Listening Log: Week 7

Election Day – Sissle & Blake

After reading They All Played Ragtime, I started looking further into the music of Eubie Blake. This song from his groundbreaking collaboration with Noble Sissle, the musical Shuffle Along. It still rings true today, especially in the face of the upcoming election.

Lyrics for “Election Day.”

High Heart – Ben Wendel

Ben Wendel’s latest release High Heart is full of delightful melodies that gradually unfold throughout each piece. The way his saxophone blends with vocalist Michael Mayo to create a unified sound is remarkable.

Tom Sails Away – Charles Ives

This is a difficult song about Charles Ives watching the United States join World War I. The rendition I am familiar with is on Helen Boatwright’s album Songs of Charles Ives and Ernst Bacon.

Listening Log: Week 6

I have deeply missed putting out my weekly Listening Log. October has been an intense month as school and work have ramped up. I also released a new single with Henry Godfrey called Cabin Fever. To make my posts less daunting to write, I decided to trim down my log to three entries rather than five. I’m ready to bring back the Listening Log and look forward to sharing more wonderful music with you.

Ragtime Dance No 1 — Charles Ives

I am fortunate to be taking an incredible class about the music of Charles Ives. I am just beginning to explore his Ragtime Dances and am fascinated by how he honors the aesthetic of the music yet carries it forward in a new direction with rhythm, form, and orchestration.

Sunflower Slow Drag — Scott Joplin & Scott Hayden

This collaboration between two important figures in establishing the classic rag is a delightful piece. I have enjoyed listening to Richard Zimmerman’s solo piano rendition and the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble’s brisker take on the piece.

Charleston Rag — Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake, along with Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Luckey Roberts, pioneered the Eastern take on Ragtime, which evolved into the stride piano style. Preceding his performance of Charleston Rag on the album The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake, he shares that he composed the rag in 1899, the same year that Scott Joplin’s groundbreaking Maple Leaf Rag was published by Stark & Son. Blake also explains how he combined the walking bass line (sometimes referred to as a boogie-woogie bass, but Blake preferred the term walking bass) with ragtime rhythmic ideas.

I was also able to find this incredible live performance of Charleston Rag as played by Blake at the age of 85.

Eubie Blake performs Charleston Rag live in 1972.

What music moved you this week?

Listening Log: Week 5

Minor Bash — Lou Donaldson

Lou Donaldson has such an incredible sound on the saxophone. The clarity and development of his solos is always mind-blowing, and his playing on this track is no exception. I will be sharing a transcription of his great solo soon!

I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling — Louis Armstrong

I have been digging into Louis Armstrong’s album Satch Plays Fats. Every song is outstanding in its own right. I first heard this tune on The Gellers and really enjoyed it, but failed to investigate its roots. It was a joy to hear it reimagined by Pops.

Blues for Booty Green’s — Roy Hargrove

One of my classmates shared this Roy Hargrove track with us. The sincerity and intention behind every note is captivating, a rare intensity that brings few to mind, most notably Louis Armstrong.

Rosetta — Earl Hines

I mentioned a rendition of this Earl Hines song in a previous Listening Log, one that he recorded with Johnny Hodges. The version I am sharing today is from the album Earl Hines in New Orleans. This is an album worth checking out in its entirety.

The World is Waiting for the Sunrise — Benny Goodman

I came across this live Benny Goodman video when searching for music to share with some of my students. The spirit of this performance is electrifying.

Listening Log: Week 4 (Bandcamp Friday Edition)

This week, I am going to write two Listening Logs, this first one being dedicated to the great music I picked up on Bandcamp Friday in recent months. On the first Friday of each month, Bandcamp has been waiving their revenue share to help artists during the COVID pandemic. Each month, I make sure to purchase music from artists I admire, many of whom I am fortunate to call friends, colleagues, and teachers. For this Listening Log entry, I will share some of my favorite Bandcamp Friday finds.

She Moves Just Like the River — Henry Godfrey

Henry Godfrey is a near-and-dear person in my life, in addition to being a frequent musical collaborator. He released the LP version of his Love Finds Everyone on a Bandcamp Friday. I am fascinated by the concept of having both a studio and live version of the same piece. On She Moves Just Like the River, Henry takes us on a journey through lush orchestrations, backdrops for compelling solos, and driving rhythmic pulses.

Mr. Con Edisons Conspiracy — Takuma Matsui

Takuma Matsui is one of my good friends in the Berklee Jazz Composition program. In his first EP 47|48, Takuma does an incredible job synthesizing all the rich musical traditions he has studied into these heartfelt, inventive, lyrical pieces. During this unprecedented time in history, the fourth track entitled Mr. Con Edisons Conspiracy speaks to me.

Bebopper — Frank Carlberg & Ran Blake

Gray Moon is an exciting album that, while containing familiar songs, adds a new dimension to them. I particularly enjoyed Bebopper for its playfulness, the seamless interplay between Frank Carlberg and Ran Blake, and their refreshing take on and expansion of the bebop tradition.

Abracadabras — Lolivone De La Rosa

Lolivone De La Rosa is another Berklee friend who is putting out wonderful music. In her single Abracadabras, she showcases her prowess on the guitar and her incredibly expressive voice — the first time she has recorded herself singing. I look forward to hearing her continue to explore her voice as a guitarist and vocalist.

