KEITH JARRETT CONFRONTS A FUTURE WITHOUT THE PIANO ~ NYT

The pathbreaking musician reveals the health issues that make it unlikely he will ever again perform in public.

Keith Jarrett’s left side is still partially paralyzed by a pair of strokes in 2018. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist,” he said.
Keith Jarrett’s left side is still partially paralyzed by a pair of strokes in 2018. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist,” he said.Credit…Daniela Yohannes/ECM Records

By Nate Chinen

  • Oct. 21, 2020

The last time Keith Jarrett performed in public, his relationship with the piano was the least of his concerns. This was at Carnegie Hall in 2017, several weeks into the administration of a divisive new American president.

Mr. Jarrett — one of the most heralded pianists alive, a galvanizing jazz artist who has also recorded a wealth of classical music — opened with an indignant speech on the political situation, and unspooled a relentless commentary throughout the concert. He ended by thanking the audience for bringing him to tears.

He had been scheduled to return to Carnegie the following March for another of the solo recitals that have done the most to create his legend — like the one captured on the recording “Budapest Concert,” to be released on Oct. 30. But that Carnegie performance was abruptly canceled, along with the rest of his concert calendar. At the time, Mr. Jarrett’s longtime record label, ECM, cited unspecified health issues. There has been no official update in the two years since.

But this month Mr. Jarrett, 75, broke the silence, plainly stating what happened to him: a stroke in late February 2018, followed by another one that May. It is unlikely he will ever perform in public again.

“I was paralyzed,” he told The New York Times, speaking by phone from his home in northwest New Jersey. “My left side is still partially paralyzed. I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that, took a year or more. And I’m not getting around this house at all, really.”

Mr. Jarrett didn’t initially realize how serious his first stroke had been. “It definitely snuck up on me,” he said. But after more symptoms emerged, he was taken to a hospital, where he gradually recovered enough to be discharged. His second stroke happened at home, and he was admitted to a nursing facility.

During his time there, from July 2018 until this past May, he made sporadic use of its piano room, playing some right-handed counterpoint. “I was trying to pretend that I was Bach with one hand,” he said. “But that was just toying with something.” When he tried to play some familiar bebop tunes in his home studio recently, he discovered he had forgotten them.

Mr. Jarrett’s voice is softer and thinner now. But over two roughly hourlong conversations, he was lucid and legible, aside from occasional lapses in memory. He often punctuated a heavy or awkward statement with a laugh like a faint rhythmic exhalation: Ah-ha-ha-ha.

Mr. Jarrett in 1975, when he performed what would become “The Köln Concert” — a sonorous, mesmerizing landmark that still stands as one of the best-selling solo piano albums ever made.
Mr. Jarrett in 1975, when he performed what would become “The Köln Concert” — a sonorous, mesmerizing landmark that still stands as one of the best-selling solo piano albums ever made.Credit…Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Raised in the Christian Science faith, which espouses an avoidance of medical treatment, Mr. Jarrett has returned to those spiritual moorings — up to a point. “I don’t do the ‘why me’ thing very often,” he said. “Because as a Christian Scientist, I would be expected to say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ And I was doing that somewhat when I was in the facility. I don’t know if I succeeded, though, because here I am.”

“I don’t know what my future is supposed to be,” he added. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that.”

After a pause, he reconsidered. “But when I hear two-handed piano music, it’s very frustrating, in a physical way. If I even hear Schubert, or something played softly, that’s enough for me. Because I know that I couldn’t do that. And I’m not expected to recover that. The most I’m expected to recover in my left hand is possibly the ability to hold a cup in it. So it’s not a ‘shoot the piano player’ thing. It’s: I already got shot. Ah-ha-ha-ha.”

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SPENCER DAVIS, WHOSE BAND HELPED POWER THE SOUND OF THE ’60S, DIES AT 81 ~ NYT

Hits like “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man” made the Spencer Davis Group, based in Britain, famous worldwide and launched the career of its lead singer, Steve Winwood.

Spencer Davis in 1970. He played rhythm guitar in his original band and occasionally sang lead vocals, but Steve Winwood was the star.
Spencer Davis in 1970. He played rhythm guitar in his original band and occasionally sang lead vocals, but Steve Winwood was the star.Credit…Ian Dickson/Redferns, via Getty Images

By Jim Farber

  • Oct. 20, 2020

Spencer Davis, the leader of a rock group under his name that had some of the most propulsive and enduring hits of the 1960s, including “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “I’m a Man” and “Keep On Running” — all sung not by him but by a teenage Steve Winwood — died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

The cause was pneumonia, said Bob Birk, his booking agent and friend, adding that Mr. Davis had been hospitalized for the last week.

