The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘bebop’

Happy Bird’s Birthday!

Posted by keithosaunders on August 29, 2017

Today should be a holiday.  It is the birthday of one of the most important musicians of all time — Charlie Parker.  He was born on this date in 1920 which means had he lived, he would have been 97.  As it was he died at the tragically young age of 34.

He left us, however, with an ample discography, as well as this snippet of video footage of him playing live with Dizzy Gillespie.  They perform Tadd Dameron’s Hot House.

I would strongly recommend to anyone who has not heard of Charlie Parker, to Youtube him.  Your mind will be blown.

The New York radio station WKCR, as they do every year, is broadcasting a marathon Bird broadcast until tonight at midnight.  I highly recommend this.

https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/#

In this dismal age of dangerous politicians and natural disasters why not take a few minutes to explore the beauty that exists in this world.  Happy Charlie Parker day.

 

 

 

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It’s all music

Posted by keithosaunders on November 16, 2016

If you’ve never heard a live recording of bebop music when it was in its prime in the mid 40s then you’ve never really heard it.  There is an immediacy and an electricity about it that does not fully emerge in the studio recordings.  Don’t get me wrong; anything that Bird ever recorded is nothing short of outstanding, but to get the complete picture you must check him out live.

This is top of mind because as I write this I’m listening to a compilation of live radio broadcasts of Bird on a disc entitled, The Complete Live Performances.  The host of the broadcasts is the New York disc jockey,  Symphony Sid.   Sid had a hipster way of speaking (“Blow Bird, blow!“) which I’ve always gotten a kick out of.  It sounds to my ears, however, that he got under the skin of the musicians whom he revered.

On one of the tracks Sid says to Bird, “Can I get a few words about the sides you did with Machito? [In the late 40s Parker recorded The Afro Cuban Suite with Cuban percussionist, Machito]   It sounds like you’re trying to bring bop to a larger audience – make it more commercial.”   Bird responds in an affable, yet slightly condescending tone, “Well, if you say so, Sid, it’s all just music to me.”

Birds response – it’s all music – is revealing in that it implies that he was more interested in making great music than leading a bebop revolution.  The modern musicians of the 40s knew they were onto something special and that they had made breakthroughs, both harmonically and rhythmically.  We know that Bird was influenced by Lester Young and Art Tatum, but he also loved classical music and was influenced by Igor Stravinsky.  There were a myriad of influences that effected modern jazz music, among them the Cuban music that Bird had played with Machito, and later on his own Verve date.

I’ve always distrusted fellow musicians who blithely announce that they’re going to play a bebop song.  It’s a diminutive term – as if you’re choosing from categories on a menu. Sure, it is useful for describing a brief jazz epoch, but in the end, if you are going to become a jazz musician, you are going to have to grapple with the genius of Bird, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and all those that came before and after them.

It’s all music!

 

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Bud Powell: The greatest.

Posted by keithosaunders on February 24, 2016

I had an interesting conversation with a sax player at my gig last night.  He said that years ago he had gone to see Stan Getz and that between tunes Getz began talking about the great pianist, Bud Powell.  He asserted that a strong case could be made that Powell could be considered the most important jazz musician of all time.

Even I, who considers Powell my most important influence was slightly taken aback by this statement.  Charlie Parker looms as an enormous presence in jazz, and although we can’t equate the harmonic and rhythmic revolution that was bebop with one man, it is generally accepted that Bird, with his prodigious technique and dense harmonic lines was the prime catalyst.

The thing is that if you agree that Bud was every bit the harmonic equal of Bird, it becomes not so much a question of who played better, but who was the first to invent the language.  We may never know this but one thing Getz pointed out which I am in complete agreement on is that Bud wrote some of the most forward-thinking songs of all time.

Of course Bird wrote great songs as well, most of which we study and play to this day.  Yardbird Suite, Ornithology, Scrapple From the Apple are  the first three that come to mind but I could rattle off another two dozen if I had to.

While Bird’s songs defined and codified an era, Bud’s compositions looked towards the future.  Un Poco Loco was one of the first songs to combine Afro-Cuban rhythms with the new sound of bebop — its extended montuno solo section presaged modal music by a good ten years.  Dance of the Infidels is an altered 12 bar blues with a herky-jerky melody that somehow manages to appear fluid.  Check out its whole tone intro.  Bud wrote haunting ballads such as Dusk in Sandi, and his brilliant reworkings of standards such as Autumn in New York and Everything Happens to Me asserted an infectiously personal and passionate voice.

Bud Powell remains a giant among giants.

Dance of the Infidels

Dusk in Sandi

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A Baptist Beat

Posted by keithosaunders on August 15, 2015

I found a video of me playing with bassist, Dylan Johnson, at a house concert in San Luis Obispo.  I had forgotten that this was up there when I happened to stumble across it tonight.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  I’m playing a tune by one of the great unsung saxophone heroes of jazz — Hank Mobley!  It’s called A Baptist Beat. (don’t tell anybody I’m Jewish)

Hey!  Are you looking at my bald spot?!  What do you want from me I’m almost 55!

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Jazz sick days

Posted by keithosaunders on November 15, 2013

As I mentioned in my previous post the past two years has been a boom time for me. I keep waiting for the work to slow down but improbably it continues. It has been my credo to take most any gig offered – that is to say I will not turn down work merely to allow myself a day off. Of course a gig has to pay a minimum amount, but this being the jazz business if I told you what that amount was, suffice it to say you would be shocked. And not shocked in the way you would be if you learned what Johnny Depp pays his accountant. Let’s just say if I told you I’d probably have to kill you.

But the thing about being freelance is there are no sick days. I’ve played gigs with fevers colds, flus, and thrown backs. (Have you ever played a thrown-back gig? HAVE YOU?!) If you cancel the gig, which of course is the sensible thing to do, you’re not guaranteed that you will make up the salary down the line. On the other hand, if you employ warrior mentality and solider on, you could end up prolonging your illness.

This week I was sick with a bad cold and I ended up sitting the difference. After giving my students the option of canceling on Tuesday (which they declined) I ended up canceling my Wednesday night gig and a Thursday afternoon lesson, retaining my Thursday night gig which actually paid well. Now I feel fit as a fiddle for my weekend gigs. Just don’t hug me.

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Wives and lovers

Posted by keithosaunders on April 8, 2011

A few years ago I went into the studio with Bim Strasberg — one of my favorite bassists — to record a few tracks to be used largely for promotion.  We did them in an afternoon, and I was very happy with how they turned out.  It shows you how easy it is to connect with a musician that you are comfortable with, with whom you have played extensively.

Wives and Lovers is a song from the ’60s composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  It contains some of the most politically incorrect lyrics that you are likely to come across.  This song would be ideal for source music in the AMC series, Mad Men.  

Here is a sample:

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

And so it goes…lucky for us that we didn’t have a singer on the date, and that our wives don’t know this song.

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Group

Posted by keithosaunders on January 19, 2011

Here is a track from my trio CD, Lost In Queens.  I am very proud of date and think it is a good representation of my trio, which consists two of my all-time favorite musicians — Bim Strasberg on bass and Taro Okamoto on drums.

The Group

The CD is available here.

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