 2001, they co-led the album Twinnovation. Barber attended Manhattan School of Music. He decided to make his mark in Nashville instead of New York. He pointed out Nashville is full of unsung jazz musicians, and the jazz scene there is ripe.

Everyday Magic is Barber second album as a leader. Trio Soul was his first. He owns the record label and concert promotion company Jazz Music City. On Everyday Magic, he composed all the music, and hired Nashville jazz musicians Adam AgatiJody NardoneJerry Navarro, and Nioshi Jackson.

One of Everyday Magic’s many highlights is a spirited exchange with Roland on Why So Blue. Barber boyhood idol was sax man Stanley Turrentine. Barber's playing is deep and soulful like Turrentine's was. You can also hear elements of three soulful Tennessee saxophone players in Barber playing Hank Crawford, Sonny Criss, and Frank Strozier.

“This record is the culmination of many years of hard work, and it is good to have this record in hand. I think there are more years of practicing and long, long hours in store for me, but it is nice to have gotten to this point,” Barber said. I Dig Jazz talked to Barber about Everyday Magic and his plans for Jazz Music City.

Your band is tighter than strings on a tennis racket. Were they a natural fit for your originals?
We literally learned to play this music in the studio. That is not the way I like to record. I like to go out and play this music for a year, and then record it. But it didn't work out that way given our schedules. The majority of the music we didn't play until the Monday we went into the studio. I’m looking forward now to going out and playing this music more regularly.

Why did you record all originals?
I don't now any standards that sound the way these tunes sound. It's certainly possible that we could have done A Child is Born instead of Manhattan Grace, and Naima instead of Adagio. I felt that I had enough material to work with this record at a high enough level without stepping outside of my own compositions.
I think I have been fortunate enough to play with theses great Nashville jazz musicians that master whatever music I put in front of them. I think I have found myself musically at a higher level than I could when I was 25-year-old.

Did you set out to make a statement with this album?
I hope that Everyday Magic cast a light on what is happening on the jazz scene in Nashville. I've had a lot of conversations here in the black community about the future of jazz music. Conversations like are there people doing more than simply making money off the music verses trying to continue on the legacy of the music. That's what I would like to do, keep this music going here.

How is the jazz scene in Nashville?
It is growing. I think the level of musicianship is here. I think it is on the level of anything happening anywhere. However, we are still in desperate need of a major venue. With Jazz Music City, I am trying to address that, and present the many world-class jazz musicians in this city. In some situations, we have world-class jazz musicians playing background music because that is the only gig available to them. There is not a situation industry-wise that can help them have the careers that they want to have.

Are southern jazz musicians unique?
There is a certain kind of conviction jazz musicians from the south have. There is certain musicality that draws my ear and excites me about the musicians. They understand the power of the music, and the stylistic breadth. Hopefully, that comes through on Everyday Magic. What makes jazz musicians in Nashville unique is we are in a town where we play all types of music. It is only natural as a composer that I bring to a project a wide range of music. Nashville has a lot of those kind of musicians but it is not a jack-of-all-trades master of-none thing.

Why did you decide to make your mark in Nashville instead of in New York?
You know that old adage if you can pay your rent in New York you have made it. That is great if your aspiration is to pay your rent. Some of my friends live in New York, and they are living in what looks like a closet to me. I did not feel a kinship in New York. Not that I couldn't play the way musicians play there. There were many things calling me back to Nashville, and I felt that I could have the career I wanted to have here.

What are your plans for Jazz Music City?
With the Jazz Music City Records, We are trying to create footsteps for local acts to become national acts. It won't be all about me. We have this depth of talent here that needs to be showcased like New York and Chicago showcase their musicians to the world. I definitely want to create a catalog. I don't want to create a Blue Note Records of the south, but there are plenty of jazz musicians here that if Blue Note heard they would be interested in signing them. That is where Jazz Music City comes in.

It is a record label and a concert promotion company. It is entirely independent at the moment. But I feel so strongly about what I'm doing if I lost everything on it I wouldn't regret it. I don't think that is going to happen. I know the talent here is at a certain level, and if you believe in the talent and present it right, the company will be successful.
Saxophone player Rahsaan Barber