Call It — Jacob Moore

Jacob Moore and I met during the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency in 2018. Much like my EP The New Groove, Jacob released his project The Trap somewhat impulsively as a testament to being able to create meaningful music in a short amount of time with the relatively limited equipment available at home. While Jacob refers to the project as “really janky,” I hear a compelling artistic voice that drew me in from the first track, Call It, immediately. These songs really speak to this moment in American history.

What have been your favorite Bandcamp Friday purchases this year? Who’s music is keeping you motivated during this time? Let me know in the comments!

Listening Log: Week 3

Part of this week’s listening was guided by my reading of Joshua Berrett’s Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz. And there are a few more recent releases in the mix.

Changes – Paul Whiteman feat. Bing Crosby

As hinted at by the title and described in its lyrics, Changes meanders through different key centers in an exciting and unusual way. It is a catchy tune and, when combined with Bing Crosby’s vocals floating over it, irresistible repeat listenings ensued.

Source – Nubya Garcia

Source, the debut album of saxophonist Nubya Garcia is powerful. Her tone is full of energy and her notes are packed with intention and intensity. I particularly enjoyed the title track for its synthesis of Reggae grooves.

Undertow – Joshua Redman

The original members of the Joshua Redman Quartet reunited after 26 years to record his latest album, RoundAgain. I was drawn in by the first piece, Undertow. The piano ostinato at the beginning is hypnotic, like watching the waves of the ocean.

Rhapsody in Blue from King of Jazz (1930) – Paul Whiteman

There are many things about this film that I would not call “inspiring,” namely the racial stereotyping “voodoo dance” and using women as decorations. But, I decided to include this here as a historical record. Another point of interest is that King of Jazz was the first film to use a pre-recorded soundtrack.

Lianne La Havas: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Thanks to my friend Ian Buss for introducing me to this wonderful artist and her NPR Tiny Desk concert. Lianne La Havas has an powerful yet nuanced voice that is perfectly framed by her inventive compositions. Even though her band is merely a trio, the sound is full-bodied and never lacking depth or texture.

What do you think of this week’s log? What music has been inspiring you these days?

Listening Log: Week 2

This week’s Listening Log was dominated by incredible saxophonists, plus one legendary pianist.

Whimsy – Sharel Cassity

Sharel Cassity’s latest album, Fearless, starts with high energy right from its first track. Whimsy sets the tone for the album consisting of imaginative originals and an exciting reimagining of The Very Thought of You, one of my favorite standards.

Part 2. Saudade – Immanuel Wilkins

Immanuel Wilkins made a great impression with his debut album, Omega. I was particularly taken by his four-movement piece, how it builds in energy and is immensely expressive.

Them That Got – Maceo Parker

I enjoyed listening to Maceo Parker’s album Roots Revisited. It’s an eclectic offering of music that was energetic and sincere. I particularly enjoyed the swinging, blues-infused track Them That Got.

Apache Dance – George Coleman

George Coleman’s album Amsterdam After Dark is full of hard-hitting music filled with intensity and ingenuity. His contrafact of the classic Cherokee is elastic and inventive.

A Beautiful Friendship – Gerri Allen

Geri Allen’s live album Some Aspect of Water is captivating. She uses a variety of instrumentations, each with a unique quality, but the track that most resonated with me was her piano trio rendition of A Beautiful Friendship. She seamlessly transitions from a contemplative rubato piano solos to the lively groove of the tune. I never heard anyone do that with such a sense of ease.

What do you think of this week’s listening log? Who’s music is grabbing your attention these days?

Listening Log: Week 1

During these uncertain times, it is easy to rush back to the music, foods, and activities that make me comfortable. It’s time to shake that up!

I need to find a way to stay accountable to listening to “new” music (whether it is recently recorded or something from 100 years ago that I never heard before). After a long hiatus, I started keeping a listening log again and thought it would be fun to start sharing five of my favorite tracks of the week.

This is not a review or critique. I am just going to share five tracks I really enjoyed this week and where to learn more about the artists. Please don’t send unsolicited requests for me to review music.

The tracks are not listed in any particular order.

With all of that out of the way, here’s Listening Log: Week 1!

If It’s Magic – Artemis

I was blown away by this magical track that jazz supergroup Artemis dropped to promote their upcoming self-titled album. The group honored this Stevie Wonder classic, yet found their own voice on it, a magnificent accomplishment.

Cynical Sideliners – Ambrose Akinmusire

This stripped down track from Ambroses Akinmusire’s album on the tender spot of every calloused moment is pensive and haunting. It made me reflect on how critical people are from behind screens in the age of social media without putting anything on the line themselves.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business – Jason Moran

Ain’t Nobody’s Business has been one of my favorite songs for more than a decade now (particularly the Billie Holiday version). It was refreshing to hear Jason Moran’s take – crafting practically a new setting – on this tune in his album ALL RISE: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller.

Play Money – Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller

Play Money, the first track on Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller’s album Parlour Game, is a series of winding melodic lines infused with blues language. I enjoyed the journey of the entire album, and the warm quality the violin brought to the music.

(While there is a rich tradition of violin in “Jazz” and improvised music, it is still a less featured melodic instrument in these idioms.)

Rosetta – Johnny Hodges & Earl Hines

Okay, I’m cheating with this one a little bit because I knew this track and album (Stride Right) before this week. It is a song I know and love that brings me joy and comfort during this time. I’m also including it here because I want more people to know about this album!

What did you think of my list this week? Who have you been listening to? Let me know in the comments!