Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Angelic Warrior, is alto saxophone player Tia Fuller’s third outing for Mack Avenue Records, and like Fuller’s last  outing, Decisive Steps, Fuller continues to distance herself from her acoustic bop comfort zone. Angelic Warrior went on sale Tuesday, and it's Fuller’s most fusion driven outing yet, and shows  Fuller is a leader unafraid to take chances. 

Much has been said about Fuller’s tenure with pop sweetheart BeyoncĂ©’, and Fuller’s stint as jazz sensation Esperanza Spalding's musical director. Those high profile gigs have done wonders for Fuller’s resume’ and has surely fatten her bank account, but Fuller has done  some of her best work with trumpeter Sean Jones, and as a leader. 

It’s not surprising Fuller has evolved into a fearless leader. It’s worth debating if her statement as a leader surpasses the excellent work she did  on Jones' albums. His band was a preparatory academy for Fuller’s chops. There’re glaring examples on two of Jones’ dates--Gemini (2005) and Roots--(2006) that Fuller was going to be a star.  

For Angelic Warrior Fuller, wore the producer’s hat, and she did so skillfully. The core of Fuller’s band remains  intact. Piano player Shamie Royston and drummer Rudy Royston are still reliable staffers, putting in a good days work on Royston Rumble, Descend To Barbados, and the title cut. 

Fuller has three marquee special guests, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bass player John Patitucci. They log the most man-hours. Singer Dianne Reeves drops in for Fuller’s reworking of Body and Soul, which is the album’s lowlight. (That cut is the only one.) 

The album's highlight (there are plenty) is Fuller's modernized take of the bop classic Cherokee. When the  great Charlie Parker and Art Pepper played Cherokee, they hauled ass through it. Fuller and Carrington speed skates through it. This cut alone is a sufficient enough reason to buy Angelic Warrior

With Decisive Steps and Angelic Warrior,  Fuller has put out back to back killers, and has moved into the same realm with current alto sax lions Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon, Vincent Herring and Kenny Garrett. Not bad company.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Yusef Lateef
At St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit Saturday evening, saxophonist Yusef Lateef, 91, was honored by the Societie of the Culturally Concerned, a grassroots organization that honors Detroit jazz legends. The SOCC founded by the late jazz pianist Kenn Cox and his wife Barbara. Lateef, one of Detroit’s  most accomplished exports, grew up in the city's storied Black Bottom district. Before he left the city 50 years ago to expand his brand, playing with Charles Mingus and Julian "Cannonball" Adderly,  Lateef left his footprints all over Detroit's jazz community. 

Lateef started his recording career with Savoy in the late 50's, making some now collector's items Jazz for Thinkers, and Prayer to the East. Lateef also made some choice albums for other big jazz labels Impulse, Prestige and Riverside. As his musical taste became more experimental, he formed his own label YAL. 

Lateef earned commercial and national honors. He won a Grammy for Best New Age album. Two years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts named him Jazz Master, the most prestigious recognition given to a worldly jazz musician. But until Saturday evening his hometown never lavished him with praises or  accolades.

St. Matthew's & St. Joseph's church was packed with many celebrated Detroit writers, musicians, artists, and longtime Lateef fans. Saxophonist Ernie Rogers, the master of ceremony, opened the two-hour program with recollections of Lateef during his Detroit days. Rogers talked about what a thoughtful and an unselfish man Lateef  has always been. The co-authored of Lateef’s autobiography The Gentle Giant, Herb Boyd, followed Rogers.

Boyd corrected a mistake in the program booklet given to the people as they entered the church. Boyd told the packed church that he didn’t write The Gentle Giant.  It was a collaboration, and Lateef lived and wrote every page.  

Saxophonist Vincent Bowen, a regional jazz giant, escorted Lateef to the pulpit. There Lateef listened as proclamations issued by the Detroit City Council, Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers were read. 

Lateef cried while expressing his gratitude to everybody who came out, giving special thanks to Matthew Rucker, the bandleader who gave Lateef his first job. God was the main focus of Lateef's remarks. He thanked the Creator for blessing him with the strength and ideas to make music for 60 decades. “God is the giver of what makes man significant,” Lateef said.  

