Amoeblog

The roots of jazz -- cakewalk -- Amoeba's Jazz Week

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 21, 2009 08:00am | Post a Comment
A performative, competitive dance known as the chalk line walk first appeared around the 1850s on the plantations along the Gulf Coast. Its origins lay in the African-derived dance known as the bamboula -- also the name of a drum -- and it was performed in New Orleans, where on Sundays slaves were allowed to congregate. In their limited freedom, they not only danced the bamboula, but also dances like the pile, chactas and the carabine in Congo Square and at their masters' homes. Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a local creole composer was inspired by the dances and wrote "Bamboula, dance des nègres, Op.2" in 1848. By the 1850s, the bamboula's popularity had spread to Florida, where it possibly mixed with the dance traditions of the Seminole. It eventually developed into the cakewalk, which quickly became popular throughout the Gulf Coast. 

congo square

Whereas the minstrelsy craze of the 1840s-1860s was the first major cross-racial American musical exchange, cakewalk's heyday from the 1850s-1890s was probably the second and importantly, a reversal. Minstrelsy was a product of white musicans seeking to simultaneuosly imitate and mock black customs, but cakewalks were initially produced by black performers imitating and mocking whites. Thus began a long history of back and forth musical and cultural dialogues that have been behind nearly every significant innovation in American music.

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Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue

Posted by Whitmore, August 17, 2009 11:27pm | Post a Comment

So I use to run this illegal bar, a speakeasy, and the specialty of the house was your traditional Vodka or Gin martini -- straight up, a couple of olives or a tiny pickled onion or a sliver of a lemon peel, no frills but a damn, damn good martini and never, ever a frigging apple pomegranate fusion monstrosity.
 
(H. L. Mencken once said the martini was "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet," and I’d like to keep it that way. And since I’m on the subject... a martini should be stirred not shaken. Sorry Mr. Bond, but all you are ordering up is some weakass drink, watered down by melting shards of ice. Once and for all, a martini should be stirred, never shaken and served in a painfully cold glass.)
 
Anyway, the best part of the night was always after hours, around 4 or 4:30 in the morning. At that hour it was always quiet, I was relaxed, the patrons were relaxed, folks just sat around -- the trouble of the day or week was behind them, the stress of trying to get laid had more or less strayed, at least momentarily, though sex springs eternal and with the new dawn you knew at least one fresh scheme would soon ascend, prospectively. The soul, body and mind, conceivably worn to the bone, inevitably found a re-energized oomph in a good drunken conversation over one last martini. I loved the pretension almost as much as I loved that time of the day. And the perfect music to play at that hour was always, always Miles DavisKind of Blue.
 
Well, 50 years ago today, August 17, 1959, Kind of Blue was released on Columbia Records, in both mono and stereo, catalogue number CL-1355. The recording sessions took place earlier in the year in New York City, on March 2 and April 22, and featured soon to be legends all: Miles Davis on trumpet, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, and John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on saxophones, with drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers.
 
So cool, so beautiful, so perfect, contemplative, sleek and sophisticated. Kind of Blue soars into uncharted space; five decades ago it stretched the boundaries and the very definition of jazz. Davis’, along with arranger Gil Evans’ modal experimentations abandoned the traditional song concept of chord changes to support a melody in favor of musical scales, re-inventing improvisation and a sound that would dominate the form of jazz for rest of the century. And though exact numbers have never quite been formulated, Kind of Blue has been cited as the best-selling jazz record of all time. On October 7, 2008, it was certified quadruple platinum. But beyond numbers, Kind of Blue is regarded by many critics as the greatest jazz album of all time and Miles Davis's masterpiece.


(In which... POOF!)

Posted by Job O Brother, August 17, 2009 12:41pm | Post a Comment

I realize that I, all too often, leave you feeling jealous and unfulfilled after reading my blogs. You learn about my glamorous, jet-set, Hollywood lifestyle and come away asking yourself:

“Why can’t my life be more like Job’s?”

“How come the Gyllenhaals always attend his Scrabble night, but never mine?”

“What’s that claw-like black thing headed towards my face?”


IT’S A MONKEY’S PAW AND IT’S CURSED SO
DUCK!!!


Phew! Well, now that I’ve saved your life from an eternal damnation of sorts, maybe now you’ll be a little forgiving that I once again have a story of rad proportions to share with you.

One of my fellow Amoebites* – we’ll call him Erik Estrada from the TV show Chips in order to protect his identity – is currently a pupil at the world-famous Magic Castle, located in the heart of Hollywood.

haunted
Ta-dah!

For those of you who’ve never heard of the Magic Castle, here’s a brief history lesson. (If you already know this material, feel free to skip ahead to the part where Courtney Love threatens to slit my throat open with a ventriloquist dummy.)

LEGENDARY JAZZ DRUMMER RASHIED ALI PASSES

Posted by Billyjam, August 13, 2009 08:53am | Post a Comment
Rashied Ali
According to several sources, including citizenjazz.com, legendary jazz drummer Rashied Ali, who was one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time, died yesterday at age 74. The cause of Ali's death has not yet been announced, but the artist, who did some great recordings with John Coltrane, had been active in his craft up until recently, playing with his own group, the Rashied Ali Quintet. A few years ago they recorded the double CD Judgment Day.

As well as working with Coltrane, the drummer had also recorded or performed with such artists as Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Arthur Rhames and James Blood Ulmer. As jazz legend has it, Ali was supposed to be the second drumme on John Coltrane’s 1965 landmark free jazz album Ascension in tandem with drummer Elvin Jones, but at the last minute he dropped out. Coltrane decided to scrap the two drummer scenario and proceeded to record with just Jones on percussion.  meditations coltrane

Soon after, however, Ali began to record with Coltrane. Along with Pharoah Sanders, he is a featured artist on the avant garde Coltrane album Meditations. Ali's other Coltrane collaborations included Interstellar Space in 1967 and The Olatunji Concert -- one of Coltrane's later recordings. 

A few decades ago he ran the club Ali's Alley in New York. He also worked outside of jazz music from time to time, forming the Purple Trap project with Japanese experimental guitarist Keiji Haino and jazz-fusion bassist Bill Laswell. Additionally, he made contributions to experimental, multi-media performances with such groups as The Gift of Eagle Orchestra and Cosmic Legends, and was part of a special tribute to John Cage in Central Park. Below is a video of the late drummer along with Don Cherry (pocket trumpet) and James Blood Ulmer (guitar) in concert along with voiceover commentary on the three great improv jazz artists.

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Remembering Lenny Breau

Posted by Whitmore, August 12, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

As far as I am concerned, Lenny Breau is arguably the greatest guitarist that ever strummed a chord on this goddamned sweet earth, and yet outside the guitar playing world his name remains virtually unknown. Several years ago I was gigging in Vancouver B.C., Canada and someone asked me who were my favorite guitarists. I mentioned Lenny Breau. I obviously answered correctly; for the next couple of days I had my pick of booze and food aplenty. Though Breau was born in Auburn, Maine, in 1941, he was raised in Canada. His family settled in Manitoba in 1957 and he always remained very connected to his adopted home country. His parents, Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody, were country & western performers active as both a touring and a recording act from the mid 1940's into the late 1950's. Breau’s first professional gigs were with the family act until he was about 15 or 16, when one night his father slapped him on stage for improvising.
 
Lenny Breau's phenomenal technique was a combination of his close study of his idol Chet Atkins, adapting Atkins' picking style of playing bass lines with a thumb pick and with his other fingers adding melody lines -- he was able to sound like two guitarists playing simultaneously -- and his harmonic sensibilities, predominantly influenced by legendary pianist Bill Evans. Along with significant classical, modal, and flamenco elements, not to mention his extraordinary right hand independence and his unique use of artificial harmonics, no one sounded like Lenny Breau.
 
25 years ago today, Aug. 12, 1984, Lenny Breau was found dead in the rooftop swimming pool of his apartment building in Los Angeles. He was 43 years old. During his lifetime Lenny Breau had a long struggle with drugs, especially with heroin, amphetamines and alcohol, something left over from his days on the Toronto jazz scene, but at the time of his death Breau had reportedly managed to take some control of his addictions. On that Sunday, his wife, Jewel Breau, an occasional singer born Joanne Glasscock, claimed that he had accidentally drowned, but an autopsy determined that he had actually been strangled and then dumped in the pool. The Los Angeles Police Department never had enough evidence to bring charges against her or anyone else, but in a 1999 Canadian documentary, The Genius Of Lenny Breau, directed by Breau’s daughter Emily Hughes, Detective Richard Aldahl states that Jewel Breau was the prime suspect. Jewel Breau, now remarried as Jewel Flowers, was never charged in the homicide because detectives thought that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office couldn’t build a strong enough case to bring her to trial. Ironically, it was Chet Atkins who introduced Lenny Breau to Jewel. Breau's murder remains unsolved.
 
Lenny Breau was buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Funeral expenses were covered by a memorial benefit at Nashville's Blue Bird Café.



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