Clark Terry was welcome everywhere and I don’t think that will have changed now. The only difference, perhaps, is that the limits will be gone. Just to think of him is still to more than smile. To think of him in passing is to stop passing and to enter a an intermission of the heart. Updoc did an almost all Clark Terry show not too long back, and now that he has moved on to other venues at the age of 94, the show reprises some of that and adds a few new tunes, Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, New York City Mumbletime. And then? Well, there was an article about the British composer Thomas Adès in the Times, his general stunningness and his influence on contemporary musicians of all kinds, so the show reprises what is evidently his signature work, his symphony in all but name, Asyla, and chases it with one song from mandolin wiz Chris Thile’s band The Punch Brotherss and one from Gabriel Kahane. This was to have been a longer segment of tribute and emulation, but CT’s departure intervened. In compensation there’s a song composed and sung by Joanna Wallfisch from her forthcoming CD The Origin of Adjustable Things. It stunned me with its intelligence and intimacy when I heard it on Bob Rogers’ show last week and it may well stun you now. The world just keeps on blossoming with fresh new work, doesn’t it, even before the rites of spring have begun to stir. While it’s still cold out, Updoc shivers to a finish with Jean Sibelius’ symphony in all but name, The Lemminkainen Suite (Four Legends from the Kalevala): our hero romps with the maidens of Saari, descends into the underworld, then joyoussly returns to hear Clark Terry and the Duke Ellington Orchestra puckishly lead the mortals up and down, up and down, in a dream of summer immune to mortal chill.
I’ll try to break it to you gently, but if you want to hear my impression of the dovecall of the European wood-pigeon you’ll have to wait until the end of the show—8-10PM Friday and noon to 2PM next Tuesday, NYC urban pigeon time—when I perform it, possibly in too low a key, in reference to the climactic theme of Sibelius’ 3rd Symphony, which in my opinion he lifted from a local Finnish specimen, without attribution. At least the Canadian TV Western, Bordertown, that lifted the opening theme from that same Sibelius symphony and orchestrated it in a manner suggesting Mike Post in his Rockford period had the good grace to say so in the credits. All three versions will be on offer toward the end on the show, which opens with the music of the late and well-loved Butch Morris. I’ve seen other musicians—Roscoe Mitchell and Karl Berger for two—lead large improvising ensembles in a manner approaching Morris’ ‘conduction’, but no one employed it as extensively or for that matter as internationally as he, shaping music out of the air of the moment with a highly cultivated vocabulary of gestures, with or without previously composed material offered into the whirlwind: a music that could play fast and loose even when it was slow and brooding. The show starts off with The Long Goodbye, not the John Williams tune wittily deployed in the Altman movie of that name, but Morris’ own memorial piece for pianist Don Pullen, and after some torch ballads, one of them featuring a Frank Sinatra at once definitive and phony, Butch Morris music resumes with his three-movement Conduction #31. After that you can sing along with Cecil Taylor and Max Roach until Sibelius skiis into the border town all the world’s music lives in, and sampled for you here.
It is, it isn’t, it is, it’s not. Well, if it’s not another Lee Konitz show, how come there’s so much Lee Konitx in it—at 8PM Friday and noon next Tuesday, Greenwich Village time—can you tell me that? Well, things sort of fell out that way because there were a couple of Konitz tracks I didn’t get to on last week’s real Lee Konitz show and I wanted to catch up. But then Konitz’s . . . um . . . aesthetic indeterminacy kicked off a number of associations and suggested interesting contrasts and—yes, okay, aesthetic whateveracy I said is probably not the ideal phease. I read an interview the other day in which Konitz said that he likes to come to a gig ready but not prepared—which is pretty much how I do this show—so why wouldn’t I go from Konitz the Saxophonitz on a ballad to the piercing music of Himalayan and Ladakhi double reeds? Natural high-mountain music, a world in which the veil of air is thin and the next world is just a breath away, whether via vision or a misstep on the scree. Besides, this music comes courtesy of my colleague Brian Cullman, who is curating the immense catalogue of David Lewiston’s extraordinary recordings of music from almost everywhere, and once we’ve travelled that far among the reeds, why not Akagündüz Kutbay, Djivan Gasparyan, Ornette Coleman visiting Joujouka, Paul Desmond, Iqbal Jogi, Julius Hemphill, Anthony Braxton, Branford Whatsisname, but how come I left out Bismillah Khan and what is Dutilleux’s 1st Symphony doing there? We’re lost in the stars. Big stars, little stars. Whisper not. Or whisper. Come as you are.