The Seekers of Truth Revolutionary Ensemble led by saxophonist Ralph “Buzzy” Jones who Lateef groomed, played Lateef’s signature tunes Morning, A Spiritual, and Ching Miau. Actor Council Cargle and a fellow named John Handy recited Lateef’s poetry. The highlight of the ceremony was Jones inviting Lateef to join in., and Lateef obliged. He used Jones’ flute, and called a blues number. For a 91-year-old, his chops  were strong.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Michael Feinberg is a 25-year-old jazz bassist, a native of Atlanta Georgia, and a graduate of the University of Miami and New York University. In a few short years, Feinberg has moved from a relative unknown bassist with loads of promises to a go to guy hired by marquee lions such as John Scofield and Lee Ritenaur. Feinberg plays the bass as if the spirit of Jimmy Garrison has blessed Feinberg’s hands. Without breaking a sweat, Feinberg can switch from old school to modern.

Sunnyside Communications, Inc. just released Feinberg’s new album The Elvin Jones Project. There no official count on the number of Elvin Jones tribute albums out there. Surely, not as many as there are Ellington, Parker, and Coltrane tribute albums. Nevertheless, Jones’ contribution to jazz was legendary. Would Coltrane had been as great had Jones not been at his side? A question worth pondering. The Elvin Jones Project is a wonderful salute to Jones. 

Clearly, Feinberg is an aficionado of Jones' work. Careful and in depth workmanship was invested in this album. There only seven cuts on the album, two were written by Jones. You'll have to unfasten your pants after hearing the album because it'll leave you with a full belly. I Dig Jazz got Feinberg to talk about the album and his fondness for Jones' work.
What was your initial exposure to Elvin Jones' music?
Like most people, I was first exposed to Elvin through his work with the John Coltrane quartet. But after some research I quickly discovered that Elvin was on a number of my favorite records Ready for Freddie, Inception, Judgement!, In n Out, and Unity to name a few.

What inspired The Elvin Jones Project?
After years of working on original material, I was looking for a release and discovered the record Earth Jones with Dave Liebman, Taramaso Hino, George Mraz, and Kenny Kirkland. I started transcribing the music and performing it mixed in with my original material. After a short while I had collected and transcribed a few dozen tunes featuring Elvin from various records, enough material for its own band, and thus began the EJP. At the time I was performing regularly at the 55 Bar in the Village in New York and started featuring this band more and more. The music creates a great template for what I wanted to achieve musically, taking the performance of these tunes in a more modern approach but paying homage to the vibe from those great records.

Was there a nationwide search for a  Jones-like jazz drummer to play on the album, or was Billy Hart an obvious choice?
My original choice for the drum chair was not Billy Hart. He was such a legend I didn't even consider that he would be interested in working with an unknown 25-year-old. Luckily George Garzone (who co-produced the album with me) made a recommendation and put us in touch. I went to Billy's house to discuss the record and ended up hanging and listening to records, and telling stories for about four hours. I think we are kindred spirits in many ways and the music definitely reflects that.

How important was Hart's participation?
No one member of the band is more or less important than anyone else. The great thing about jazz is that if you pick the right guys, there's no need for discussion; the music speaks for itself. We entered the session with a clearly defined vision which allowed the guys in the band to relax and be themselves while working together to achieve the vibe. The best thing Billy did for me at the session was allow me to be myself and express what I wanted. 

A legend like Billy Hart could have entered the situation thinking, ‘I'm the master here, so the rest of the guys should acquiesce to my style,’ but he was really comfortable to play with and as the session progressed the band concept became really strong. I guess the most important thing about his participation in the record and beyond in our work together is that he is a guy who always puts the music first. What else could you ask for?

Your band--saxophonist George Garzone, trumpeter Tim Hagans, and pianist Leo Genovese--is tighter than a banjo string. How long has the band been together?
This was on old school record date - no rehearsals. We talked a lot before the session, but the first time the five of us played together was at the studio. This was a completely new experience to me. My previous three records came after years of performing and rehearsing music with close friends, so this was definitely a different approach. 

What was amazing was that because of the high level of musicianship and the combined effort by the band we were able to quickly establish the direction we were going to take from the beginning.
If music is a language this record date was an  eight hour symposium at the highest level. I think the music is especially fresh because of it as well. I will paraphrase a Branford Marsalis quote that I think rings true: ‘Either you can play, or you can't’.  

If you're not able to perform something in the studio, no amount of rehearsing the day of will do any good to progress your musicianship. It adds pressure and the amount of work and time it takes to progress as a musician is not conducive to that environment at all. Obviously, these guys can play, and played great!

