Educator and author Mick Carlon has found a unique way to introduce young people to jazz. He writes novels which juxtapose adolescent fictional characters with realistic portrayals of past jazz masters. His first two books featured Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and in his new novel, "Girl Singer", he explores the worlds of the Count Basie Orchestra and Nazi concentration camps. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book.
For years, Art Pepper proved that being white and a Californian were not detriments to being a great jazz musician. However, even near the end of his career, Pepper believed he had to prove himself yet again. A newly released nightclub performance from New York's Fat Tuesday's finds Pepper performing exciting and emotionally ripe solos in front of an explosive rhythm section with Milcho Leviev, George Mraz and Al Foster. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this important recording in this month's Retro Review.
DUKE ELLINGTON & BILLY STRAYHORN'S "SUCH SWEET THUNDER" In 1956, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn spent a week at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Inspired by the performances of the Bard's plays, Ellington promised that he and Strayhorn would write a new Shakespeare-inspired suite for the next year's festival. The result was "Such Sweet Thunder", one of the most highly acclaimed albums in the Ellington discography. In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe explores the suite in depth, offering historical and musical background for this important recording. A rare aircheck of the Ellington orchestra performing portions of the suite is also included in this extended article.
Few contemporary vocalists have the stylistic
range of Luciana Souza. She is a remarkable improviser and composer who
can not only offer passionate interpretations of songs from America and
Brazil, but is also a collaborator with contemporary classical composer
Osvaldo Golijov. Thomas Cunniffe introduces you to Souza in this JHO
profile, which includes audio and video clips of Souza at work.
Southern California may be the land of abundant sunshine and insufficient rain, but it is also the home of one of the most vibrant jazz scenes in the US. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews new albums by Denise Donatelli, Mark Christian Miller, Carol Welsman, and Mark Winkler which offer superb musicianship (by both the singers and the instrumentalists) and intriguing programs which include unusual song choices alongside the standards and originals.
Archie Shepp once said "Ballads are the biggest challenge. You can hear every minute of every hour of every year a guy has put in on his horn with a ballad". Many musicians find one or two formulaic ways to handle ballads, but they must find several approaches when they plan an album with several love songs. In this CD review, Thomas Cunniffe examines how Michael Cunningham, Bill Kirchner, and Houston Person create variety within ballad-heavy programs.
With her new film, "The Girls in the Band", director Judy Chaikin achieves the near-impossible: a comprehensive history of women jazz instrumentalists in under 90 minutes. Thomas Cunniffe reports that the film contains more information about the multi-racial International Sweethearts of Rhythm than many earlier sources, and it offers an admirable survey of current female instrumentalists. Finally released on home video after years of playing only at public screenings, this newly revised review adds information about the new DVD collector's edition.
vocalist Michelle Lordi loves to tell stories in song. She has a deep
abiding interest in the Great American Songbook, but has also found
viable material from alternative country singer Ryan Adams and the 1980s
pop group, The Cars. In this month's Sidetracks feature, Thomas
Cunniffe introduces us to Lordi through her recordings and a recent live
performance in Denver.
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