Brad Mehldau - Paranoid Android


After attending an intimate concert by the Brad Mehldau Trio at LantarenVenster last Tuesday (March 7th), I thought it was time for another post about this great, innovative pianist and composer.

They started the concert with a ‘Hey Joe’ cover: not my personal favorite, but a great way for the not-so-trained-jazz listener to discover what makes a well known piece ‘jazz’.

Brad Mehldau is known for turning popular tunes into jazz, as you can also hear in today’s song ‘Paranoid Andriod' (Radiohead) from 'Largo’: recorded in 2001 and the first record of Mehldau that departs from either the piano trio or solo format.

Brad Mehldau - Largo

Mehldau says on his site: “I heard a lot of terrific singer-songwriters there for the first time – people like Rufus Wainright, Fiona Apple, Elliot Smith and Aimee Mann. I got re-introduced to how beautiful a good pop song can be through hearing them. Its depth is more about pairing something down, chiseling it into a strong, succinct statement – very different than jazz, which for me is often about going out on a limb and staying there.”

Brad Mehldau - Piano
Larry Grenadier - Bass
Matt Chamberlain - Drums
Victor Indrizzo - Percussion
Jon Brion  - Guitar, Guitar Synth, Piano Percussion

'Lost', by Wayne Shorter

Things were happening big time for Shorter in early 1965, when ’The Soothsayer was recorded. After five years with drummer and band leader Art Blakey as musician, composer and, finally, musical director, the saxophonist had recently joined trumpeter Miles Davis’ second great quintet. With Davis, Shorter would record six studio albums over the next three years (the first, E.S.P., 1965, was recorded two months before ’The Soothsayer’) plus a further four under his own name.

 ’The Soothsayer' was initially shelved to make way for the release of the more adventurous 'The All Seeing Eye’, and when Shorter left Davis and joined Weather Report, this beautiful albumtemporarily, was overtaken by events. It was finally released in 1979, which is hard to believe because it ranks with the best of his works from this incredibly fertile period.

Wayne Shorter - The Soothsayer

His unique sense of melody in the modal style of the 60’s is very evident in today’s song ‘Lost’, featuring expressive solo interludes that glide over a gorgeous floating waltz. 

Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
James Spaulding - Alto Saxophone
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums 

jazzpages’ Christmas menu

With all due respect, these recommendations will not be Christmas standards played in a ‘jazzy fashion’. These are some jazz records that require ‘less intense listening’, so you can put them on during a dinner with friends and/or family and still have that ‘jazz atmosphere’.

jazzpages' Christmas Cover

Unfortunately, I can only play a little jazz around the house, especially during aforementioned dinner parties. My wife doesn’t really like it, my mother and sister honestly hate it, and with the kids running around I can hardly hear it.

Hence my ‘family safe Christmas menu

First, a drink: 
Tony Bennet with Bill Evans - The Tony Bennet Bill Evans Album

Starters:
Astrud Gilberto - The Silver Collection

Main course:
Stan Getz with Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto
Helen Merrill - Dream Of You
Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue

Desert:
Chet Baker - Live In Tokyo 

Coffee with liquor:
Frank Sinatra - In The Wee Small Hours

After that, depending on the mood and the quantities of alcohol being served, you can either:

  • keep on going mellow with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave
  • go wild and get away with pretty much everything, starting with this.

Bon appétit!

'Snafu', by Yusef Lateef

Eastern Sounds' isa landmark recording from the versatile Yusef Lateef, who is still performing 50 years later. Lateef, who is equally at home with sax, flute, oboe and a few other instruments, recorded this album at a time in his career when he was well-established in mainstream jazz but was ready to go in a new direction. His long-time fascination with the orient was the driving force behind the development of the album and although it was not his first try at ‘eastern’ sounds it was probably the best known.  

Eastern Sounds - Yusef Lateef

The result is a collection of tracks that retain the pure sounds and rich improvisations of modern jazz while influenced by Lateef’s belief in the mysticism of the orient.

