Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jammin' in Helsinki: A Retrospective of Jazz on Film


To the Finnish readers of this blog (if any): Throughout February 2018, my small selection of jazz films will be played at the Orion Cinema in Helsinki as a part of Black History Month in Finland.

The selection includes the 35mm prints of classics such as Black and Tan Fantasy (Duke Ellington's first appearance on film) to more recent documentaries, such as the witty and touching Keep On Keepin' On, featuring Clark Terry, and the new must-see Lee Morgan film, I Called Him Morgan. The Finnish TV archive has been dug up for some rarely screened performance films with Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.

If you prefer keep reading in Finnish, go here.

Jammin' in Helsinki would unfold in eight sessions:

Mili (right) behind the scene of Jammin' the Blues

Friday, November 3, 2017

Underline


Underline is a new quarterly journal of arts published by British Council. I'm the editor and glad to say that Underline is available for free download in both Persian and English editions. The first issue, dedicated to the 1960s, contains one music-related piece, giving an insightful overview of the British Invasion and Beatlemania in Iran of the 1960. Download here.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bobby Hackett With Vic Dickenson: Live at the Roosevelt Grill


If I have to pick one trombone player whose playing embodies both the tradition and a rare timelessness that would be Victor Dickenson (1906-84).

Celebrating that artful master of melancholic humour, here is a tape worth listening to from the David W. Niven collection. Recorded live in 1970, Bobby Hackett Quintet, featuring Vic Dickenson, plays one of its regular nights at the Roosevelt Grill, located inside The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

The place was opened in 1924 and later became synonymous with Guy Lombardo whose orchestra performed there for nearly three decades. It was only a year before Roosevelt Grill was used as one of the locations for the copper movie The French Connection that jazz critic Whitney Balliett caught up with Hackett and Dickenson one late evening:

"My head full of cute muted trumpets and toy-soldier rhythms [of Sy Oliver band], I went over to the Roosevelt Grill for the final moments of Bobby Hackett's quintet, which will soon be dissolved when Dickenson replaces Kai Winding in the World's Greatest Jazz Band and the rare Benny Morton replaces Dickenson in Hackett's group. Hackett and Dickenson together are Jack Sprats of jazz. Hackett is cool, golden and mathematical, and Dickenson is hot, shaggy, and funny, and between them they encompass most of what is worth knowing about jazz."

Friday, September 1, 2017

John McLaughlin Trio in Stuttgart, 1992, Part II


John McLaughlin Trio | Live at Jazzgipfel, Stuttgart, Germany | July 3, 1992

John McLaughlin (acoustic guitar) | Dominique Di Piazza (electric bass) | Trilok Gurtu (percussion)

Reincarnation (McLaughlin)


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Benny Goodman Picks the 60 Greatest Jazz Records of All Time



We always look for ways to expand our jazz library, including open our ears to recommendations, especially when it comes to obscurities, rarities, and discoveries. Listing is one of the most popular games played towards that aim which is never entirely devoid of edifying values.

This list of the 60 Greatest Jazz Records of All Time is hardly an addition to any library, as by now, most of them are standard components of any serious jazz collection. However, it is so rare that a musician like Benny Goodman comes forward and shares his list of must-have albums with you.

"Unfortunately, the triumph of jazz in the U.S. as a whole is a little incomplete," Goodman bemoans in the introduction to the list, "the American people - especially the teenage population which has been weaned on rock 'n' toll - are losing sight of that very jazz heritage."

Compiled for Los Angeles Times (November 12, 1961), Goodman commits to enlighten the reader who is not quite sure where to start: "Over the years many of these people have asked me to draw up a list of 'the greatest jazz albums ever made.' I believe there is now a crying need for such a guideline."

In fact, the list was a sequel to an LA Times article by Leopold Stokowski, selecting his dream library of classical recordings.

Goodman lists has its own surprises and unexpected picks. Categorised according formats and instruments, he doesn't bother to allocate any space to bass players. Saxophonists are present, but there is no mention of John Coltrane. However, at the end of the list, under the amusing title of "Far Out", suddenly Ornette Coleman appears (Goodman's most surprising moment here) and even a Thelonious Monk who, by 1961, was a established figure and in the light of latest developments in jazz could have been seen as a traditionalist rather than a Far Out musician. More surprisingly, Goodman opts for a big band recording of Monk's instead of his trio or quartet works.