Mr. Davis co-wrote “Gimme Some Lovin’,” his group’s biggest hit. He played rhythm guitar in the band and occasionally sang lead vocals, lending his baritone voice mostly to blues-oriented material.

But it was Mr. Winwood, who was only 15 when Mr. Davis discovered him, who emerged as the group’s star, singing lead on its hit singles and later becoming an essential figure in British rock through his work with the bands Traffic and Blind Faith and in a long solo career.

After Mr. Winwood abruptly left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form Traffic, Mr. Davis kept the band going through multiple incarnations. In 1968, a new iteration of the Spencer Davis Group enjoyed two Top 40 hits in Britain, “Time Seller” and “Mr. Second Class.”

The band did not have similar success in the United States, but a song co-written by Mr. Davis and recorded by the band that year, “Don’t Want You No More,” became significant in 1969 when the Allman Brothers recorded a cover version as the opening track on their debut album. https://www.youtube.com/embed/xcxYX8KPhGk

The Spencer Davis Group in performance in London in 1966. From left: Steve Winwood, Mr. Davis and Muff Winwood. Pete York, the drummer, is in the back.
The Spencer Davis Group in performance in London in 1966. From left: Steve Winwood, Mr. Davis and Muff Winwood. Pete York, the drummer, is in the back.Credit…Pace/Getty Images

Mr. Davis later had a fruitful career as an A & R executive at Island Records, where he signed the hit punk-pop group Eddie and the Hot Rods and the respected reggae band Third World.

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THE SPECIAL PLACE WHERE ELLA FITZGERALD COMES ALIVE ~ NYT

The singer’s concert recordings have always had a power that her studio outings could only imply. “Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes,” a newly unearthed 1962 performance, magnifies her legacy.

In 1962, Ella Fitzgerald performed in Berlin. Norman Granz, her manager and Verve Records’s founder, stashed the recordings away; they were uncovered earlier this year.
In 1962, Ella Fitzgerald performed in Berlin. Norman Granz, her manager and Verve Records’s founder, stashed the recordings away; they were uncovered earlier this year.Credit…Rolf Ambor

By Giovanni Russonello

  • Oct. 1, 2020

Ella Fitzgerald hardly ever crooned the blues, and her vocals rarely overflowed with pathos or fury. Listening to her nail a ballad, you may not feel invited to leap into her own world and feel her pain, like you would with Billie Holiday or Little Jimmy Scott.

You could say that Fitzgerald was to singing what Yo-Yo Ma is to the cello: utter perfection, personified. Fitzgerald thinks of the note, she hits the note. She learns the song, she becomes the song. Still, there’s a sacred exchange going on. Rather than beckoning you in, Fitzgerald is bringing the music to you. And the effect is undeniable — you’re disarmed.

It makes sense, then, that Fitzgerald’s live recordings have always had a special power that her studio outings could only imply. As her biographer Stuart Nicholson put it, the best ones “reveal the real Ella, bringing pleasure to others by bringing pleasure to herself.”

Of those live albums, few made a longer-lasting impression than “Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin,” from 1960, widely considered one of her greatest captures. And this week, the pleasure grows: On Friday the Verve Label Group will release “Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes,” documenting a concert that she gave there two years after her famed first appearance. Taken together with “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things,” an informative documentary released on digital platforms earlier this month, it’s a worthy invitation to engage anew with a singer whose constant improvisations — equal parts precision and profusion — are all too easy to take for granted.

On the album, Fitzgerald is in her mid-40s, and well established as popular music royalty. Hear the breadth and depth of her vibrato, the way she uses strong breath to give rhythmic passages a punch, how she reinvents the melody to Ray Charles’s “Hallelujah! I Love Her So” as if her voice were a saxophone with words.

The Grammy-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, 31, said that as a student she saw Fitzgerald’s famed studio albums devoted to the Great American Songbook as an exemplar of flawless jazz singing. “Initially she was this model of perfection, and sort of the blueprint when learning a standard,” Ms. Salvant said in a phone interview.

“My appreciation for her is shifting now, in that I see how fun she is, how much of a risk-taker she is, how much humor she brings to her performances,” added Ms. Salvant, who created the animations for a music video that accompanies “Taking a Chance on Love” from the new album. “For me, a live setting is the best way to hear her.”

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John Prine Tribute Show to Re-Air on Prine’s Birthday ~ RollingStone

Online salute featuring Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Bill Murray will repeat on October 10th

John Prine

A popular online tribute to John Prine will re-air on October 10th, what would have been the songwriter’s 74th birthday.

