Jazz Legacy Productions: A Generation of a New Legacy

Last week marked the release party of Jazz Legacy Productions at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. The record industry, jazz community and press covered the event in honor of a music that’s fallen off the radar in the mainstream press. This event marks a new and exciting chapter of jazz music and to maintain the high standard to record quality music while keeping current with today’s jazz listeners.

 

Jazz Legacy Productions was co-founded by bassist, composer, and producer John Lee out of a need to groom and produce a new generation of jazz artists. Also, keep the legends who’ve created the blueprint of this music current by recording new music. Lee also saw the importance of how the internet is playing a part in today’s music listeners via i Tunes and the retail powerhouses like Amazon and Overstock.com.

 

The label is serious and has a cadre of artists that have recorded a slew of discs that have been well-received by the press and fans.

 

One of the most praised discs of 2009 is the Heath Brother’s “Endurance.” These two brothers have played with some of the most legendary jazz musicians in the industry. From Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody and Ray Charles. Their brother Percy, was one of the co-founders of the Modern Jazz Quartet, which was one of the most important jazz groups in modern music. 60 years of jazz music have passed and the Heath Brothers have witnessed and graced the stage with many of the legends. As leaders, both Jimmy and Albert Heath still have the respect among their peers as well as fans from around the world. This year Jimmy just celebrated his 83rd birthday.

 

Jimmy’s performed with icons sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart, and Erroll Garner. Throughout his career, Jimmy has performed on more than 100 record albums, including seven with The Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader.  He’s also written over 125 compositions that have become standards. His works include seven suites and two string quartets and he premiered his first symphonic work “Three Ears” at Queens College. Jimmy’s son is R & B producer and writer James Mtume.

 

Albert Heath first recorded in 1957 with John Coltrane. Throughout his career he’s worked with J. J. Johnson, Wes Montgomery, Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet, Cedar Walton, Bobby Timmons, Kenny Drew, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Herbie Hancock, and Yusef Lateef. In 1975, he and his brothers formed The Heath Brothers. Tootie Heath is a regular instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and producer and leader of The Whole Drum Truth.

 

This disc features bassist David Wong and pianist Jeb Patton and is the first disc recorded by Heath Brothers since the untimely death of their brother Percy. Jimmy paid tribute to him with the composition “From a Lonely Bass.”

 

Another standout JLP release is trombonist Steve Davis’s “Eloquence” disc. The disc features the legendary Hank Jones on piano. Davis, who’s musical pallet ranges from Chick Corea’s Origin, to being a co-leader in jazz supergroup One for All, to playing in The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band, has allowed this leader to shine as a well-rounded musician. This hardworking musician and educator is a dedicated disciple of legends like Curtis Fuller, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jackie McLean. His latest disc Eloquence was been on the top of the charts for the last couple of months to rave reviews.

 

Steve also plays in other jazz ensembles like One for All featuring Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, David Hazeltine, John Webber and Joe Farnsworth.  They’ve recorded 13 CD’s and will release a new project sometime next spring. In addition to One for All, he fronts the Outlook Quintet featuring rising stars Mike DiRubbo, David Bryan, Dezron Douglas and Eric McPherson.

 

Teaching is one of Steve’s passions and has been since he graduated from the The Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute at the University of Hartford.  Since 1992, Davis joined Mc Lean’s sextet and begin teaching alongside his mentor at both the Hartt School and Artist’s Collective since his death.

 

Music has been of a reflection of political, pop, and social norms set to all forms of music genres.  As music changes with the times so has jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut. His unique and authentic soulful and gospel oriented playing has heads bobbing to packed audiences around the world. Also, he’s not ashamed to bring black culture in the limelight, something that’s been missing in mainstream culture. Cyrus’s latest solo piano disc “Spirt” explores his passion and love of gospel music by playing deep rooted spirituals and hymns. Although he was raised in the church in Baltimore, Maryland, it was the music of his childhood and upbringing that he continues to embrace along with his rich African legacy.

 

Chestnut started playing piano at nine and was studying classical at an early age. He attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, Cyrus played with the late Betty Carter, Jon Hendricks, Wynton Marsalis, and Terence Blanchard. As a soloist he’s been able bridge both jazz and gospel to the masses.

 

Of course there’s other artists on the label like saxophonist Sharel Cassity whose disc “Relentless” is getting lots a heavy airplay around the country.

