Archive for September, 2010

September 30th 2010
The Jazz Session #204: Darrell Katz

Posted under Composers & Podcast

Composer Darrell Katz leads an all-star ensemble of Boston’s finest through a program of his own compositions on A Wallflower In The Amazon (Accurate Records, 2010). In this interview, Katz talks about the album’s musical diversity; his use of poetry as text for some of his compositions; and his particular method of placing his own stamp on the works of others. Learn more at

No Comments »

September 27th 2010
The Jazz Session #203: Howard Wiley

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

Saxophonist Howard Wiley explores the music and conditions at Angola prison in Louisiana on 12 Gates to the City. This CD is the follow up to The Angola Project, which was based on Wiley’s research on the prison. The new album was inspired by Wiley’s visit to Angola. In this interview, Wiley talks about conditions at the prison; modern-day slavery; and why he felt compelled to document his experiences musically. Learn more at

No Comments »

September 23rd 2010
The Jazz Session #202: Geof Bradfield

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

Saxophonist Geof Bradfield traveled to several African countries in 2008. His new album, African Flowers (Origin Records, 2010), is a musical chronicle of that journey. In this interview, Bradfield talks about the places he visited on his trip; how he chose to musically interpret his experiences; and the varied projects with which he’s currently involved. Learn more at

1 Comment »

September 20th 2010
The Jazz Session #201: Mary Halvorson

Posted under Guitarists & Podcast

Guitarist Mary Halvorson explores adventurous musical territory on Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12 Records, 2010). In this interview, Halvorson talks about the influence of Anthony Braxton; her uncommon guitar; and her approach to composition. Learn more at


September 16th 2010
The Jazz Session #200: Dave Liebman

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

Saxophonist Dave Liebman is celebrating an amazing year full of recordings and awards. In this interview, Liebman talks about his lifelong commitment to education; the various honors bestowed upon him recently, including an NEA Jazz Master Award; and why he enjoys playing not only his own music but also the music of giants such as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Learn more at

No Comments »

September 15th 2010
Sonny & Ornette II?

Posted under Jazz News & Podcast

Keith just posted the following in the comments section of my Rollins recap:

I attended the book signing in manhattan last nite (9/14) for the new book Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins beautiful, great photos by john abbot, text by bob blumenthal.

i got a chance to ask sonny at the signing if there was a chance that he & ornette might arrange to perform together. sonny’s reply–“we’re looking into it “.
jazz gossip scoop of the year?

Thanks, Keith!

No Comments »

September 13th 2010
The Jazz Session #199: Beth Schenck

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

Saxophonist Beth Schenck’s fascinating approach to rhythm is one of the standout features of her debut album, What Shock Heard (Inayat Records, 2010). In this interview, Schenck talks about rhythm; her diary-like approach to composition; and why she decided she needed a working band. Learn more at

No Comments »

September 10th 2010
Review: Sonny Rollins 80th Birthday Concert

Posted under Jazz News & Jazz Writing & Podcast

Let me say right off that this isn’t really a review. More of an impression of a very special episode of Sonny Rollins in concert. Also, I didn’t take any notes, so I can remember what I remember and that’s it. Caveat, uh, you. (UPDATE: See the comments section for song titles provided by an audience member with a much better memory.) (UPDATE 2: Peter Hum posted an article that includes the full set list.)

The Beacon is a gorgeous venue. The sound was excellent and the ornate decorations lent the evening the feel of a big-city gala. I think that atmosphere was also helped by the fact that this was a big-city gala. The place was stuffed with famous jazz and arts folks. I sat between jazz writer Larry Blumenfeld and poet Steve Dalachinsky. Behind me was multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Batiste (of the New Orleans Batistes) and up several rows in front was saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Steve Dalachinsky and I both thought we saw the poet Yusef Komunyakaa, but we weren’t 100% sure. Anyway, the list goes on.

Sonny opened the show with the night’s “core” band: Russell Malone on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Kobie Watkins on drums (hear him on TJS #132) and Sammy Figueroa on congas. They played two tunes, the second of which was “Global Warming,” one of my favorite of Sonny’s calypso tunes. Then the parade of special guests began.