The first time I met Lee Konitz, maybe fifteen years ago, I gave him a copy of The Bear Comes Home, thinking he might enjoy it. It turned out that his wife had bought him a copy earlier that day, so now he had two copies. When I chatted with him after the Charlie Haden memorial concert a couple of weeks ago, I was unsurprised to learn that he’d lost track of both copies and had never got around reading it anyway. He’s an elusive guy, and I never expected the books to stick to him, since, like, what does? Licks don’t, expectations don’t, preconception lacks all grip, and the mercury of the moment is more mercurial still when he’s a part of it. But talking with him about his Blues for Bird, 1965, got me started, and I’d been meaning to get his album The Lee Konitz Duets onto the show for some time, so here it is, some of it. If you really listen, you won’t be thinking autonomically about ‘cool’ and ‘cerebral’ when you’re done; but even so, I felt like providing some radical expressive contrast and found it in an anthology of Gypsy/Tzigane/Romany music from all over, and tossed in some Japanese post-modern partly Konitzian ‘jazz’ from Naruyoshi Kikuchi, whom I hadn’t heard of until Kip Hanrahan’s show the other week, and then the searingly authentic passion of Julius Hemphill. After that a wholly contemporary violin concerto from the French composer Pascal Dusapin, another piano onslaught from Marilyn Crispell & Co., Henri Dutilleux in short, Konitz helping Birth the Cool and the opening licks, again, of Blues for Bird, the show too long, aesthetically unsettled but essentially itself, as inspired by an inimitable altoist of extraordinary distinction and loser of books, whatsisname, I forget.
Opening theme: Art Ensemble of Chicago, Nice Guys: Nice Guys
Roland Kirk: I’ve Got Your Number: “Rahsaan” The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk
Charles Mingus: Eccusiastics: Passions of a Man
Roland Kirk: Rip, Rig and Panic (title tune)
Roland Kirk: A Quote from Clifford Brown: I Talk With the Spritis
Roland Kirk: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square: “Rahsaan” The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk
Jean Sibelius/Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vânska: Symphony No. 4: Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Lee Konitz: Blues for Bird: Charlie Parker Memorial Concert
Uri Caine: Raindrop Prelude: Callithump
Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Ithaca (title tune)
Ra-Kalam Bob Moses/David Liebman: Prayer Song (From the Great Hall): Music from a Parallel Dimension
Matana Roberts: Was the Sacred Day: Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile
Out theme: Uri Caine: Two Blue Eyes: The Drummer Boy
Without a doubt, the carnivalesque aspects of Roland Kirk’s presentation—playing two or three horns simultaneously, singing through his flute while sometimes accompanying himself on nose flute, punctuating the end of a solo with his siren, and not incidentally his blindness—had a lot to do with his popularity when he hit the scene in the 1960s, but he wouldn’t have lasted if he hadn’t been such a great and fearless example of a jazz musician who dared all limits down and could blow the bell off any of his horns even when he played them one at a time. I used to see him at the Five Spot when he rotated long gigs with Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins in his pre-Rahsaan days, before he changed his wildly original but still fairly straight jazz idiom into something more theatrical still, and I found programming about 45 minutes of this music on this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Five Spot time—a bout of pure listening pleasure. The pace changes with Sibelius’ 4th Symphony. I’ve been programming the wintry music of Allan Petterson lately, and it seemed time to head for the season’s frozen heart, this time in Osmo Vänskä’s re-recording of it with the Minnesota Orchestra: having done it definitively, once, with the Lahti Orch, he tried to give it something extra this time, and he succeeded. I know the piece well, and seem to be hearing passages that had never crossed my ears before. Updoc chases it with the stunning Lee Konitz Blues for Bird I couldn’t get hold of last week, and chases that with music from Uri Caine, Marilyn Crispell in virtuoso thunder-mode, free improv from Dave Liebman and Bob Moses, and goes to church for a minute with a pentecostal Matana Roberts. The first time I played drums in front of an audience was opposite Roland Kirk’s quartet on a Monday ‘talent night’ at the Village Vanguard, and I remember the noise getting a lot more joyful when he joined us at the end. The tune was Well, You Needn’t, but I was oh so glad we did.
