Monday, July 26, 2010

Lubricant for Someone "Stuck in '62"?

Someone like me.

The promotional site for Cicily Janus' new book, The New Face of Jazz, An Intimate Look at Today's Living Legends and the Artists of Tomorrow, has a promotional page with a message that I must take to heart:

"You’ve heard about them time and time again. Their music—the most influential notes ever played. Bird, `Trane, Miles, Ella and their peers are immortalized in personal CD and iTunes libraries around the world. You can find their histories, the dirt behind their careers and endless archives in hundreds of books, encyclopedias and limitless websites

"Oh . . . and one more thing.

"They’re dead.

"The musicians cataloged in these pages are not. They eat, breathe, sleep and live for Jazz. As unsung heroes of America’s only original art form, you need to know them. As a matter of fact, you already should.

"Because they’re accessible.


"Entertaining. . . ."

All right. I'll re-think my stuck-ness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Grand Opening of "The Jazz Annex"

I have decided to open a "jazz portal" within my philosophical website.  If this is my Hard Bop House, then consider that portal its annex.  I don't want to be restricted to ten "stand-alone" pages on this blog, and since I have a capacious site, I don't have to.

The first offering, following up our recent tribute to Sadik Hakim, is the text of his long-out-of-print memoir, "Reflections of an Era: My Experiences with Bird and Prez."  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did formatting it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20, 1969: I Was There.

No, not the Moon.  Mount Morris Park (renamed Marcus Garvey Park four years later). 

A few days before, I had seen an ad for the concert on the 27 Bus, so around noon the day Neil Armstrong would do the first "Moonwalk," I took the No. 6 train (of J.Lo's debut album fame -- she would be born four days later) from the Sound View Avenue Station (now Morrison-Sound View Avenues) down to 125th Street to enjoy a Soul Music concert of arguably historic proportions. 

According to kamau blogging last year about the whole festival, "producer Hal Tulchin took over 50 hours of footage of the festival, but was unable to get it aired on the American TV networks of the day. Currently that footage lies languishing in vaults; apart from Nina Simone’s performance that is making the rounds of YouTube . . . , most of that footage has not seen the light of day."

Below is the text of the original press release for the July 20th concert.  (Notice the area code for the whole city is "212"; "718" for the "outer boroughs" won't be created until 1984.)  Below the press release is the poster for the festival.

Headliner Stevie Wonder was only 18.  Chuck Jackson will turn 73 this Thursday.

What has this to do with Hard Bop?  I'll think of some excuse.

City of New York
Administration of Parks,
Recreation and
Cultural Affairs
Arsenal, Central Park 10021

For Release

For Further Information:
Janice Brophy - 360-8141


    Harlem will host the sounds of soul this Sunday, July 20th, at 2:00 p.m. at Mount Morris Park, 124th Street and Fifth Avenue. The concert climaxes "Soul Music Festival Week." proclaimed by Mayor Lindsay for July 15th to July 20th.

    Stevie Wonder, David Ruffin, Chuck Jackson, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Lou Parks Dancers are featured at the Soul Festival, the third concert in the Harlem Cultural Festival 1969, sponsored by the New York City's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Administration and Maxwell House Coffee, and produced and directed by Tony Lawrence. Admission is free.

    The Harlem Cultural Festival 1969 will continue through the summer with three more concerts at Mount Morris Park, all at 2:00 p.m. A Caribbean Festival on July 27th, featuring Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Cal Tjader, Herbie Mann, and the Harlem Festival Calypso Band; a Blues & Jazz Festival on August 17 with Nina Simone, B. B. King, Hugh Masakela, and the Harlem Festival Jazz Band; on August 24th, a Miss Harlem Beauty Pageant & Local Talent Festival, featuring La Rocque Bey & Co., and Listen My Brothers & Co.



755-4100. For Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn - 691-5858.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sadik Hakim, 1919-1983: A Vignette from My Diary

It may be, as the Buddhist proverb has it, that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  When Sadik Hakim briefly appeared in my life, however, I wasn't ready, and wouldn't be for more than a third of a century, that is, until it was too late.  So, maybe he wasn't supposed to be "the teacher," right?  He was certainly, however, "present at the creation" of arguably the world's greatest music, and if I had known then what I learned later, I could have benefited from our chance encounter even more than I did.

He was born 91 years ago today in Duluth, christened Argonne Thornton.  On November 26, 1945, this denizen of 52nd Street in its glorious Bebop period had alternated with Dizzy Gillespie on piano on Charlie Parker's immortal "Ko-Ko" date. According to his Wikipedia entry, "Hakim is credited with co-writing Thelonious Monk's standard 'Eronel' and is rumored to have written a few famous bop tunes credited to other composers. He adopted his Muslim name in 1947." 