 

Last week’s showcase at the Blue Note proved jazz music hasn’t left and fans can look forward to the next generation of artists that embrace this rich cultural legacy. John Lee has taken a risk that many in the industry would never do in this post-major label and turbulent economic down spin that’s shaken this country. Where jazz music is considered art and not profitable, Jazz Legacy Productions seems to focus on recording quality music as well as keeping the music out there.

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

 

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

thepacereport@yahoo.com

http://www.thepacereport.com

Steve Grossman: “Homeward Bound”

Last week marked a milestone in jazz music. The Jazz Standard in New York City booked a week of engagements featuring the legendary Steve Grossman on tenor saxophone. His quartet featured David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (drums), and Joe Farnsworth (bass). Grossman, a native New Yorker, graced fans last week and sounded better than ever.

 

I had the opportunity to spend some time with him at the club. Grossman has been a force in jazz since his days playing with trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Elvin Jones during the late 1960’s into the early 70’s. He replaced Wayne Shorter during Miles’s fusion phase while he was 18 years old. Grossman recorded legendary Miles recordings like “A Tribute to Jack Johnson,” “Miles at Fillmore,” and “Evil Live.” Throughout his career he’s battled and almost lost his life to drug and alcohol abuse which span some 40 years. While on stage, Steve’s band was solid and his solos were impeccable. We sat down for his first one-on-one interview here in New York in over 10 years. He elaborated on his career and him returning to New York.

 

One of the issues Steve dealt with was how the jazz scene was changing during the late 1960’s. He wanted to play straight ahead jazz but music fans were listening to rock and fusion, something he had to adjust to. Fans didn’t really get into him until he left for Italy and where they appreciated his music and he was getting more gigs.

 

His best known solo recordings are Some Shapes to Come (1973), Perspective (1974), and In New York (1992).

 

I believe Steve’s upcoming disc in early 2010 and him being clean and sober will be one of jazz music’s major comeback stories. He proved a lot of people wrong this week. His playing is a lot better these days and he’s trying to erase the negative stigma that’s followed him for almost 40 years. Plus, he has a strong support system backing him right now including his brother and new manager.

 

I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, but Steve Grossman isn’t a underdog. He’s human and has learned from his mistakes. In fact, Friday night’s first set was sold-out. That right there should tell you he’s back and his fans still appreciate him some 40 years later.

 

I hope you enjoy my radio interview posted and get to know the real Steve Grossman.

 

 

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

 

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

thepacereport@yahoo.com

http://www.thepacereport.com

Charley Pride’s Darius Rucker Journey

Last week another milestone in African-American history took place in Nashville and again the press was asleep at the wheel. Yet, although Taylor Swift made history at the Country Music Awards this year for being the youngest performer ever to win the awards, singer Darius Rucker still didn’t get the recognition he deserved. Taylor, who was so rudely interrupted by rapper Kayne West at this year’s MTV Music Video Awards during her acceptance speech, won an unprecedented 4 awards.

 

But the biggest story of the evening was singer Darius Rucker (formally of Hootie and the Blowfish) who won Best New Artist of the Year. This was the first time since 1971 when Charley Pride accepted this award. Almost 40 years has elapsed since an African-American won such an honor.

 

What’s more shocking about Darius’s success is his debut County CD “Learn to Live” has sold over a million copies and garnered three number hits. I researched Jet, Ebony, and other major black publications and not one written column has been written in Darius. In fact, he recorded a nice R &B CD on Hidden Beach Records in 2002 and no one gave him his respect then.

 

Darius was the frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish during the 1990’s and again made waves in the music industry because he was playing rock music. Also, he was a brother fronting the band. The band 1994 debut disc “Cracked Rear View” sold 16 million copies and have had hits like “I Wanna Be With You” and “Hold My Hand.” Their music was considered “people-friendly” because it was played on MTV, VH1, and many Adult Contemporary stations where Hootie was heavily formated.

 

I follow Country Music to a certain degree and find that there’s only a handful of African-Americans in this “elite” country club. Artists like Stoney Edwards, Big Al Downing, Cleve Francis, Rissi Palmer and Cowboy Troy have made their presence in Nashville since Pride’s arrival in Music City USA in the mid-1960’s. Ray Charles recorded many Country tunes, but was never considered a true Country recording artist.

