Tag Archives: Listening to music

Jimmy Heath

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of the great Jimmy Heath on Sunday, 19th January 2020. Jimmy was a personal friend and played alongside John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. He wrote over 100 jazz compositions and appeared on over 125 albums in his life.

If you’re on Spotify or another music service please use the ‘Song Shift‘ App (I will paste the Spotify playlist into this when I can get it working)!

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #10 – Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker is an American funk and soul jazz saxophonist, best known for his work with James Brown in the 1960s, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970s. Parker was a prominent soloist on many of Brown’s hit recordings, and a key part of his band, playing altotenor and baritone saxophones. Since the early 1990s, he has toured under his own name.

Parker and his brother Melvin joined James Brown in 1964; in his autobiography, Brown claims that he originally wanted Melvin as his drummer, but agreed to additionally take Maceo under his wing as part of the deal. In 1970, Parker, his brother Melvin, and a few of Brown’s band members left to establish the band Maceo & All the King’s Men, which toured for two years.

In January 1973, Parker rejoined with James Brown. He also charted a single “Parrty – Part I” (#71 pop singles) with Maceo & the Macks that year. In 1975, Parker and some of Brown’s band members, including Fred Wesley, left to join George Clinton’s band Parliament-Funkadelic. Parker once again re-joined James Brown from 1984 to 1988.

In the 1990s, Parker began a solo career. His first album of this period “Roots Revisited” spent 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. To date he has released 11 solo albums since 1990. His band has been billed as “the greatest little funk orchestra on earth” and the “million-dollar support band”. Parker’s 1992 live album “Life on Planet Groove” is considered to be his seminal live album, marking his first collaboration with Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer.

In 1993, Parker made guest appearances on hip hop group De La Soul’s album Buhloone Mindstate. In the late 1990s, Parker began contributing semi-regularly to recordings by Prince and accompanying his band, The New Power Generation, on tour. He also played on the Jane’s Addiction track “My Cat’s Name Is Maceo” for their 1997 compilation album Kettle Whistle. In 1998, Parker performed as a guest on “What Would You Say” on a Dave Matthews Band concert, which also became one of their live albums, Live in Chicago 12.19.98.

In 2007, Parker performed as part of Prince’s band for Prince’s 21 nights at the O2 arena. Parker also played as part of Prince’s band for his 21-night stay at LA’s Forum in 2011.

Parker’s album Roots & Grooves with the WDR Big Band is a tribute to Ray Charles, whom Parker cites as one of his most important influences. The album won a Jammie for best Jazz Album in 2009. Parker followed this up with another collaboration with WDR Big Band in 2012 with the album Soul Classics.

In October 2011, Parker was inducted in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

In July 2012, Parker was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Victoires Du Jazz in Paris. He continues touring, headlining many jazz festivals in Europe and doing as many as 290 concerts a year.

In May 2016, Parker received The North Carolina Heritage Award from his home state

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #7 – Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz was born October 13, 1927. He has performed successfully in a wide range of jazz styles, including bebopcool jazz, and avant-garde jazz. Konitz’s association with the cool jazz movement of the 1940s and 1950s includes participation in Miles Davis‘s Birth of the Cool sessions and his work with pianist Lennie Tristano. He was notable during this era as one of relatively few alto saxophonists to retain a distinctive style when Charlie Parker exerted a massive influence.

Like other students of Tristano, Konitz was noted for improvising long, melodic lines with the rhythmic interest coming from odd accents, or odd note groupings suggestive of the imposition of one time signature over another. Other saxophonists were strongly influenced by Konitz, notably Paul Desmond and Art Pepper.

Check out the playlists and find out more about Lee Konitz here.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #6 – Ben Webster

Ben Webster is one of the three most important tenor players of the pre-war era alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

Webster started on violin as a child, moving to the piano where he later played in a number of bands before finding himself playing for silent movies in Amarillo, Texas. Whilst in Texas the sax player Budd Johnson introduced him to the saxophone and gave ‘Bean’ his first lesson. Shortly afterwards Ben Webster was invited to join the ‘Young Family Band’ by Lester’s father Willis. After this he toured with some of the best swing orchestras of the time including Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Andy Kirk and others. In 1940 he joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra becoming a permanent fixture and the featured tenor soloist.

In the late 1940s he went out on his own and could be found playing in many of the legendary 52nd St Clubs in New York City. In the early 1950s he returned to Kansas and recorded with Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holliday and Oscar Peterson.

By the 1960s Ben Webster’s sound and style had fallen out of fashion and he moved to Europe. He died in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1973.

Joshua Redman interviews Sonny Rollins

I’ve always loved finding out what makes great musicians ‘tick’.  I often find some of the best interviews can be hosted by fellow musicians as they often have insights into the right questions.

This article that I found years ago on the JazzWise website contains an interview that Joshua Redman did with the legendary Sonny Rollins back in 2005.  It was based around Sonny’s release of his Without A Song the 9/11 concert  – recorded just days after the tragic events of the 11th September 2001 in New York and Washington.   Sonny lived just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre site and has suffered in recent years from lung issues, thought to be from the toxic fumes released in NYC during and after the attacks.

You can read the full interview here, and of course please do watch my #DansVlog episode.  I’ve also put together an exclusive Sonny Rollins playlist which compliments the interview.

Some of my favourite quotes from the interview..

When I was a little kid I tried to sing in front of one of these places on 133rd Street, which years ago used to be a real haven for clubs when people used to come uptown. And Buddy Johnson said he really dug my playing-I was about 12 years old; that was a great feeling. As I grew older, all the great people were living uptown: Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, Erskine Hawkins, Duke Ellington.

JR: One thing that’s completely astounding to me is I’ve heard recordings that you did when you weren’t even 20, and some of your first recordings you did in your early 20s, and you had been playing the saxophone for less than 10 years. You were an absolute prodigy, you were playing on the highest level imaginable. It’s kind of intimidating and almost depressing for a musician like me to hear that. Did it feel like it came naturally?

SR: You’re very, very kind. I just practiced a lot; I practiced a lot because I loved playing. I’d be practicing all day long. My mother used to have to call me to come and eat dinner because I was in there practicing all the time. I guess some of that came through. I was also lucky to be around some of these great people. I was able to record with a genius like Bud Powell when I was very young, and so I always try to get myself up as close as I can to that level.

You can’t spend too much time thinking about what you’re going to play, it comes out so fast. 

But right now, Joshua, I still have hopes of improving and sounding better and making a better record. Hope burns eternal. I’m going to put off going into the vaults and trying to find something I’ve done before. This [new CD] was a special occasion and we’ll see what happens in the future.

If Spotify (below) isn’t showing in Safari, then use Chrome

2019 Cambridge Saxophone Playlist

As part of my goal to get my students to do more listening, here is my 2019 Cambridge Saxophone Playlist.

There is a good mixture of old classics and new players, so get listening and GET SHARING!

Naturally as I’m a jazzer and primarily a tenor player, it’s going to be biased towards those, but please feel free to add your own and share your playlists back with me via the forum. 

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