Going through the history of jazz, Goodman gives little criteria over his selection except consciously omitting big dance bands (Glen Miller, Dorsey Bros., Harry James, Les Brown, Claude Thornhill) as in his mind, they are already known by public. While many great instrumentalists are missing in the list, Goodman claims that this list is derived from a need to acknowledge the individual soloists. Finally, the old master introduces no less than three of his own records (one under Charly Christian) and saves Fats Waller for the vocalists section.

One last message from Mr. Goodman before we go ahead with the list:


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Buck Clayton Quartet 1965


A concert commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the UN
Buck Clayton Quartet
Genève, Switzerland, 24/10/1965
Buck Clayton (trumpet),  Henri Chaix (piano), Isla Eckinger (bass), Pierre Bourru (drums).
Duration 22:35

Set list:

  1. 'S Wonderful
  2. I Can't Get Started
  3. Honeysuckle Rose
  4. Perdido

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jazz as Visual Language [Book Review]


Reviewed for British film journal, Sight & Sound, March 2017 issue.

JAZZ AS VISUAL LANGUAGE
Film, Television and the Dissonant Image 
By Nicolas Pillai, I. B Tauris, 192pp, £64.00, ISBN 9781784533441
Reviewed by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Developing alongside cinema in the twentieth century, recorded jazz, like film, epitomised art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The two art forms complemented each other too. “Jazz was never just a music,” Nicolas Pillai claims in Jazz as Visual Language, “live performance promised spectacle.” In this regard, cinema helped us to better understand jazz; to see Thelonious Monk playing for instance, the gestures made with his elbows and feet, is a fundamental part of the jazz experience.

Jazz has seen its own period of auteur theory – Duke Ellington being its Orson Welles; Lester Young its Jean Renoir and bebop its nouvelle vague. Some recent studies, however, are shifting the emphasis away from such personalities. A camera might be considered as essential a performative element as a saxophonist.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bob Mintzer Big Band in Berlin



Some truly great moments of solo expression against the backdrop of a big band can be heard on this superb concert video from Berlin, 1987. Arranged and conducted by tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer, and loaded with excitement and wit, it is the perfect homage to the tradition of big bands in whose last days Mintzer, as an alumni of Thad Jones-Mel Lewis and Buddy Rich big bands, lived an active life.

One of the tenor saxophonists who emerged from the school of New York players in the 70's, Mintzer was not only the member of the Grammy award winning Yellowjackets, but also led his own BB, touring the world, of which this concert from November 1987 was filmed and broadcast.

A teacher and lecturer, and the writer of over 200 big band arrangements, Mintzer perfected his instrument in working with various musicians and bands, from Art Blakey to Gil Evans, and from Randy Brecker (also featured on this video) to The New York Philharmonic.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thelonious Monk Quintet feat. Steve Lacy



Reportedly, Thelonious Monk never liked his compositions being recorded by other artists. However, there were exceptions and one was Steve Lacy's Reflections, the first all-Monk-composition album recorded by someone rather Mr. Monk himself. Recorded in 1958, it also featured with Mal Waldron, Buell Neidlinger and Elvin Jones.

Whether because of the release of that or Monk's personal liking for Lacy, Monk invited him to play along his quartet in 1960. Monk had already complimented Lacy in at least one occasion: during a gig at the UN building in New York City, Jimmy Giuffre Quartet featuring Steve Lacy played opposite Thelonious Monk where they performed two  Monk's compositions. The composer almost instantly hated it, however he had some nice words in his sleeve for Lacy and right after that UN gig he invited Lacy to play with him in the Jazz Gallery. Other gigs followed in 1960.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Horace Parlan (1931-2017)



"Horace Parlan is a tall, quiet-mannered man, essentially a gentle person with virtually irremovable easy smile," wrote Leonard Feather for the liner notes of the young pianist's solo album debut.

50 years on, even some of the recent videos of Parlan, who passed away last week, shows that the "irremovable easy smile" wasn't removed until the end.

The 29-year old pianist of whom Feather highly spoke was from the city of Mary Lou Williams and Erroll Garner, but also Ahmad Jamal with whom he shared the same music teacher.

The key incident of his early life occurred at the age of 5, when his right hand was paralyzed due to a polio attack. After that opting for becoming a pianist wouldn't have been the first obvious choice but he went in that direction both because he had fallen in love with jazz by listening to Woody Herman on the radio, but also playing piano was a form of therapy for his fingers.