Recorded on September 5th, 1961, Englewood, New Jersey.

Yusef Lateef: Tenor Saxophone
Barry Harris: Piano 
Ernie Farrow: Bass 
Lex Humphries: Drums

'Chico Cuadradino', by Duke Ellington And His Orchestra

Today’s song is from the beautiful but short album (36 minutes!) ‘Latin American Suite’, mainly recorded in 1968, the evening of the maestro’s career.

Duke Ellington always absorbed influences from the music he heard as he toured the world, and ‘Latin American Suite’ is no exception. Written during his first tour of Central and South America in 1968, Ellington premiered several of the pieces during concerts in the Southern hemisphere, though he didn’t record it until returning to the U.S.
 

Duke Ellington - Latin American Suite

This record was the first major work by Ellington after the death of his long time co-writer Billy Strayhorn. It’s sometimes considered half-baked (and in truth the compositions aren’t especially complex) but I love it: the band swings hard (hard!), and one can only imagine what it must have been like, seeing this band live.

Chico Cuadradino' is a driving blues, co-written by his son Mercer, and features a boisterous trombone solo by Buster Cooper.

'Straight, No Chaser', by Thelonious Monk

For all the people who supported me yesterday, here is a song by Monk. Many thanks for your heartwarming messages.

The Thelonious Monk Quartet with Charlie Rouse lasted eleven years. October 31st and November 1st, 1964 at the It Club in Los Angeles were just two more nights out of thousands for them, except when it comes to Monk, there were no ordinary nights.

Rouse in his sixth year with Monk had hit his stride, truly becoming Monk’s musical alter ego. Remarkably, drummer Ben Riley had joined the quartet at the beginning of 1964 and bassist Larry Gales had only logged in a month at the time of this taping; yet they already show the first signs of collective greatness on these evenings.

Monk was at a particular high point pianistically during this gig; in fact, he went into a Los Angeles studio and recorded the album ‘Solo Monk' on the afternoons preceding and following the live taping.

Thelonious Monk - Piano
Charlie Rouse - Tenor Saxophone
Larry Gales - Bass
Ben Riley - Drums 

Another threat

Again, after numerous threats, I’m forced to take down a video. This time ‘Straight, No Chaser’ about Thelonious Monk has to go.
I received mails like:

'…Do you own this? I THINK NOT!'

'…Do you own any of your uploads, especially Straight, No Chaser? If not, you are violating international copyright law by uploading this and disgracing my dear departed friend Charlotte Zwerin…’

'…I have notified Warner Brothers about you. You are committing a felony by uploading this…'

Since I already have a ‘Strike One’ on my YouTube channel, I take no chances.

UPDATE: When I took the video down, her reply was, and I quote:
Good.
You ought to be ASHAMED of yourself.
You NEVER should have uploaded it in the first place.
We do not live in a SOCIALIST society. Property rights are property rights.
Make your OWN movie and upload THAT.
You people are DELUSIONAL.
Enjoy your time in a Federal prison.
You will be “discussing” it with a Federal Judge and a District Attorney.

[end of quote]

I’m sorry to hear that some people don’t understand the power of sharing, and how sharing ultimately benefits everyone, including the heirs of Monk and the aforementioned Zwerin.

Almost 25,000 people saw this documentary.

Perhaps 25,000 new fans.

Perhaps people who might have never heard of Monk before and went out to buy his CD’s, downloaded his music via iTunes or bought the film on DVD.

All I want to do is ‘broadcast’ jazz to a young and new audience and try to fill them with enthusiasm for an underexposed genre.

I cannot see how that in any way can be disgracing.

Complaints can be sent to Carole Langer, the writer of the emails.

'Goodbye Storyteller (For Fred Myrow)', by Brad Mehldau

Yesterday, I ordered tickets for the upcoming concert of the Brad Mehldau Trio (Feb. 28th, 2012, here in my hometown Rotterdam).
So I thought it was time for another beautiful piece by this 41 year old American, this time from his 1999 solo album ‘Elegiac Cycle’.