The album opens with Jones' Earth Jones, and it closes with Three Card Molly. Why didn't you play more of Jones' compositions?
It's tricky to really know which tunes were even written by Elvin over the course of his career. Same goes for Miles and many other band leaders. Record companies in those days wanted the band leaders to be the vital member of their ensembles and would credit them with compositions even though they were not theirs. 

I just hung with Dave Liebman a couple nights ago and he told me that he had actually written Earth Jones, not Elvin. The other piece of the puzzle is that Elvin was not much of a composer as far as quantity is concerned. A lot of my favorite original music his groups played was composed by Liebman, Pat Labarbera, George Mraz, Chick Corea, and Frank Foster - and one amazing song by percussionist Omar Clay which will be on the next EJP record.

Could you feel Jones' spirit in the studio while recording this album?
I tried as hard as I could not to feel his spirit. I did not intend to make a "tribute" album, I just wanted to use his band as a reference point. I think Billy Hart had a lot to do with this because he really does not come from the "Elvin School." He is his own unique voice. 

I wanted to capture the vibe of those old records/musicians while bringing my own more modern approach to the music. The biggest challenge was getting the notes from those records out of my head. I know almost every note played on most of those records we took the tunes from so I had to work hard to separate that from what we were creating in the studio.

Billy Hart and Jones were close. Did Hart share any stories about his friendship with Jones?
If you ask anyone about Billy Hart they will tell you that the guy has some amazing stories. One in particular relating to Elvin is this: Elvin was in town playing  with a trio and his drums never made it to New York. All he could put together was a snare, kick, hi hat, and ride cymbal. For the next 3 months every drummer in New York was playing that set up cause they thought that was the hip new thing to do! If Elvin was doing it, it must be cool!

How different would The Elvin Jones Project be had Hart not participated?
Billy is a very special voice on the drums, but the music is different every time we play it anyway. I've worked with a lot of great drummers through the last 2 years of playing this music and the best thing about it is that they feel like they need to really bring it because Elvin's name is associated with the band. I think that Billy understood immediately that I did not want him to cop an Elvin vibe which sometimes happens with other drummers when they play this music. He was instrumental (sorry for the pun) in making this record what it is but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be great if someone else was on drums too! As a bass player, it was pretty damn cool to work with him though.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Saxophonist Yuesf Lateef
Saxophonist Yusef Lateef is no stranger to accolades for his career achievements and for the massive body of recordings he is produced. Into Something, Prayer to the East, The Sound of Yusef, and Live at Pep’s is a wee sampling of Lateef’s popular recordings. To his credit, he has a Grammy, and in 2010 the National Endowment for the Arts named him an American Jazz Master, the highest national recognition a jazz musician can receive. 

Those hip to Lateef's contribution to jazz and to world music know the accolades are well-deserved. Every aspect of Lateef's hall of fame career is detailed in his 2006 autobiography The Gentle Giant, a fitting title. A giant of jazz and world music Lateef  undoubtedly is.  

In the 1950’s, Lateef started building his brand from the ground up at happening jazz hunts around Detroit such as Kline’s Show Bar and the Blue Bird Inn before moving to New York where he sharpened his musicianship playing with greats such as Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie and Julian “Cannonball” Adderly

After 60 plus years of composing, recording, touring, and teaching, Lateef is finally enjoying semi-retirement.Twice a year he tours overseas. These days, he spends a lot of time composing. Recently, he completed his second full-length symphony. 

On September 22nd, Lateef will return to Detroit, his hometown. The Societie for the Culturally Concerned--an arts organization run by Barbara Cox the widow of the late jazz pianist Kenn Cox--will honor Lateef. Cox promises it will be something special. The tribute will take place at the St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. 

Percussionist Ralph Miles Jones’ group The Seekers of Truth Revolutionary Ensemble will perform some of Lateef’s compositions. Biographer Herb Boyd, the co-author of Lateef's autobiography will be the guest speaker. I Dig Jazz contacted Lateef last week, and ask for his thoughts about the tribute, Lateef's said he is grateful to be honored in his hometown where his career began, and he still loves Detroit.

The Yusef Lateef tribute will take place at 5:00pm Saturday September 22nd at St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church 8850 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48202. The cover charge is $25.00 and $40.00 for the tribute and the dinner.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Reggie Quinerly’s rap sheet includes stints with Von Freeman, John Hicks, Wynton Marsalis, and Greg Osby, which speaks volumes about Quinerly's highly evolved swing acumen. The drummer is a native of Houston and a graduate of Mannes School of Music at New York’s New University. Freedman Town is Quinerly’s first album as a session chief, and it goes on sale in 18th of September. It’s a whopper of a first outing. Tim Warfield, Gerald Clayton, Mike Moreno, and Vicente Archer are the core of Quinerly’s band, and there’s a memorable guest spot by Enoch Smith who wrote the lyrics for the album’s most endearing cut Freedmantown Interlude. Freedman Town was once a historic district in Houston where freed slaves built a community after the Emancipation Proclamation. This album is Quinerly’s homage to that community. Freedman Town is a cleverly wrought debut. All but two cuts are Quinerly originals.

Brandi Disterheft is a singer and bass player in the vein of Esperanz Spalding. Seems as though some jazz record companies are on the hunt for multi-talented Spalding-like jazz musicians. After you listen to her new album Gratitude due out September 11th on Justin Times Records, you’ll conclude she's no copycat. she has a soft, lazy, voice that won't stick to your ribs, but she's a phenomenal  jazz bassist, and she embodies Ron Carter’s grace and Charles Mingus’ swagger and rawness. For Gratitude, her third album, Diseterheft wrote eight new tunes, and she's joined by Vincent Herring, Sean Jones, Anne Drummond, Renee Rosnes, and Gregory Hutchinson. That’s not bad company..

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis

I don’t envy the artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival Chris Collins one bit. Collins a working jazz saxophonist and an educator put together one of the most monumental Detroit jazz fest in recent memory. What the hell I’ll go one better. Collins put on the best jazz fest ever. Few, if any, longtime Detroit jazz fest goers would disagree with that statement. 

This was Collins’ first shot at the helm. At the height of the festival’s popularity Collins stepped in. Under the former jazz fest director Terri Pontremoli’s leadership the festival became an international hit. So, Collins had a lot to live up to, and he didn’t choke

Sonny Rollins, Terence Blanchard, Joe Lovano, Wayne Shorter, Charles McPherson, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett and Louis Hayes were headliners. Plus, Collins did some of Detroit’s leading jazz musicians a big solid. He made them a major part of the festival, vowing to continue that as long as he’s running things. 

For years, many Detroit jazz musicians have complained the former director’s shunned them, getting on the bill was damn near impossible. Well, Collins fixed that by booking more Detroit acts. Marcus Belgrave, Charlie Gabriel, George “Sax” Benson, Ursula Walker and Buddy Budson, Noah Jackson and Spencer Barefield were some of the Detroiter’s Collins showed love, and they showed they were deserving by being at top form.

For the first time, in years the Detroit jazz fest felt real. Midway through, his Saturday afternoon set, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis acknowledged that, and pointed out the Detroit Jazz Festival was truly an authentic jazz happening. Who better to make such a claim than Marsalis, the ambassador of jazz, who 's played at every important national and international jazz festival on earth? 

Collins served the festival straight with no chaser. There was no obligatory tribute to Motown, no crossover acts such as the Blind Boys of Alabama, and no jazz acts featuring big time rappers. In street parlance, Collins kept the jazz fest one hundred. 

So, why aren’t I envious of Collins because  he has the immense task of upping the antes next year? Collins set the bar really high, and the question must be asked did Collins blow his load prematurely.

 Time will tell. But, I bet future Detroit Jazz Festivals will be just as monumental  because Collins showed unequivocally he has the passion and vision to grow the festival.

Charles L. Latimer top jazz fest picks
The Wynton Marsalis’ Quintet: The trumpeter is a right wing jazz conservative. Love or hate him, Marsalis always delivers a great show. Detroiter Ali Jackson, Marsalis’ go-to drummer, had a good game and so did saxophonist Walter Blanding. Fundamentally, Jackson is solid, and he’s built a high swing sensibility piece by piece.

The Mack Avenue Super Band:
This could’ve been an epic miscalculation Tia Fuller, Sean Jones, Rodney Whitaker, Kevin Eubanks, Aaron Diehl, and Gary Burton crammed on the stage, trying to prove who’s the top of Mack Avenue Record’s artist but this Super Band never turned into a battle of egos. It was one of my favorite main stage shows. Besides, it proved that Tia Fuller is indeed a formidable voice on alto saxophone, and Aaron Diehl has an aggressive streak under those hand tailored conservative suits he sports.

Uncle June:
That’s the title of native Detroiter and drummer Gerald Cleaver's latest album, and he dedicated it and his Sunday afternoon show to his parents. For this project, Cleaver put together an ensemble that included a few of his longtime running buddies pianist Craig Taborn and saxophonist Andrew Bishop. The highlight of the hour plus set was the suite “Fence and Post,” which was part storytelling, part free-jazz and part swing. Unfortunately, the crowd for Cleaver’s set was small. Sometimes, Cleaver can be way out there and deeply experimental. I was totally into his music, but I did wonder if it would’ve worked better at the Pyramid stage  where free-jazz acts have historically performed.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012


In July, I told myself I wouldn’t listen to another jazz album by a jazz singer because I was burnout on them. So far, this year I’ve received  more than one human being should be asked to digest in a lifetime. I wondered if jazz singers, particularly female jazz singers, had cornered the jazz market. 

Honestly, Amikaeyla, most of the albums were pretty good, especially Kathy Kosin’s To the Ladies of Cool and Halie Loren’s Heart First. (Loren has put out two this year come to think of it.) So, if I’m burnout on jazz singers, why am I bothering you?

Three weeks back RootsJazz Records sent me a copy of your new album Being in Love. It’s excellent like Kosins’ and Loren’s albums, and I’m going to tell my friends who’re jazz heads to get a copy now that it’s for sale. This is the first time I’ve spent time with your voice. 

Unlike many of your peers, you’re hard to categorize because you sing gospel, blues, adult contemporary, and R&B with equal proficiency, and that’s hard to do. Many of your peers are so one dimensional. I bet you can even rap if you had a mind to. Your voice is hospitable, and I felt right at home with it.

Of the 10 cuts on Being In Love, I replayed Lovely Day co-starring Sheila E and Esperanz Spalding the most. Hambone was a close second. I Know You by Heart could make warring spouses fall in love again. As I stated before, I had my fill of jazz singers, but Being in Love has done a world of good for my spirits.


Saxophonist Steve Wilson
Polished and swinging
It wasn’t surprising jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis put on one of the top sets at the Detroit Jazz Festival Saturday afternoon. Marsalis is an elder statesman of jazz, and he seems musically incapable of doing anything sub-par. For Marsalis’ hit Saturday he used some key lions from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drummer Ali Jackson, saxophonist Walter Blanding, pianist Dan Nimmer, and bassist Carlos Henriquez. They walked on the bandstand swinging. I bet they swing while sleeping. Marsalis called some originals, and Jackson and Blanding were the most valuable players. Jackson had to bring it because he was drumming in his hometown, and Blanding is a conservative sax player by nature with a wild streak he occasionally lets free. Marsalis is a jazz conservative, and he never encouraged showboating. Special guest trumpeter Sean Jones and pianist Aaron Diehl sat in, adding more spice to the performance. They played an slick version of “See See Rider”.

Steve Wilson & Stings
On paper Steve Wilson playing music from “Charlie Parker with String” sounded like a bulletproof undertaking that Wilson couldn’t screw up. Wilson is a skilled, a respected and an outstanding saxophonist with an impressive discography, and he’s running the streets with some jazz big shots Maria Schneider, Nicholas Payton, Mulgrew Miller, and Ray Drummond. But Wilson’s highly anticipated set at the Carhartt Amphitheatre was a snoozer. The spirit of Charlie Parker definitely didn’t bless this performance. “April in Paris,” What Is This Thing Called Love,” and “Easy to Love” were three of the tunes from the original album that was played, but Wilson didn’t do anything interesting with.

Latin Jazz at its finest
There no reason not to love every Latin jazz outfit on earth. That’s what was on my mind at the Absopure Pyramid Stage listening and trying to take note during the Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirate Troubadors hour plus performance. My ink pen was dancing like mad. Vazquez played selections from his latest date “Oasis”. This was Latin jazz at his purest.

Family Affair

Mack Avenue Super Band was comprised of Tia Fuller, Sean Jones, Aaron Diehl, Carl Allen, Rodney Whitaker, Kevin Eubanks, Alfredo Rodriguez and Gary Burton. That’s a lot of egos on one stage. But the Mack Avenue musicians are consummate professionals and they left their egos backstage and delivered a memorable Detroit Jazz Festival performance. Fuller and Diehl both have new album on the way. Diehl had the audience worked up, which was a surprise because Diehl was out of his natural habitat, which is a trio setting. At times, he can be rather austere and tight as those beautifully tailored suits he fancies, but Diehl swung like his life depended on it. The only thing that hindered the Super Band’s set from absolute perfection was Rodriquez one man performance, which altered the dynamics of what his label mates had worked their butts off to establish.