Posts tagged: joe henderson

Good Things Happen Slowly

By , March 21, 2018 11:54 am

I recently read Fred Hersch’s autobiography Good Things Happen Slowly, a beautiful book.  

Hersch is a New York-based jazz pianist, although he has played and composed for a variety of different musical styles, and also is an activist and spokesman for AIDS health and awareness causes; the book offers a look into Hersch’s development as a musician in New York in the late 70’s, his life with HIV and his coming out in 1993, and many of the different avenues and detours his personal and professional lives have taken over the years.  

I was initially interested in reading it because of his historical place in the New York jazz scene; Hersch came on the scene after the 60’s but before the Young Lions era of the 80’s, the 2 time periods that I feel are discussed the most when talking about modern 20th century jazz.  Hersch’s stories do not disappoint in this area, and also were supplemented by more of the memories he recounts in an interview with Ethan Iverson here.

Many of these stories revolve around Hersch’s experiences learning on the job from old masters, from Art Farmer to Joe Henderson to Sam Jones and several others.  He sees himself in a group of young musicians that were some of the last to learn to play almost exclusively by working and gigging with legends.  The generation after them – the Young Lions mentioned above – largely came from college jazz programs that were more firmly established after Hersch and his peers left school.  Because I underwent most of my musical development in a college jazz program, and I didn’t have that same kind of on-the-job training or mentor/apprentice relationship like Hersch describes, I’m really curious about it, and have been since before I started this book.

On a related note, I really enjoyed imagining what the scene would have been like back then at Bradley’s, a famous piano Greenwich Village piano bar that is now closed.  To read about it in the book and in Iverson’s interview, you really would never know which legendary pianist was going to come in and drink at the bar, and then, inevitably, show you how to play a standard or teach you a tune at the piano.  Amazing!

Hersch also talks a bit about how his music and the music of some of his peers was kind of caught between the 2 more popular (as popular as the genre could be) styles of jazz at the time:  fusion and a more neo-traditional style that attempted to go back to the 60’s.  Hersch and his compatriots were exploring original compositions and ideas – not as directly pointing to the past as the neo-traditional crowd – but they also fit into the orchestrations and arrangements of earlier jazz styles – not as electric-influenced as fusion.  As I mentioned before, this perspective does not get as much attention as others, at least to me, so I found that aspect of the book intriguing too.  I would love to read something from the perspective of the Out and/or Free music scene happening at the time too, but that will have to be at a later date.

When it comes down to it, though, these stories and views about musical categories and styles take up a relatively small amount of the book.  There are fascinating accounts of Hersch’s work with the poetry of Walt Whitman, arrangements of material from classical composers as well as classic tin pan alley songwriters, his short time running a recording studio, and working on a multimedia performance based on on the vivid dreams experienced during a coma, among other events.  And these are just on the musical side; Hersch’s experience in and out of the gay community in New York, the brutal battles with his health over the years, his experiences in social activism, and his general views in hindsight, looking back from early piano lessons as a child and gigs as a young adult in Cincinnati to building his career as a musician and teacher in New York, combine to form a truly inspirational and impactful life that he recounts wonderfully.  I highly recommend this book!

 

 

 

Library Music Finds

By , December 31, 2015 5:05 pm

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I’m going through another heavy library-listening phase, checking out CDs by the armful!  Here are some things I’ve been checking  out:

Grant Green, Idle Moments – The more I listen to Grant Green, the more I like his playing, specifically the thematic way in which he improvises.  Although it is sometimes repetitive, I think that repetition is really intentional and makes his solos more melodic, and his language is strong.  This record also has Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson on it too, so there is an interesting meeting of approaches.

Billy Childs, Map to the Treasure:  Reimagining Laura Nyro – I had never listened to Nyro’s music before, so I don’t know how different Childs made these songs with the arrangements, but the arrangements are really moving and well done.  This album has has Becca Stevens on a few tracks, which led me to her album Perfect Animal, another cool record with unique sounds and really great vocal work from her.

Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1969 – I have to be ready for some pretty intense free/noise improvisation to listen to this era of Miles, but, as I like to say sometimes, the music and the band is undeniable.  Chick Corea, Jack Dejohnette, Miles, Wayne Shorter, and Dave Holland; this is the band before the Bitches Brew bands but after In a Silent Way, so you can kind of hear a transition happening.  It also came with a concert DVD, so it was fun to get a chance to actually watch these guys play.

Roland Kirk, We Free Kings – I think Kirk is pretty underrated, or at least pigeon-holed for playing multiple woodwinds at once, which is really cool and sounds great, but he also was really inventive and unique on singular horns too, working in and building on the bebop language, and I think he was very creative in terms of fusing bebop, blues, and free jazz together.

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls – Also very intense music, but for me this record was inspiring in how unique Mahanthappa’s approach is to alto saxophone; you can hear the influences and the individuality together, and it’s clear he’s worked on his approach in a clear way.

Sergio Mendes, Herp Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – This was a pleasant surprise for me; I had just recently watched the documentary The Wrecking Crew, which talks a little bit about Alpert’s work in the ’60’s and 70’s, and when I saw this album I had to check it out, not just for Alpert’s name but also because I had Medes’ name as well but never listened.  Super strong mood and vibe throughout, with funky beats and cool tunes!

Anyway, that’s just a taste, I’m still going through a lot of things that I just found by sifting through the jazz sections of the cds at Seattle Public Libraries, and I can’t recommend it enough.  Even if jazz isn’t your thing, there are albums to be found in the other sections as well.

-Art

 

 

 

 

Tour Blog 3

By , May 4, 2014 11:18 am

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San Diego:  Our San Diego show was in the beach town of Ocean Beach, at Winston’s, where we’d played once before and had a really successful show.  Unlike last time, I went to the beach for a little while before we started, which was gorgeous!  A nice last look before we turned East.  Then I talked to my sis and got the recommendation for fish tacos (she lived in San Diego for a couple of years).  I also found a record store and got a Grant Green vinyl, Solid, with James Spaulding and Joe Henderson, two saxophonists I like.  Our gig was with a local band that I was familiar with through Twitter, Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, and they sounded awesome too; interesting tunes, cool sounds, and nice and supportive people to boot!  I made sure to grab one of their 45s!

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Then we took the left turn to head towards the middle.  First on that route was Phoenix, at Last Exit Live.  The building was kind of on the edge of town and the “green room” was an old airstream trailer; not a lot to look at on the outside.  But, sure enough, the inside was stylish and clean, and they had a fence that was hiding a big patio with nice tables and chairs everywhere.  Their sound system and staff was top notch (several of them from the well-known Recording Institute they have in Phoenix, where my friends Matt and Adam went), and the inside of the trailer was hip too!

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Our local connection there was the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and they tore it up!  Lots of energy, commitment to the Fela Kuti sound, and what looked like a community that was really into creative music; several of the audience members had just seen Kneebody in Phoenix the week before, after they played with Hardcoretet in Seattle, and they had listened to some of the Polyrhythmics before we got there and were really excited about us.

Around this time I was really becoming aware of how quickly I fell in love with all of the places we play.  I understand that I’m getting an unbalanced view, being somewhere one night, maybe two, and only encountering locals at the show, where obviously everyone is going to have similar personalities, but I can’t help but be fascinated with what it’s like living somewhere else and being immersed in music somewhere other than Seattle.  After all, I’ve never lived anywhere else.  It would be a long time before I ever moved – I have too many connections with friends, family, and musicians that would be too difficult to leave right now – but this tour in particular really got me thinking, and this is before the real kicker:  a week in New Orleans.

BUT FIRST:  An overnight detour to Telluride and a Lucky Brown reunion in Santa Fe!  All that and more in my next post.

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