'elegiac Cycle', by Brad Mehldau

Brad Mehldau explains in the liner notes his fascination for elegies:
"…I’ve always been attracted to elegiac works of art, that mourn so many kinds of loss, from the most profound to the most prosaic death of them all - what the French aptly call ‘la petite mort’. There are concrete examples that clearly mourn the loss of a person or people: Musical compositions like Charles Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, or John Coltrane’s ‘Alabama’. But there are so many works that aren’t elegies proper, yet are elegiac in character. Much of Brahms’ late music, for example. Often, we find an elegiac strain in the late period of any artist’s output: the poignancy of Bill Evans’ 1977 rendition of ‘You Must Believe In Spring' or Chet Baker's achingly ironic late take on 'Blame It On My Youth’. Lamenting the loss of springtime and youth. 

Alas, life is short, art is long. Great music packs a primordial punch. And when the wind is knocked out of you, something great takes place: You get to feel your own mortality. The role of time is crucial. Music doesn’t just represent time, it moves through time, and the listener experiences that passing. What’s the feeling? That tingling in your stomach, that sweet ache in your gut, that tickly weakness that creeps over the body when you’re pulled into the music? It’s a kind of death-feeling, in a place where ecstasy and mortality-fear overlap. Rilke told us in one of his elegies that our perception of beauty is just the beginning of terror.

Dying, being remembered, music sings an elegy to itself, beautifying the ‘everyday’ loss around us, showing us how intimate we can be with death. So an elegy can have this purpose: to celebrate those very things that make us mortal…”

'Love Is A Many Splendored Thing', by Clifford Brown and Max Roach

Recorded mere months before Clifford Brown died in a car crash, 1956’s ‘At Basin Street' finds the revered trumpeter in top form, co-leading an ensemble with drummer Max Roach that included saxophonist Sonny Rollins (his only performance with this quintet) and pianist Richie Powell (Bud Powell's brother, who was also killed in the accident). Morbid associations aside, this record is a vibrant hard-bop outing with Brown's amazingly agile horn lines always commanding attention even when compared to Rollins's robust sax work. 

Clifford Brown & Max Roach - At Basin Street

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing' is a popular song with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. The song was publicized first in the movie, ‘Love Is a Many Splendored Thing’ (1955), winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The theme song is here, on my YouTube channel. 

Recorded in New York, New York on January 4th and February 16th, 1956.

Clifford Brown - Trumpet
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Saxophone
Richie Powell - Piano
George Morrow - Bass
Max Roach - Drums 

'Yes I can, No You Can't', by Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan, hard bop’s baddest trumpeter, may never quite have topped his iconic 1963 masterpiece ‘The Sidewinder’, but he came pretty damn close with ‘The Gigolo' from 1965.

Jeff McMillan writes in his outstanding biography ‘Delightfulee, The Life And Music Of Lee Morgan' (p. 144-146): 
"…The tune that proved hardest to capture was Morgan’s composition ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. After numerous false starts, the band made it through the head melody to Morgan’s solo in the 22nd (!) take. The trumpeter struggles through an awkward two-chorus solo where his effort to bend and sound slippery undermines both his intonation and phrasing…The band finally wraps up the (June 25th, 1965) session with a complete take, the 49th (!!) of a long, unsuccesful session focused on one tune…”

"…Lion booked Van Gelder’s studio for six days later (July 1st, 1965) so Morgan and his men could record enough material to fill an album. In this second effort, the group produced one of the great recording sessions of Morgan’s career. The trumpeter, especially, was in top form, producing a standout performance of ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. Notable in Morgan’s playing are razor-sharp execution and a brilliance of tone, qualities that were not reliably there for him in the previous session. Clearly, the trumpeter had spent time practicing the material, likely supplemented with technical trumpet exercises. On the July 1st session his chops are strong and sure…”

Lee Morgan - The Gigolo

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Harold Mabern Jr. -  Piano
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums