Reviews and Blog Posts: jazz

Faubourg Tremé the untold story of Black New Orleans

DPL Rating:
5

This is an informative and moving documentary. It accomplishes mixing the rich history of the Faubourg Treme with contemporary momentous footage. Created and narrated by a resident of Treme, the documentary outlines the neighborhood from its origin through the birth of civil rights and jazz and the devastation of Hurricane...

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

by Jamie Ford

DPL Rating:
5

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautifully told story of one of America's most shameful times in history. It's told from the point of view of Henry, a young Chinese boy in Seattle at the onset of WWII who befriends a Japanese classmate named Keiko. As...

Jazz poems

DPL Rating:
4

The collection kicks off with a quote from Louis Armstrong. When asked to define jazz he reportedly responded, "If you have to ask, you'll never know." The poets represented provide a taste; vamping, swinging, and sharing sounds of tributes to musicians and singers who did jazz. Each time I dip between the...

Celebrating National Hispanic American Month: Tito Puente -- Humanitarian and King of Latin Jazz

And when the heavens open I saw
Celia Cruz
I heard her say "Asucar turn this on."
Tito Puente's dressed in white
Playing timbales while the angels
Sing with Selena
Ay Mamma. Is you carnival shoes on.

                          --Wyclef Jean, "Selena"

As a depression-era child in New York's Spanish Harlem, Ernesto Antonio (Tito) Puente enjoyed banging on pots and pans so much that the neighbors convinced his parents to give him music lessons.

His Puerto Rican immigrant parents obliged, with lessons for piano, percussion, saxophone, vibraphone and timbales, and Tito became a professional musician at 13. Following an apprenticeship in the Machito Orchestra, he served in the Navy during World War II.  

Our Dancing Daughters: Hollywood's Zenith of the Jazz Era

Joan Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters. Photo: Glamamor.com

A film considered the great apex of the silent film era, Our Dancing Daughters is a perfect time capsule of 1920s high society and a showcase for the young woman formerly known as Lucille Le Sueur -- Joan Crawford.

She rose to fame as the quintessential Jazz Baby -- a woman of social means and relaxed morals who was liberated of the corsets and sexual mores of the previous age. And Joan Crawford was embraced by American and international film fans as the ideal movie star. She remained a box office favorite until the late 1940s and never stopped being a star until her death in 1977.

To Erhu is human, to hear it -- divine

Erhu

The erhu, a two-stringed instrument which is evocative of China, is being used in contemporary recordings of pop and underground dance music. 

For a one-thousand-year-old instrument, the erhu is holding up pretty well in modern times. It has been featured in contemporary film scores (House of Flying Daggers) and utilized by rock and pop musicians for it's unmistakable sound. 

Free Magic

You're welcome to interpret that as the library giving out some, but it's also the title of the newest creation by Medeski Martin & Wood. Comprised of a collection of recordings from their all-acoustic tour in 2007, it manages to simultaneously surprise and maintain a level of consistency that fans expect.

MMW has been around since 1991 and, like most jazz groups, has a complex history deeply intertwined in collaboration with other musicians. Members John Medeski--piano and keyboard, Billy Martin--drums, and Chris Wood--bass, have each dabbled in many projects over the years individually, and together combine a host of talents and backgrounds. Speaking of jazz, you can think of MMW as that, but such a wide variety of other genres go into it that maybe the most accurate moniker would be experimento-jazz-funk-jam-band.

Turn up the (upright) bass

Avishai Cohen - photo copyright Petra Cvelbar, Jazz Festival Ljubljana, 2009

From old jazz classics to modern marvels of musical fusion, the upright bass enriches the sound that reaches your ears. Bass makes up part of the backbone of an ensemble, along with the drums, but it's capable of so much more as a solo instrument. I love music in which the upright bass, with its unique and velvety resonance, pops out and takes center stage.

The story starts with the classics. Charles Mingus (1922-1979), the old school king of walking bass, played upbeat, funky jazz grooves at a pace that could only have been achieved by a master. His music can still make the drive home in heavy traffic somehow enjoyable, as if those busily bustling rhythms somehow match life in the big city and make it better.

Amy Winehouse Joins the 27 Club

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse died in London over the weekend at the age of 27. She tragically joins the ranks of many notable musicians that passed away at this young age. Winehouse's albums include Back to Black and Frank.

More Famous Musicians Dead at 27

Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month

Bird movie poster

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Celebrate with one of these great films that feature great soundtracks and amazing performances.

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