Conversation with Henry Threadgill

I interviewed composer and multi-instrumentalist Henry Threadgill on Oct. 28, 2013, the morning after his triumphant Zooid concert at the Library of Congress. We discussed his musical upbringing in Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the story of his life-changing experience in Vietnam, his groups Air and Zooid, and his approach to composition and improvisation.

 

Before & After: Helen Sung

IMG_0001Along with Beyoncé Knowles, Robert Glasper and Jason Moran, pianist Helen Sung is among the celebrated alumni of Houston, Texas’ High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. After preparing for a classical concert career, Sung fell in love with jazz, graduated from the Thelonious Monk Institute and went on to work with Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Regina Carter and T.S. Monk while also touring internationally with her own groups. We met for this midnight listening session following her quintet performance at the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival in May. Sung’s new recording as a leader, Anthem for a New Day, is her first for Concord Jazz.

 

1. Kenny Barron

“Triste” (from #Kenny Barron & The Brazilian Knights#, Sunnyside). Barron, piano; Lula Galvão, guitar. Recorded in 2012. Continue reading

Listening Session with Arkady Shilkloper

IMG_0009Moscow-born Arkady Shilkloper is one of the leading horn players in jazz. In the 1970s and 80s, he played French horn in the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and the Moscow Philharmonic Symphony. Since then, he’s collaborated with folk, fusion and progressive rock ensembles, and is perhaps best known in improvised jazz circles for his work with the Moscow Art Trio, Elvin Jones, Lew Soloff, Pierre Favre and the Vienna Art Orchestra. While I’d known Shilkloper’s recordings, I finally got to see him perform in the summer of 2012 at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv, Ukraine. Two days later we met for this session. [Photo by Larry Appelbaum]

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Before & After: Igor Butman

Listening With Russia’s Jazz Ambassador

 

Tenor saxophonist, bandleader and entrepreneur Igor Butman occupies a unique place in Russian jazz circles for his considerable musical skills, media visibility and savvy political connections. The St. Petersburg-born Berklee graduate is not only recognized as the most famous Russian jazz musician in the world today, he also runs a successful record label, operates two jazz clubs and provides artistic direction for a jazz festival.

Interview with John Surman

For his birthday today, remembering a conversation four years ago with John Surman, done for the late, lamented website Jazz.com:

IMG_5728British saxophonist and composer John Surman made a couple of rare appearances in the U.S. this summer fronting an all-star quartet with John Abercrombie, Drew Gress and Jack DeJohnette, the same group of heavy hitters on his latest release, Brewster’s Rooster (ECM).  The 65 year-old Surman spent an afternoon in Washington D.C. talking about the obstacles that European musicians face in America, the recession and subsidies, his approach to composition and improvisation, and one of his worst saxophone nightmares.

This is your first time in the U.S. with your own band. Why did it take so long?

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Before & After: Bobby Watson

Larry & Bobby_9792Saxophonist Bobby Watson may be best known for his four years with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, but his distinguished career also includes work with Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Carlos Santana, Horizon and the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. He is currently Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music.

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Before & After: Michael Wolff

michael-wolff-1Michael Wolff has worn many hats in the music business. As a jazz pianist and composer he worked with Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, and he spent five years as Nancy Wilson’s music director. The mid-1980s found Wolff branching out as a comedian and singer-songwriter, which paved the way towards his high profile 5-year gig as television bandleader on The Arsenio Hall Show. He’s since composed soundtracks for several films, including The Tic Code directed by the actress (and his wife) Polly Draper. More recently, Wolff has sharpened his acting chops playing the geeky accordion-playing dad on Nickelodeon’s popular rock comedy television show The Naked Brother’s Band, starring Wolff’s sons Nat and Alex. We sat one night over a bowl of pistachios listening to records and talking about his latest release, Joe’s Strut (Wrong Records).

1. Nancy Wilson

“Never Will I Marry” (from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley, Capitol). Wilson, vocals; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophone; Nat Adderley, cornet; Joe Zawinul, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Louis Hayes, drums. Recorded in 1961. Continue reading