Jay Blakesberg / MediaPunch/Medi

 

 

Last June, Picture Show: A Tribute Celebrating John Prine assembled an eclectic roster of artists and friends to remember the late songwriter in music and words. In honor of what would have been Prine’s 74th birthday, the special will repeat — with added footage — on October 10th.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Kacey Musgraves, Bonnie Raitt, Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, and Bill Murrary all make appearances. Picture Show airs at 7 p.m. CT on Prine’s YouTube channel and will be available to stream through midnight, October 11th.

Along with the tribute news, Prine’s label Oh Boy Records has announced that Prine’s 2000 album Souvenirs will be released on vinyl for the first time on September 25th. The LP, which was originally intended to be released only in Germany, features Prine and his band performing fresh versions of staples like “Hello in There,” “Angel From Montgomery,” and “Six O’Clock News.”

A Prine compilation will also kick off the new season of Austin City Limits. Premiering October 3rd, “The Very Best of John Prine” compiles choice performances from the singer’s eight ACL appearances, including a previously unaired take on “Sam Stone” from 1987. The episode begins with a recollection from Prine’s friend Jason Isbell.

John Fogerty: ‘Confounding’ that Trump campaign played ‘Fortunate Son’ at rally ~ The Hill

Rock icon John Fogerty on Friday said it was “confounding” that President Trump‘s campaign would use his hit song “Fortunate Son” at a rally given the song’s blunt criticisms of class privilege during the Vietnam War.

The former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman made a video explaining his experience writing the song after the Trump campaign played the hit while the president walked off Air Force One ahead of his rally in Freeland, Mich., on Thursday.

“I wrote the song back in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War,” Fogerty said in a video. “By the time I wrote the song, I had already been drafted and had served in the military. And I’ve been a lifelong supporter of our guys and gals in the military, probably because of that experience.”

Fogerty said he wrote the song in part because he was “upset” about how rich people with privilege and money could avoid the draft.

“I found that very upsetting that such a thing could occur, and that’s why I wrote ‘Fortunate Son,’” he said. “That was the inspiration for the song.” 

He noted the opening lyrics of the song read, “Some folks are born made to wave the flag, ooh their red, white and blue / But when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief,’ they point the cannon at you.”

Fogerty said that’s “exactly what happened” in Lafayette Square near the White House in June when federal officers used force to clear Black Lives Matter protesters ahead of Trump’s visit to a nearby church for a photo op.

“It’s a song I could have written now, and so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” he concluded.

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How Charlie Parker Defined the Sound and Substance of Bebop Jazz ~ The New Yorker

Charlie Parker playing the saxophone in lighting with a red hue
Parker rendered the surfaces of music turbulent and cosmically
intricate. 
Photograph by Eliot Elisofon / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty

The roots of bebop were formed in the nineteen-thirties, when Thelonious Monk was playing largely in private in New York, Dizzy Gillespie was shaking up the Cab Calloway trumpet section, Kenny Clarke reconfigured his drum kit in Teddy Hill’s band, and Charlie Parker fell through a music warp while playing “Cherokee” in a jam session. But it found its form and flourished in the nineteen-forties, and it’s Parker, whose centenary falls on Saturday, who lends the music its definitive sound, tone, legend, influence, and curse.

In the abstract, bop is the harmonic and rhythmic complexification of jazz, based on the substitution of a new and more elaborate framework of chords for the ones originally anchoring pop songs. Organizationally, it’s the shift away from big bands (with their emphasis on compositions, arrangements, and unison playing) and toward individual soloists playing in small groups centered on extended improvisations. Aesthetically, it’s musicians’ self-aware transformation of jazz into an exemplary element of artistic modernism. And in tone, it’s a virtual sonic documentary of the world as the musicians experienced it at the time of its flowering—a musical representation of anguish, irony, derision, and idealistic yearning.

Charlie Parker at 100: What to Read, Watch and Dig ~ NYT

How to celebrate the groundbreaking saxophonist — who died at 34 in 1955 — via books, albums, tributes and more.

Credit…Underwood & Underwood/Corbis, via VCG, via Getty Images

By

 

Charlie Parker’s brief swing through this world kicked off a century ago on Saturday with his birth in Kansas City, Kan. Eleven years later, he would take up the saxophone. A couple of years after that, inspired by the hot bands tearing up K.C. in the ’30s, the man who was later known as Bird dedicated himself to his instrument, the alto, woodshedding for 11 to 15 hours a day, he would later say.

A decade later, the complexity, beauty and “tommy-gun velocity” (as Stanley Crouch once put it) of his improvisations would hasten jazz’s departure from the dance hall. With his bebop cohort of Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and others, Bird declared “Now’s the Time,” thrilling audiences and scarifying critics, who mostly took a while to catch up to the advanced harmonics and polyrhythms. His brash modernism jolted New York and then the world.

