by Scott Yanow
The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center (often simply called the Soraya) located at the CSUN campus in Northridge hosted a five-concert jazz festival in February that included nights by Gerald Clayton, Gretchen Parlato and Christian Sands (subbing for Harold Lopez-Nussa). Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra began the series in swinging style.
The big band, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, mostly featured originals during their first set other than a Kenny Dorham composition. A tribute to the late baritonist Joe Temperley showcased the band’s current baritone-saxophonist Paul Nedzela, Marsalis was featured on the Dorham piece and the dirge portion of Carlos Henriquez’s episodic Latin-tinged “2 3’s Adventure.” Other key soloists included altoists Ted Nash and Sherman Irby, and trumpeter Marcus Printup. Actually throughout the evening, every musician in the 15-piece band had their chance to solo. The second set was particularly strong with the soul/jazz bluesy piece “Jo Jo’s Mojo,” an inventive arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners,” and a feature for guest drummer Jeff Hamilton on “The Mooche” (which also had spots for Marsalis and clarinetist Victor Goines who recalled Jimmy Hamilton). Vincent Gardner took a charming vocal on “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” (which had excellent statements by tenor-saxophonist Julian Lee and trumpeter Ryan Kisor) and, as an encore, the ensembles played Chick Corea’s “ You’re Everything” featuring pianist Don Nimmer. While there were no New Orleans jazz tunes or really hard swingers, Marsalis and his orchestra put on an entertaining and well-paced show.
In today’s scene, along with Kurt Elling, Gregory Porter ranks at the top in the relatively small field of superior male jazz singers. His deep baritone voice, impeccable intonation, versatility, and friendly personality, along with a soulfulness of his own have made him into a major attraction.
Performing as part of the jazz festival hosted by the Soraya, Porter was joined by his regular band which I believe was comprised of Tivon Pennicott on tenor (who was in inspiring form), pianist Chip Crawford, organist Ondrej Pivec, bassist Jahmal Nichols, and drummer Emanuel Harrold. In addition to his vocal talents, Porter is a superior lyricist/composer who writes about real life situations and the importance of love. His performance included “On My Way To Harlem” (about a club where he could enjoy the music by nursing a $3 beer all night), “If Love Is Overrated,” “Spirit Free,” “There Will Be No Love Dying Here,” the touching “I’m A Real Good Man” (asking for the approval of the mother of his girlfriend), “Take Me To The Alley” (a tribute to his saintly mother), and “Give Me A Blue Song.” The latter, which was filled with many references to r&b and soul songs, is a plea for better music containing messages and wisdom that are rarely heard today. It is a pity that, other than a quote from “Nature Boy,” it does not refer to jazz at all, but his singing was nostalgic and the lyrics had a strong plot. As encores, the singer performed a very powerful version of “When Love Was King” that built up to a high level of passion, and his effective anti-racism song “1960 What?”
Gregory Porter’s singing and music cross over between jazz and r&b without being restricted by musical categories. His music and singing are wonderful to experience, particularly live. It seems only a matter of time before some of Porter’s songs catch on as modern-day standards, but I would imagine that few renditions by other performers will be able to reach the emotional heights and sincerity of his versions.
EDDIE DURHAM BOOK
Eddie Durham (1906-87) was such a versatile and busy musician behind the scenes in the 1920s, ’30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s that his accomplishments have been vastly underrated. His daughter Topsy M. Durham, in the first of two volumes titled Swinging’ The Blues – The Virtuosity Of Eddie Durham (self-published and available from www.durhamjazz.com), sets the record straight and outlines the first half of his remarkable story, ending in the mid-1940s.
Durham was a fine trombonist who played with Count Basie and a guitarist who preceded Charlie Christian as a solo electric guitarist on records by a year, experimenting with amplifying his sound by the early 1930s. But that is only scratching the surface of his accomplishments. He was a songwriter who composed “Topsy,” “Good Morning Blues” and “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire,” and had a strong hand in writing “Moten Swing,” “One O’Clock Jump,” and “Jumpin’ At The Woodside.” Durham was a prolific arranger who modernized the Bennie Moten Orchestra (the success of their 1932 session where their music led directly to Count Basie’s a few years later was largely due to Durham), and wrote for Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Harlan Leonard, and Glenn Miller (arranging “In The Mood”) among others. He was also an informal teacher who inspired the big band writing of many arrangers and composers including Mary Lou Williams, led some short-lived groups of his own, and was an important force in the key all-female orchestras of World War II. including the International Sweethearts Of Rhythm and the Darlings Of Rhythm.
