Tuesday, December 30, 2008

R.I.P. Freddie Hubbard

I really wasn't planning on putting up another post for 2008 but in this case, I felt duty-bound to make this exception so that I could acknowledge the loss of another legendary artist.

Jazz luminary Freddie Hubbard has passed away.

According to spokesman Don Lucoff, the 70 year old musician died at Sherman Oaks Hospital, in Sherman Oaks, California, this morning. The cause of death was from complications of a heart attack he suffered on November 26.

A renowned trumpeter and composer who helped define the 1960s jazz era, Hubbard played with artists John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Bobby Hutcherson, Oliver Nelson, Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner and countless others.

He was recorded on over 300 albums as a leader and a sidesman on various record labels such as Impulse!, Columbia, Elektra, MPS, Music Masters, Telarc, Blue Note, Atlantic and CTI Records.

I'll wrap up this post with an outstanding rendition of one of Freddie's signature compositions; Milt Jackson's 1972 recording of "Little Sunflower" (redubbed "Sunflower" for this release) featuring guest appearance by Hubbard himself.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quickie: Ohio Players - Happy Holidays

You know how sometimes you feel a little tickle in your throat, and in the back of your mind you know it's probably a warning sign that you're about to be sick? Well I had that feelin' this past Friday morning and stupidly let it go, unchecked and untreated, all weekend long. As a result, I submit this Monday morning post from a sick bed as I shove copious amounts of over-the-counter cure-alls down my gullet to try and get well enough to go back to work tomorrow without infecting everyone around me. Anyway, my drugs are starting to kick in so I'll make this brief.

Today's offering is a small dose of Christmas holiday cheer served up by the legendary Ohio Players. This single-only release is long out of print but has resurfaced on various OP collections over the years. Sadly, most of those appearances only offer up the A-Side (Pt. 1) of the tune; so if you're trying to find the complete song you've only got 2 options: you can search here and try to find an original 45 pressing or, alternatively, you can try to get your hands on a copy of the Players' recently remastered Funk On Fire collection here.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Dizzy Gillespie - Soul & Salvation

Okay, now that Thanksgiving '08 is out of the way I've got a small window to get a few posts in before I get knee deep in prep for Dec. 25th. I pulled this one from the crates a few weeks ago but didn't get around to ripping & cleaning it up until tonight. Dizzy Gillespie's 1969 Soul & Salvation album released on the indie, New York-based label, Tribute Records. With masterful arrangements by Ed Bland, this set features stellar performances by sax man James Moody and trumpeter Joe Newman.

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpeter, band leader, singer, and composer. He was born on October 21, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children. Dizzy's father was a local band leader, so instruments were made available to Dizzy. He started to play the piano at the age of 4. Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz.

With Charlie Parker, Gillespie jammed at famous jazz clubs like Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House, where the first seeds of bebop were planted. Gillespie's compositions like "Groovin' High", "Woody n' You", "Salt Peanuts", and "A Night in Tunisia" sounded radically different, harmonically and rhythmically, than the Swing music popular at the time. One of their first (and greatest) small-group performances together was only issued in 2005: a concert in New York's Town Hall on June 22, 1945. Gillespie taught many of the young musicians on 52nd Street, like Miles Davis and Max Roach, about the new style of jazz. After a lengthy gig at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles, which left most of the audience ambivalent or hostile towards the new music, the band broke up. Unlike Parker, who was content to play in small groups and be an occasional featured soloist in big bands, Gillespie aimed to lead a big band himself; his first attempt to do this came in 1945, but it did not prove a success.

After his work with Parker, Gillespie led other small combos (including ones with Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Lalo Schifrin) and finally put together his first successful big band. He also appeared frequently as a soloist with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic. He also headlined the 1946 independently-produced musical revue film "Jivin' in Be-Bop".

In 1956 he organized a band to go on a State Department tour of the Middle East and earned the nickname "the Ambassador of Jazz".

Gillespie was also involved in the movement called Afro-Cuban music, bringing Latin and African elements to greater prominence in jazz and even pop music, particularly salsa. Gillespie's most famous contributions to Afro-Cuban music are the compositions "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo"; he was responsible for commissioning George Russell's "Cubano Be, Cubano Bop", which featured the great but ill-fated Cuban conga player, Chano Pozo. In 1977, Gillespie discovered Arturo Sandoval while researching music during a tour of Cuba.

Unlike his contemporary Miles Davis, Dizzy essentially remained true to the bebop style for the rest of his career.

Gilliespie died of pancreatic cancer on January 6, 1993, at the age of 75 and was buried in the Flushing Cemetery, Queens, New York. He was survived by his widow, Lorraine Willis Gillespie; a daughter, jazz singer Jeanie Bryson; and a grandson, Radji Birks Bryson-Barrett. Dizzy had two funerals. One was a Bahá´í funeral at his request, at which his closest friends and colleagues attended. The second was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York open to the public.

Soul & Salvation has never been reissued on CD but you can usually find a few collectible, original vinyl pressings alongside the more affordable, unofficial repressings right here.

Featured cut: "Stomped & Wasted"

Listen to the full album here.