Opening theme: Art Ensemble of Chicago, The Ninth Room, Tutankhamun
Dizzy Gillespie: The Cup Bearers; Something Old, Something New
Charlie Haden/Kenny Barron: Body and Soul; Night and the City
Freddie Hubbard: Take it to the Ozone; Super Blue
Kenny Barron/Dave Holland: In Your Arms; The Art of Conversation
Kenny Barron: One Finger Snap; Wanton Spirit
Charlie Haden Quartet West/Shirley Horn: Lonely Town; The Art of the Song
Allan Pettersson/Nörkopping Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam; Symphony No. 8
Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor/Elvin Jones: Nine; Momentum Space
Elvin Jones: Anthropology; Dear John C.
The New Elvin Jones Trio: Village Greene: Puttin’ it Together
Out theme: Louis Hayes: Village Greene: Return of the Jazz Communicators
Opening theme: Art Ensemble of Chicago – Nice Guys (title tune)
Duke Elllington – Toot Suite – Ellington Jazz Party
Allan Pettersson/Nörkopping Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam – Symphony no. 7 (title tune)
John Coltrane – Sun Ship (multiple takes) – Sun Ship
Claude Debussy/Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez/Franklin Cohen – Clarinet Rhapsodie – La Mer
Bobby Lapointe – La Framboise – Tirez sur le Pianiste
Duke Ellington – A Tone Parallel to Harlem – Ellington Uptown
Out theme: Charlie Haden – Wayfaring Stranger – The Art of the Song
Time flies when you’re having fun. At the party after the great Charlie Haden memorial concert I found myself telling Lee Konitz about the unaccompanied alto solo he’d played at a star-studded Charlie Parker memorial comcert—Gillespie, Stitt, JJ, a tragic Bud Powell very near the end—at Carnegie Hall in 1965. It was the knockout piece that night and I remembered it well enough to sort of sing the opening. Konitz didn’t recall it, but was struck that I was telling him about a solo he’d played fifty years ago, and that is pretty strange. I wish I had a copy I could play on the show; it was on an LP once. Anyone out there have one? Kenny Barron played at the Haden concert too, and I remembered first hearing him in 1963 with Dizzy Gillespie’s classic band of the period, not yet 20 years old and right up there with Dizzy and James Moody. I was underage at Birdland myself and have got a digital copy of some of that, which leads off this week’s show—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Carnegie Hall Tardis time—and a long Kenny Barron set. He is something like the Tommy Flanagan de nos jours, invincibly brilliant no matter the setting, a paragon of invention and a summitry of taste. That decants us into Allan Petterson’s 8th Symphony, following last week’s 7th: another obsessive troll through layers of light and dark, accompanied by the sound of a distant hammer. Elvin Jones to the rescue with his skyful of thunder and blaze, a wealth of invention overstorming Cecil Taylor, a trio, and a bebopping quartet. Check out Kenny Barron, though, back in ’63, taking his solo after Gillespie and Moody, showing off his incredible chops without seeming to, unassumingly brilliant and sly. Some things never get old, only better, and Kenny Barron is one of them for sure.
I’ve been trying to remember my first turning toward music in infancy, perhaps as pure delight in the chiming of sound, and then later for different degrees of enchantment or excitement, for news about life I couldn’t find anywhere else, for intimations of the real scope of existence and news of something Greater. Later still, when hearing something new, there’s also a sense of a reality check: does this music stand up to experience, does its coin ring true on the counter of all you’ve lived? Duke Ellington’s music stands up, rings true, holds up, sets sail, takes wing, gives heart, wakes body, stirs soul, raises spirit, rears up and shouts out in the face of any question you might ask it, and although last week’s show was largely Dukish I couldn’t resist playing some more of him this time—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Ellington Uptown time—starting with Toot Suite from last week’s record Ellington Jazz Party. It’s not one of his greatest compositions—its French-punning title implies that he knocked it off in a rush—but the entire wealth and richness of his art stands tall in it anyway: a matter for a politique des auteurs, perhaps. The Ellington shout is succeeded by the wintry chill of Allan Pettersson’s 7th Symphony, a deep-delved work through light and dark, powerfully performed; then comes John Coltrane’s rocketed affirmation in several takes of Sun Ship, after which the times required something French, and got the delicacy of Debussy and the Charlie-like rudeness of Bobby Lapointe in counterpointe. Updoc has aired Duke’s Tone Parallel to Harlem before, but this seemed like another time for its clarion call across the lifescape, and that wraps it up except for another farewell throb from Charlie not Hebdo but Haden, whose memorial concert in New York this week made clear how much of us has gone with him, and how much of him has stayed with us.