With all of that, one would expect Eddie Durham to be a household name, at least in the jazz world. But because he was so versatile and mostly involved in uplifting the music of other bands, he tends to be overlooked. Topsy Durham in her large book interviewed every surviving associate of Durham’s that she could find (including many surprises) during her years of research for this work, includes quotes and stories from her father, and does a definitive job of telling the Eddie Durham Story. Durham’s extensive memories of Glenn Miller give one a lot of insight into Miller’s personality and way of thinking, but that is just one of the many rewarding aspects to this book.
There is some repetition and occasionally the chronology jumps around a little, but this labor of love is quite successful or there are many aspects to Eddie Durham’s musical life that were never really written about before. One comes away from this book really appreciating the remarkable musician’s contributions to swing. I greatly look forward to Part II.
Tubby Hayes (1935-73) was one of Great Britain’s greatest jazz musicians of the 1955-70 period. A superior tenor-saxophonist who could create marathon solos at rapid speeds without running out of steam or ideas, he was a master of hard bop who could also play very effective flute and vibes. He did not live long but he made a strong impact throughout his career.
In 1965, when the previously unreleased music of Hip! The Untold Story Of Tubby Hayes (Rhythm And Blues Records) was performed, Hayes was beginning to have a little bit of an identity crisis. A major name in England since the late 1950s, he was having an inner debate about how much to modernize his often hard-swinging style. Hayes loved the playing of John Coltrane, he was aware of the recent musical developments in the U.S., and he was becoming a little bored with his own playing. He wanted to play some newer songs in a more modern style but without losing his own musical personality.
Despite that bit of inner turmoil, the music on this two-CD set, which is drawn from three radio broadcasts, is full of stirring music. Hayes leads a big band on the first disc, one with top players from the era with the best-known musicians being the up-and-coming trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, trombonist Keith Christie, tenor-saxophonist Art Ellefson, and pianist Stan Tracey. Hayes’ girlfriend Joy Marshall takes credible vocals on four songs but the six instrumentals are more memorable, particularly the tenor’s outstanding showcase on the extensive “100% Proof.”
The second disc features Hayes on two occasions in a quartet with pianist Terry Shannon, bassist Jeff Clyne, and either Benny Goodman (no relation to the clarinetist) or Ronnie Stephenson on drums, performing standards (including Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” and a warm version of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” and originals. While the final broadcast says that it is a “low fidelity recording,” the results are quite listenable.
There are many Tubby Hayes recordings available but Hip! The Untold Story, which has extensive liner notes from his biographer Simon Spillett, is a welcome addition to his discography. It is available from www.rhythmandbluesrecords.co.uk.
Catalina Bar & Grill features the great trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (Mar. 4-5) and Dee Dee Bridgewater with Bill Charlap (Mar. 17-19). Santa Monica’s Broad Stage has what will undoubtedly be a rollicking show by trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra (Mar. 11). Disney Hall features quite a double bill on Mar. 25 with the Maria Schneider Orchestra and violinist Regina Carter. The Vibrato Grill will be hosting the Tony Guerrero Sextet (Mar. 5), Benny Benack III (Mar. 18), Freda Payne (Mar. 24), and the Yellowjackets (Mar. 27)
And, having recently run across a Live Stream performance from the World Stage by the great trombonist/shell master Steve Turre with a quintet also featuring tenor-saxophonist Teodross Avery (wish I’d known about it beforehand), it is a reminder that one should look regularly at the World Stage website (https://www.theworldstage.org/events.html) to see what other special guests will be appearing. The World Stage, a very important Los Angeles landmark that has taught and inspired many young musicians, is well worth supporting.