The most common, and most apt, adjective associated with Sadik Hakim is "unsung."  Although the average jazz fan cannot recognize his name, I have run into it repeatedly, and unexpectedly, in many of the jazz biographies I've read in the last few years.   For example, I'll pick up From Swing to Bop (p. 305), only to read Shelly Manne's memory of a night at the Onyx on 52nd Street in the early '40s when big Ben Webster knocked over nearly every table to dissuade some rowdy solider on leave from further pestering his pianist.  Or just today, when I consulted Feather and Gitler's The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz for information on a former music teacher of mine, saxist Paul Jeffrey (with whom I took a single, but valuable, lesson in 1974), I learned that Professor Jeffrey had played with Hakim in 1961.

Some of Sadik Hakim's memories of befriending as well as working with Bird are recorded in Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker, edited by Robert Reisner.  It was because I had read this book sometime before November 19, 1976, that I was able to appreciate to some extent the good fortune of his gregariously striking up a conversation with me, a total stranger, that night at Bradley's (70 University Place, 1969-1996).

I was there to see legendary bop-era guitarist Jimmy Raney, who did not disappoint. (He played Bird's "Billie's Bounce" at my request, and his son, Doug, sat in for one or two numbers.) During the second set I was, according to my diary, "joined at my table by Sadik (I think that's it) who knew all the greats.  It was great talking to him.  After the second set I walked him over to Sweet Basil's [88 Seventh Avenue South] where George Coleman was blowing an alto [sax] apart.  On the way, I recall [to him] somebody from a book on Charlie Parker who had a Moslem name and who knew Bird well.  It turns out it was he!!  He doesn't drink or smoke; he lives his religion.  I was very impressed with him.  He's going on tour now with somebody." 

In 1978, he recorded Sonny Stitt Meets Sadik Hakim. Listen to clips from Witches, Goblins, etc. on Amazon for instant evidence that he was "the real thing."

He accomplished much more than I can summarize usefully in a post, but a quick search will bring you to the most salient facts.  He passed away in June of 1983, about a year after playing "Round Midnight" at the funeral of Thelonious Monk.

In 1976 I could not have imagined paying tribute to him this way.  Thank you, Sadik, for going out of your way to touch my life, however fleetingly, not in cyberspace, but at Bradley's.  I wish I had gone out of my way to keep in touch, but my self-esteem, or lack thereof, wasn't up to the task.  I had foolishly undervalued the evidence of your accessibility and ruled myself out.

Perhaps I'm learning from you after all.  Happy Birthday, Teacher.  Requiescas in pace.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Stuck in '62"? With qualifications, Yes!

In 2004, Jazz Guitar Life asked free jazz guitarist Dom Minasi (during its interview with him) whether there was a bias against his music.  His answer contains a phrase which I clipped and now use as shorthand by which I indicate, quite lightheartedly, my general orientation in jazz.  After naming notable bias-free exceptions, Minasi bemoaned the fact that "the guitar community in general is stuck somewhere between 1940 and 1962 and they put anyone down who doesn't fit into that mold of what they think jazz guitar should be.  It's a shame too.  There's room for everyone.  We should be supporting one another not criticizing each other." 

Stuck in '62?  Yup, guilty as charged!  The range of years that Minasi referred to covers "Pre-Bop," Bebop, and Hard Bop.  After that, the Flood (no pun intended), otherwise known as the British invasion.  I have no desire to dictate and demand adherence to the One Correct Theory of Art or to put down anyone who does not dig as I do. Neither do I romanticize the world of fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago.  But there were things about it that I wished had "stayed put" until I was old enough to appreciate them.  One of those things was Hard Bop.  I make no apologize for intending to spend the rest of my days honoring it, and if that leaves me less room for free jazz's musical "adventure," I am more than happy to incur that cost.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lee Morgan: Another Hero Gone Too Soon

The very idea of Lee Morgan at age 72, which birthday he would have reached today, verges on the incongruous. For jazz lovers he will ever be the youngster who inherited the hard bop trumpet mantle that the magnificent Clifford Brown (briefly Lee's teacher) relinquished tragically at age 25 in 1956. On November 4-6 of that year Lee, a little more than four months after Brown perished in a car accident, recorded two inaugural albums, Lee Morgan Indeed! and Introducing Lee Morgan.

Lee's own voice escaped Brownie's gravitational pull during his tenure with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. (You haven't lived until you heard his solos on their 1960 A Night in Tunisia!) If Lee had done nothing more than contribute to the success of Coltrane's iconic Blue Train session for Blue Note Records, which he did in 1957 while still a teenager, his place in history would have been secure.  But as his discography reveals, he created so much more before he was gunned down at Slug's on February 19, 1972 at age 33, including his soul-jazz breakthrough The Sidewinder.