And then, just 34 years into a life of epochal consequence, Parker died, his body ravaged by appetites as outsized as his genius.

In the decades since, his influence has never waned, even as the modern music he created evolved restlessly in his absence. Recent tribute recordings come from the patron saint of the avant-garde, via Anthony Braxton’s 11-disc archival treasure “Sextet (Parker) 1993,” and the heart of the mainstream, with the Italian guitar phenom Pasquale Grasso’s “Solo Bird” EP from Sony Masterworks.

Birdland, the club that bears Parker’s name — and once banned the sometimes unreliable master from its stage — remains an institution, updated for the age of streaming, and the annual Charlie Parker Festival, a free summer tradition since 1992, promises to return whenever live music lives again.

Jazz thrives most fully in live performance — now’s the time, after all. But there’s plenty of Parker (and Parker-inspired) art to thrill us at home, too. (All times listed for live events are Eastern.)

“Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker” (University of Minnesota Press)

Revised in 2013, Gary Giddins’s slim study (first published in 1987) remains the best single-volume examination of Parker’s life and art, a welcome corrective to sensationalist works like Ross Russell’s 1965 biography “Charlie Parker: His Life and Hard Times.” As focused as a Bird solo on a Savoy 78, Giddins eschews myth and romance in favor of facts and achievements. He emphasizes Parker’s breakthroughs — what they meant, how they came about and why they still resonate — rather than his addictions. Listening to Parker’s 1945 recording of “Ko Ko” after reading Giddins’s explication feels like bearing witness to the birth of modern jazz.

Credit…Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

“Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker”(Harper-Collins)

Less a biography than an incantation, the first volume of Stanley Crouch’s decades-in-the-making Bird portrait ends before bebop’s invention. But its seeds are planted in uncommonly rich soil. Drawing on his own interviews with Bird’s contemporaries, Mr. Crouch summons up the milieu in which Parker flourished, evoking Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and Kansas City’s gangland club scene with novelistic detail and a critic’s understanding of the individual artist’s relationship to the culture. Mr. Crouch centers the Blackness of Bird, his collaborators, and his audience with singular perceptive power — and virtuoso patter. (Here’s David Hadju’s review for The Times.)

“Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California” (Z2 Comics)

Dave Chisholm, the writer and artist of this extraordinary new graphic novel, has crafted a penetrating work of biographical art that rejects the often reductive portrayal of a harrowed, joyless Bird in popular fiction and film. “Chasin’ the Bird” instead presents anecdotal glimpses of the man from a variety of perspectives, often in searching conversation about art, music and philosophy with Angelenos circa 1947. This polymath Parker extols Bach, contemplates physics and feels stunned when confronted with ancient Egyptian art. He disappoints Dizzy Gillespie, who had brought him west for a string of dates, and shoves a young John Coltrane onto the path to transcendence. Mr. Chisholm runs the changes as an artist, drawing in a variety of styles, but his panels of Bird blowing his horn are ecstatic eruptions of fractals.

“Hot House” with Dizzy Gillespie (1952)

Tragically, only two filmed Parker performances have been discovered, and one of those finds the musicians miming along to a prerecorded track rather than actually playing. (Bird looks both amused and bored by the exercise.) This dash through Tadd Dameron’s composition “Hot House,” then, stands alone. Bird, Gillespie and the pianist Dick Hyman swap fleet, fiery solos. The cameras move more than Parker does — bless the operator for the zoom in on Bird’s fingers. This occurred on Mr. Hyman’s TV show on the New York-based DuMont Television Network. In 2010, Mr. Hyman said, “As soon as Parker began a solo, you’d feel as though a current was turned on in your body.”

“The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection” (Craft Recordings)

Where to start with the tangled discography of a midcentury giant in the age of Spotify? It’s rare in jazz for the latest lavish box set to serve as an enticing entry point, but Craft Recordings’ recreation of Bird’s dazzling first bebop releases for Savoy Records, recorded between 1944 and 1948, boils Parker’s breakthroughs to their essence — you hear, in smartly upgraded sound, nothing but the performances (“Ko Ko,” “Warmin’ Up a Riff,” “Parker’s Mood,” “Ah-Leu-Cha”) that changed the world. It’s a dip into the headwaters of modern music.

“The Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes” (Savoy)

Don’t let that “completethrow you. Loving jazz doesn’t demand endeavoring to become some kind of archivist. Parker’s official recordings from 1944 to 1948 run the length of just three CDs but offer lifetimes of pleasure and revelation. This 2002 edition, available to stream, is uncluttered with the scraps from the apple — alternate takes and repetitious bonus tracks — that collectors prize. “The Complete Verve Master Takes,” surveying Bird’s early ’50s work including his sessions with strings, is also streamlined but less consistently superior.

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