Sunday 22 May 2011
Teeing off the Stonnington Jazz Festival’s run of shows at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran, legendary Australian drummer Allan Browne was joined by the members of both his quintet and trio for a “program of musical portraits and poems”. Quite what to expect was somewhat a mystery, but the audience’s questions were answered as Browne settled in, sharing anecdotes of his days playing with jazz legends including Teddy Wilson and Milt Jackson before setting off on some fantastic musical performances. Browne read snippets of poetry between songs too, often accompanied by one of his musicians, making for laconic Australian spoken word.
The first set was blistering, with one ten-minute jam beginning its life as a 1920s New Orleans rag before melding seamlessly into a slice of Charlie Parker-esque bebop, then finishing with a soul jazz swirl.
Guitarist Geoff Hughes was versatile throughout, equal parts George Benson and Lee Underwood, Tim Buckley’s long-time collaborator. His moody playing helped set the tone for the sadder tales Browne shared throughout the show. Continue reading
I am not entirely clear of when I first got into jazz. And yes, this will be one of those retrospective essays where the writer always knows where they are heading, but pretends to discover gems along the way, walking blindly towards an obvious outcome. Yes, indeed.
In all honesty, it wasn’t until writing this down that I remembered the first story about myself and jazz. I was back at school, during assembly, and a friend of mine played a song on piano entitled something titular like Jazz for Teens or Jazz Hearts Start Young– something stupid. I remember thinking it sounded awful.
And that was my earliest memory of live jazz. Not a great one, but it sparked a series of moments that formed my early understanding of the genre, as follows:
1. Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons
Lisa is at a venue called the Jazz Hole. She is in the crowd watching an electrical violinist on stage.
Guy: [Unimpressed] Hmph, sounds like she’s hitting a baby with a cat.
Lisa: You have to listen to the notes she’s NOT playing.
Guy: [Still unimpressed] Pssh, I can do that at home. Continue reading
Pianist Horace Silver was born in Connecticut in 1928. His father was from Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa, and as such the young Silver grew up speaking Portuguese fluently- a fact he kept quiet from his colleagues for the first two decades of his career.
After moving to New York in 1951 he worked at the famous jazz club Birdland on Broadway, played piano for such luminaries as Miles Davis and Coleman Hawkins, and formed the soon-to-be-successful Jazz Messengers with drummer Art Blakey.
In 1956 after several years with the Messengers, Silver released his first recording under his own band name, ‘Six Pieces of Silver’. Issued by Blue Note, ‘Six Pieces’ features four-fifths of that era’s Jazz Messengers line-up – 19 year old Louis Hayes replaces Art Blakey on drums (if Louis Hayes sounds familiar, this may jog your memory), while trumpeter Donald Byrd teams up with tenor man Hank Mobley and bass player Doug Watkins on a solid offering of straight-up hard bop. Continue reading
Here is Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, one of the great alto sax players, jamming out with his band on British television in the early 1960s. Adderley was born in Florida in 1928 but relocated to New York in the 1950s, playing in bands with his cornetist brother Nate before being called up for seminal jazz albums ‘Milestones’ and ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis. ‘Somethin’ Else’, released by Adderley in 1958, also features Art Blakey and Miles himself, and is an essential album for anyone interested in the hard bop era.
Take note of Cannonball’s facial expression as he solos, and the incredible drumming by Louis Hayes from 1:42 on, especially at around 4:00 as he switches between his snare and tom-tom.