First up was trumpeter Roy Hargrove, looking modern and dapper in a tight black suit, fedora, white shirt, narrow black tie and big sneakers. Roy opened up with “I Can’t Get Started” on flugelhorn and then he and Sonny played a second tune together (no, I can’t remember which tune) that featured a lot of trading fours. In fact, probably too much trading fours. At one point Roy just started playing the head and they went out. All very good-natured and fun to watch.

The next guest was guitarist Jim Hall, with whom Sonny recorded some of his seminal albums when, as Sonny said in his introduction, “I was a very young boy.” Hall seemed fairly tentative on the guitar, even for someone famous for often understated playing. Sonny started an unaccompanied version of “In A Sentimental Mood” and Hall began to play along, quickly realizing that he and Sonny were nowhere near in tune. So Sonny added a repetitive tuning note to his solo, Hall tuned his guitar, the crowd laughed, and Hall picked up where Sonny left off, finishing with his own unaccompanied take on “In A Sentimental Mood.” There was also a second tune (nope, can’t remember it).

Following Hall’s set, the entire band left the stage, leaving Sonny there alone. He brought out bassist Christian McBride and someone he said “showed up unannounced,” drummer Roy Haynes. Can I just say that Roy Haynes is easily the baddest human being alive? He looked better than anybody in the Beacon — dressed to kill, walking cool, shades, a shiny suit and a great smile to the audience. The trio played a ballad that featured a typically high-energy solo from Roy. Then they went into a medium-tempo blues (a famous one, too, but I still can’t recall what it was). This dragged on a bit too long, and Sonny walked up to the mic while the rhythm section was playing and said, “I’ve been told there’s someone here who wants to say ‘happy birthday’™ to me, and he’s got a horn. I wish he would come out right now.” Sonny kept soloing while all three musicians looked offstage, waiting.

Then Ornette Coleman walked out on stage. The place went, if I may use a technical term, batshit crazy. Everybody on their feet, yelling, screaming. Ornette soloed, then he and Sonny traded, which pushed Sonny into a more free place than at any other time during the show. It was wonderful. At that point, the band was Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Roy Haynes and Christian McBride. More than 240 years living up there on stage.

Everybody but Ornette came out for a rousing version of “St. Thomas” featuring strong solos and interplay between Sonny and Roy Hargrove. The fifth standing ovation and it was over.

I felt very, very lucky to be there.


September 9th 2010
The Jazz Session #198: Theo Bleckmann

Posted under Podcast & Vocalists

Vocalist Theo Bleckmann is all by himself on his new solo recording, I Dwell In Possibility (Winter & Winter, 2010). In this interview, Bleckmann talks about why he wanted to record an album with only voice and toy instruments; how he approaches adapting the work of others; and the joys of feeling free to perform in nearly any musical context. Learn more at

No Comments »

September 7th 2010
Happy Birthday, Sonny Rollins!

Posted under Jazz News & Saxophonists

Sonny Rollins turns 80 today. Sonny has been on The Jazz Session twice:

Sonny will be at the Beacon Theatre in New York this Friday for a special 80th birthday concert with Jim Hall, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and more. More information at I’ll be there!

No Comments »

September 6th 2010
The Jazz Session #197: Steve Cardenas

Posted under Guitarists & Podcast

Steve Cardenas has worked as a sideman on too many records to count, and now he’s put out a solo album that shows why he’s in such demand — West Of Middle (Sunnyside, 2010). In this interview, Cardenas talks about his approach to composition and his appreciation of instrumental “songs”; his work with Don Sickler transcribing all of Thelonious Monk’s compositions; and his ideas about jazz education and its role in the continuation of the music. Learn more at

1 Comment »

September 2nd 2010
The Jazz Session #196: John Escreet

Posted under Pianists & Podcast

Pianist John Escreet explores a structured freedom on his album, Don’t Fight The Inevitable (Mythology, 2010). In this interview, Escreet talks about his upbringing in England; his important experiences with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and saxophonist David Binney; and a new commission that debuts this month. Learn more at