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Miles Davis

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at SF Jazz. With Bill Cantos on piano, Hussain Jiffry on bass, and the ubiquitous Michael Shapiro on drums, they were the world class backing band I had expected. Funky, with a mastery of all idioms and a particular flair for Bossa Nova. Musicians (including Miles Davis,) have long known that Mr. Alpert is far hipper than his original Tijuana Brass pop hits would indicate. Even as a young musician 40 years ago, I recognized there was something in his tone and phrasing that was unique and timeless. His 1979 hit Rise preshadows Miles' TuTu. Sunday's show was long on standards, a brief medley of all the hits (I was hoping for all of Rise, but it was a 30 second or so interlude) and memorable duets with Lani Hall, who in power and tone reminded me of Streisand. A Cole Porter medley went from Herb playing Begin the Beguine, to a duet with Lani on I've Got You (Under My Skin). Musician, painter, businessman, philanthropist, at 83 Alpert and Hall seem many years younger, and still very much in love. Perhaps the reason he is so hip, is that he plays exactly what he wants, without trying to be avant. He loves the American Song Book, and has a unique way of re-stating and phrasing a well known melody. Nice work if you can get it...
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
I've been hearing so much fabulous music this last week that I haven't had time to write about it. Last week the Joshua Redman Trio played SF Jazz. Over the last few years Joshua has grown into the leading tenor of his generation. The son of the late great Dewey Redman, Joshua was originally ambivalent (as was understandably Ravi Coltrane) about pursuing a career in music. A late bloomer, he has more than made up for lost time. Now that I think about it, he made a great leap forward when his first child was born. With Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, the trio format allows for maximum freedom, but also perhaps maximum challenges. Opening with Surrey With The Fringe On Top, from Oklahoma! a tune first covered in the jazz world by Miles Davis, and later Sonny Rollins, they made the old and familiar new. Ending the tune with a long funk vamp that only someone of his generation or younger would think of, Joshua succeeds in being both accessible, and modern. Alternating between angular originals, and standards like Never Let Me Go, and Mack the Knife, the Trio explores all ranges and dynamics of the music. Check out their new live recording - they are riveting. A lover of all kinds of music, he was sitting next to me last year at a Takacs Quartet recital of Bartok. More on Takacs later!

What an amazing couple of weeks for music in the Bay Area.  Last night the Wayne Shorter Quartet opened a four night residency at SF Jazz.  I often write about the inter-connectedness of music and musicians, and lineage.  I am so fortunate to know and play with musicians who have played with Charlie Parker (Eddie Duran), Miles Davis and Santana (Benny Rietveld) and John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter (Kai Eckhardt).  Wayne Shorter has been at the forefront of improvised music for over 50 years.  From Art Blakey, to Miles Davis (the "Second Great Quintet") to founding Weather Report, to studio work with Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, to a solo career that started in the fifties and has now returned him to the Blue Note label - each one of these credits would be a life's work for any musician.  His current quartet, with Brian Blade, John Petitucci and Danilo Perez, has been together for 14 years, and fittingly for the composer of E.S.P., they have a telepathic level of communication.  As with his time with Miles (Herbie called it "controlled freedom") and Weather Report, a motif might signal a move to a different part of the composition, leaving perhaps 90% or so of the music improvised.  Patitucci and Blade have monster grooves - not only poly-rhythmic but multi-cultural.  Bossa funk bebop. Straight ahead salsa.  Shorter has always had an oblique, zen understatement to his playing and writing, and Perez and Patitucci and Blade have mastered his language, and propel him to great heights.  Randall Klein is correct that this is the finest working group in jazz, and Wayne is it's supreme living master.  To be fresh and challenging at the edge of the music, at age 80, is a unique and beautiful accomplishment.        

Wednesday October 30 the great Mariza played at Zellerbach Auditorium.  I have seen her many times over the years since she first played the Henry Kaiser Auditorium as part of SF Jazz.  And I saw her in March in the intimate Robert N. Miner Auditorium.  In truth, I was considering not attending this show just because I had seen her very recently.  But Mariza is one of a hanful of artists, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Ravi Shankar, Paco de Lucia, Vicente Amigo, that I will literally see as often as I can, indeed every night, if I could.  And my response at her first notes are always the same - I weep.  Yes, she is very beautiful, and dramatic, and has the stage presence of Sinatra.  But it is the voice, the emotion, that always overcomes me.  Truly universal, and completely fado.  With Jose Neto on guitarra, Pedro Joia on guitar, Nando Araujo on bass guitar, and Vicky Marques (a boy) on drums, the arrangements vary from a capella to the orchestral.  Even American and Brazillian pop tunes become true fado in her hands.  She teaches the audience some Portuguese to sing along with her.  Before the encores, she walks through the audience singing, and then sings off mic.  I have some sephardic Spanish and Portuguese blood.  Is that why she affects me so?     

Last Thursday the one and only Ahmad Jamal played Davies Symphony Hall as part of SF Jazz.  Long acknowledged by Miles Davis as a major influence, he is one of the most influential musicians in the history of the music.  His sense of space and touch and dynamics are breath-taking.  And his long montunos, often at the begining and end of tunes, I believe forshadows modal jazz.  With Herlin Riley on drums, Reginald Veal on bass, and former Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena, the quartet achieves a telepathic level of rapport.  Invitation and Blue Moon were wonderfully re-worked, as was In Your Own Sweet Way, perhaps a nod to the Bay Area's own Dave Brubeck.  Almost all improvising musicians are adept at covering mistakes, or turning them into happy accidents.  With Ahmad there is no need - even at the age of 82, every note, every phrase, is perfect.  He walked out on stage to a standing ovation, and received several more for each encore.  The last piece, of course, being Poinciana.  Still fresh, still inspiring, still mysterious. 

As my dear late friend Butch Morris remarked, "As long as I'm a black man playing a cornet, I'll be a jazz musician in other people's eyes.  That's good enough for me.  There's nothing wrong with being called a jazz musician".  Amen.  In the history of Afro-American improvised music, most of the greats have stressed that they don't play jazz, they play Louis Armstrong, or Duke Ellington, or Miles Davis music.  "Call it whatever you want". as Miles said pithily after his performance at The Isle of Wight.  Cecil Taylor was denied a birthday celebration at Jazz at Lincoln Center years ago for having the temerity to say he didn't play jazz, he played Cecil Taylor music.  Readers of my blogs know how impressed I am by Christian Scott.  Young, angry, brilliant, the New Orleans trumpeter is the real deal, and the true successor to Miles.  Incorporating everything he hears, and not afraid to go outside and beyond the "tradition", including rock, hip hop, and classical music.  In his latest recording, the self-titled Christian Atunde Adjuah, there is a lengthy and brilliant essay "Letter to a Future Artist".  His main point being that "you can descibe me as a jazz musician, just don't define me as one.  Definitions being limited, and truly creative music of the time will transcend definition.  I think Butch would second that sentiment, and I imagine he would like Christian's directions in music.  The recording is a must have, and a must read.

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