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.
For his birthday today, remembering a conversation four years ago with John Surman, done for the late, lamented website Jazz.com:
British 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?
Saxophonist 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.
Michael 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 →
Too bad we didn’t video record this listening session. To see Dee Dee Bridgewater’s animated facial expressions and watch her respond, both physically and emotionally, would add an extra layer or two of meaning to the text. I caught up with the peripatetic vocalist (and her little Maltese, Iyo) at her hotel during a tour with the Monterey Festival All-Stars, a few hours before their performance at the Kennedy Center. The actress and three-time Grammy winner continues to host NPR’s Jazz Set while pursuing her intercontinental musical adventures. Her latest recording is the compilation, Midnight Sun, on her own DDB Records.
1. Betty Carter
“Thou Swell” (from Social Call, Columbia). Carter, vocal; Ray Bryant, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded in 1955.
Betty, man. She was so friggin’ underrated. She was a genius. I mean, just the way she heard music and how she could take a simple song like “Thou Swell” and turn it into a masterpiece of the moment. The trio was so tight and she just floats on top of it like a horn. People say they’re inspired by Ella, Sarah and Billie, but she’s my main inspiration. Continue reading →
I recently found an interview I did 15 years ago with saxophonist, composer Tim Berne. At the time, he was on tour with his trio Paraphrase (including Drew Gress and Tom Rainey) and in DC to perform at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adams Morgan. Chief Ike’s was just a couple of blocks from WPFW-FM, so Tim dropped by the studio for a bit of live on-air chat before sound check.
Tell us about the group Paraphrase. What do you see as the musical direction of this trio?
We had played together in different situations, always playing written music and improvising. We decided to depart from that strategy and just improvise. So we really don’t know what we’re going to do [laughs]. Continue reading →