I appreciated him too late.  I saw him perform only once, at a fundraiser for Angela Davis at the City Center on West 55th Street in Manhattan, about a year before he was killed.  (I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has the exact date.)  At the time, my grasp of the history of the music I loved was weak.  Now that is less so, I have the pleasure of bringing Lee Morgan to the attention of others.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hard Bop = Blues + Gospel + Virtuosity

It's not just the feel, it's not just the chops. It's the blending of both.

Bebop, Hard Bop's immediate predecessor, boasted many instrumental masters, but in their effort to realize more of Swing's harmonic and melodic potential, sacrificed the "down home" quality with which jazz had originally been associated. (The notable exception, of course, is Charlie Parker, whose nearly every solo was blues-drenched.)

The creators of Hard Bop brought that feeling back, adapting chord progressions from the church, and melodies from the rhythm-and-blues groups that sprung up in the 'fifties, and so restored jazz to its former place as a popular music, at least in black neighborhoods. As they did this, they expanded the vocabulary of all jazz instrumentalists to the same as degree as, if not to a greater degree than, their bebopping forebears.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Dream Come True: Grant Green Leads a Hard Bop Band on "Solid"

This past June 12 marked 46 years since a 34-year-old Grant Green recorded Solid with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones (i.e., half of John Coltrane's famous quartet), James Spaulding, Joe Henderson, and Bob Cranshaw. Fortunately for the verdict on Green's contribution to the evolution of jazz guitar, Blue Note eventually released these tracks. Unfortunately for Green himself, Blue Note did not do so until 1979, after his death. If you were to try to imagine a guitarist's meeting the challenge of fronting a band whose energy and creativity recall that of the Jazz Messengers, dominated as such bands usually are by brass and reeds, you could not come up with something better than this.

Ken Watkins' extended review of Solid discusses Grant's musical distinctiveness in his "100 Greatest Jazz Albums" series.

Hard Bop: From the Wikipedia Entry

"Hard bop is a style of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music. Hard bop incorporates influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing.

"David H. Rosenthal also contends in his book Hard Bop that it is to a large degree the natural creation of a generation of black American musicians who grew up at a time when bop and rhythm and blues were the dominant forms of black American music and prominent jazz musicians like Tadd Dameron worked in both genres.  Another major influence in this genre was Miles Davis.

"Hard bop was developed in the mid-1950s, partly in response to the vogue for cool jazz that became popular in the early 1950s. A simplistic definition states that 'cool jazz,' or 'west coast jazz,' emphasized the more European elements of the music, deriving to a great extent from the 'chamber jazz' experiments of the Miles Davis nonet and Dave Brubeck's various quartets, while hard bop brought the church and gospel music back into jazz, emphasizing the African elements. In fact, both cool and hard bop contain European and African elements, but the simplistic definition offers a shorthand way of addressing the difference. The hard bop style coalesced in 1953 and 1954, paralleling the rise of rhythm and blues, the latter developed by African-American musicians in part as a means of giving their audiences dance music in the wake of the decline of the swing bands, and the abandonment of jazz as a music to dance by as bebop emerged, with its intricacies and emphasis on a serious listening experience.

"In 1954, Davis's performance of the title track of his album Walkin' at the inaugural Newport Jazz Festival, held that same year, announced the style to the jazz world.  Davis would form his first great quintet with John Coltrane in 1955 to play hard bop, before moving on to other things. Other key documents were the two volumes of the Blue Note albums A Night at Birdland, also from 1954, recorded at the legendary jazz club months before the Davis set at Newport.  The quintet by Art Blakey featured pianist Horace Silver and trumpeter Clifford Brown, all of whom would be leaders in the hard bop movement along with Davis.  Blakey and Silver would start the seminal band The Jazz Messengers, although Silver would leave to front his own hard bop groups in 1956, and Brown formed the other trend-setting hard bop band with drummer Max Roach, the Brown-Roach Quintet.

"The hard bop style enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but hard bop performers, and elements of the music, remain popular in jazz.  According to Nat Hentoff in his 1957 liner notes for the Blakey Columbia LP of the same name, the phrase "hard bop" was originated by author-critic-pianist John Mehegan, jazz reviewer of the New York Herald Tribune at that time.  Soul jazz developed from hard bop.

"Horace Silver was a musician who was largely instrumental in the development of the style through his original compositions and soulful piano style.  Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers also deserve a large credit for the development of the style as well.

"Other musicians who contributed prominently to the hard bop style include Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Drew, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, Blue Mitchell, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, and Sonny Rollins."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hard Bop: the Dominant, Not Sole, Focus Here.

I care a great deal about what came before it, and what came out of it, most of all the remarkable musicians who faced challenges (pardon the euphemism) posed by the British invasion of 1964. "Hard bop" is an abstraction, but if I manage to lead my visitor away from words about it and to the music itself, which my words might as easily dilute as illuminate, he or she will be able to put meat on the literary bones I offer.