 

Charlie Pride really deserves a lot more credit that he deserves. Born on March 18, 1938, in Sledge, Mississippi, he one of 11 children born to sharecroppers. Pride started his music career while as a baseball player in the Negro American League with the Memphis Red Sox. The self-taught guitarist was introduced to producer Jack Clement while on a trip to Nashville.

Clement arranged a two-hour recording session with Charley that let to a two song demo. Producer Chet Atkins loved his voice and gave the young Pride a contract right on the spot. “The Snakes Crawl at Night” hit the charts in 1966 giving him his first hit on RCA Records. Race was (and still is) an issue with radio stations and programmers in the south, so they kept his race hidden from the fans through the release of his first three singles. This three-time Grammy Award Winning artist is the only person of color inducted in the Grand Ole Opry.

 

Darius Rucker’s success falls on the coattails of Charley Pride and DeFord Bailey who opened the doors for blacks in Nashville. Although its been almost 40 years since he accepted this award, we still have a ways to go in becoming an equal in country music.

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

http://www.thepacereport.com

Has Rock and Roll Turned It’s Back On Persons Of Color?

I recently interviewed singer Corey Glover of the rock group Living Colour on the heels of their latest disc and world tour that started a couple of weeks ago. Glover, like his other band members Will Calhoun, Doug Wimbish and Vernon Reid, have been on the front lines playing rock music. What I found intriguing about our conversation was, race is still prevalent in African-Americans playing rock and roll. In 2009 the only persons of color that are appealing to and have a strong fan base with white audiences are TV on the Radio, Santigold, Bazzar Royal, N.E.R.D, Pillow Theory and Saul Williams.

During the 1980’s Living Colour was known around the Indie New York music scene. Later, they toured a great deal and generated a buzz, including club CBGB’s. Singer and co-leader Mick Jagger while working on his solo project, hired both Vernon and William to play on his album. Throughly impressed, Jagger produced Living Colour’s demo that eventually landed them a deal with Epic Records.

During the summer of 1988, Living Colour released their debut album Vivid, reaching #6 on the Billboard 200. MTV began playing the video for “Cult of Personality” and media machine took off. The band would win Grammy’s for Best Hard Rock Performance “Cult of Personality”(1990) and Best Hard Rock Performance for “Time’s Up.” The band’s best known for their socially conscious tunes like “Cult of Personality” and “Love Rear’s It’s Ugly Head.” LC has been on the cutting edge in rock and roll. They’ve also been on the front lines keeping the rich history and legacy alive of how people of color have made important strides in rock. Vernon Reid, founder of Living Colour and the Black Rock Coalition, thought it was important to spotlight and assist up and coming artists of color that might never receive the recognition. In fact, there were only a handful of performers of color that made a buzz in rock music during the 1980’s. Tracy Chapman, Fishbone, Lenny Kravitz and Run DMC brought different elements to rock music that helped them crossover to Pop, Punk, and Rap music.

It’s a bit strange African-Americans gave Rock and Roll it’s shape and formation, yet I see no Blacks playing the music. A couple of weeks ago I covered the Afro-Punk concert which featured Saul Williams as the headliner. What I liked about the show was people of my own hue were playing Punk. You associate Punk Music with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Bad Brains, and the Violent Femmes. But, I have to go a little deeper than that. Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, Albert King, and Junior Wells were the nucleus that influenced a whole generation of British rock icons that have superseded the genius of those Blues legends I just mentioned. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards all claim that American Blues artists were influential in their playing.

The 1950’s saw the evolution of Rock and Roll in the form of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, B.B. King, Ray Charles and James Brown. All of which who gave the world their musicianship, entertainment and mark in pop culture.

Living Colour’s fan base is still here in the states and overseas despite what the mainstream video and radio stations play on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some of the record companies still push rock bands that feature almost no Black groups or artists. Hip-Hop and Pop music seem to the closest we’ll ever see when it come to more groups like Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna. That’s so sad because artists like Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, George Clinton and Sly Stone played rock music as a means to speak musically to their audiences. During the late 60’s into the 1970’s Black musicians playing the guitar over some killer drum riffs was the norm. There were progressive Soul bands during the 1970’s that were rock influenced. Bands like Mandrill, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Jimmy Castor Bunch, The New Birth, The Meters and War. African-Americans and other minorities were still playing rock when it was fashionable and socially appealing.

Very seldom when I see tribute concerts for the Rolling Stones or The Who do I see acts like  Living Colour or The Roots present at these events. Don’t get me wrong, music is the most common language in the universe, but when I see rock musicians today, I don’t see us. I commend artists like Jay-Z who reached out and recorded a project with Linkin Park. Talib Kweli and Res’s collaboration with Graph Noble, and Mos Def’s rock project. These are the kinds of musical collaborations that helped rock music give it it’s fire. The creative and musical insight that allowed the artist to play without the love a paycheck. I miss groups like Living Colour and Ice T’s Body Count because their music exceeded the level of color. Sly Stone and War’s music still stands the test of time because rock was and still is a form of music that spoke socially to its fans. Its a shame Rock and Roll hasn’t fully accepted persons of color in it’s “country club” elite state considering the contributions of our architects.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

Ron Carter: “Finding The Right Notes”

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview and break bread with Jazz legend and NEA Jazz Master
Ron Carter over the weekend. Carter, the bassist who rose to meteoric rise during the 1960’s when he played in Miles Davis’s second legendary unit that featured  Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Tony Williams. They made some serious recordings with Davis. He joined the group in 1963 appearing on Seven Steps to Heaven, E.S.P., Sorcerer, Quiet Nights, Four & More, My Funny Valentine, Live at the Plugged Nickel, Miles Smiles, Miles in the Sky, Filles de Kilimanjaro, Water Babies, and Nefertiti.

Carter played a week of sold-out dates at the famed Blue Note in New York City on the heels of his latest best-selling biography “Finding The Right Notes.” Writer Dan Ouellette goes into detail of the life of this distinguished musician that’s recorded over some 2,500 jazz, soul, and pop recordings. Sessions ranging from Gil Scott-Heron, Roberta Flack, A Tribe Called Quest, Grady Tate and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Whether he’s performing with his trio featuring guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Mulgrew Miller to teaching master classes around the world; at 72, Ron still plays and feels like he’s in his 20’s.

Writers and critics throughout the years have labeled Ron as “difficult” and “intimidating.” At 6’3, he’s always represented a confident and well-learned demeanor that most people would find intimidating. I found Ron to be the exact opposite.
In fact, I used to see him perform in his hometown of Detroit quite a bit, and my opinion of him then was and is still valid of him now. He’s very quiet and sincerely one of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet. After speaking with him late Friday night after his set, he was truly all that and bag a chips!

I told him from from the beginning of my interview, I didn’t want to talk about Miles. For years writers and critics have put him a box that only consists of Miles and his time as a session guy at Blue Note Records. He gave me a big smile and we discussed his biography and one of his favorite passions, literature.

Ron Levin Carter was born on May 4, 1937 in Ferndale, Michigan. He was the fifth of eight children. His parents stressed a strong work ethic that Ron used all of his life. While Ron attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he studied the cello with hopes of eventually becoming a professional classical musician. In school, he worked as a paperboy delivering some 300 papers in Detroit’s harshest summers and winters to pay for music lessons and sheet music. The hard work paid eventually off and Carter accepted a scholarship at the Eastman School of Music, where he played in its Philharmonic Orchestra. Even though he had to pay for his own room and board, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Eastman in 1959, and in 1961 a master’s degree in double bass performance from the Manhattan School of Music.

Due to the racial climate and blatant profiling of black classical musicians during the 1950’s, Ron had to switch from the cello to the upright bass. It was this change that gave way to him being one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history, along with Milt Hinton, Ray Brown and Leroy Vinnegar. It was also after completing Eastman, that he moved to New York where the burgeoning jazz scene took off and Ron would make a name for himself.

In addition to playing with Miles, Ron was a session musician at Blue Note and Creed Taylor Records during the 1960’s into the mid-1970’s.  Backing some of the most prolific recordings by McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and Sam Rivers. Although he played some electric bass occasionally during this period, he did it as a means to back some of the artists and producers that needed it for the sessions.

I’m really getting into “Finding The Right Notes.” This book is a must read for all true music fans and those who want to know the personal and mental psyche of this jazz icon.

Please listen to my two part radio interviews with Ron that are posted on the Radio Interviews and Segments page on my site. Also, go out and support the book.

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace
The Pace Report
thepacereport@yahoo.com
http://www.thepacereport.com