Was sad to learn that visionary music producer Hal Willner passed today from COVID-19. Willner had worked in television for Saturday Night Live and Night Music. He also worked on soundtracks to Robert Altman films Kansas City and Short Cuts, staged live events for Edgar Allan Poe, Doc Pomus, Neil Young, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs and many other luminaries from the world of music, arts and letters. In jazz circles, he’s best known for various Tribute recordings including his first from 1981 based on the work of Italian composer Nina Rota from films of Frederico Fellini with everyone from Wynton and Branford Marsalis to Steve Lacy and Deborah Harry. Here is Carla Bley’s arrangement of the music from 8 1/2.
from Amarcord Nino Rota (1981)
Retirement during a time of plague might seem like odd timing. But that time has come.
Philadelphia-born trumpeter, composer Wallace Roney died today of complications from COVID-19. I remember seeing him at d.c. space in the late 70s with his brother Antoine on tenor. He was ferocious even then. That was even before he joined Tony Williams and Art Blakey. And though his sound and concept are often linked to Miles Davis, he carved out his own sound and identity, recording more than 20 sessions as leader and more as collaborator. Here are 10 clips to show Wallace in his glory. Continue reading
Drummer Jon Christensen passed away last week at the age of 76. He’s closely associated with ECM records, having recorded 55 sessions for them beginning with Jan Garberek’s Africa Pepperbird in 1970. I wanted to pull together some of my favorite Christensen recorded performances beginning with something from his pre-ECM days, a 1963 session with Norwegian singer Karin Krog with her original lyrics on a standard made popular in the jazz world by John Coltrane.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr would have been 84 today. Some music to help remember him by.
Danish trumpeter, composer and arranger Jens Winther died in his sleep while in Geneva on Thursday Feb. 24. Jens was 50 and had been living in Berlin since forming the JW Berlin Quintet in 2009. I only saw him perform three times: first with drummer Ed Thigpen’s Scantett at the Toronto Jazz Festival, then with his own group at the Nordic Jazz Festival in Washington D.C., and finally at the late night hotel jam session during the Vancouver Jazz Festival. He liked to hang and talk music, and he always seemed to be reaching into his bag to hand me a CD of his latest project. Jens sounded good in every setting, from big bands and funk to intimate ballads. But I loved to hear him do his hard-bop thing. Here’s a clip showing Jens backstage in his red jacket jamming with fellow trumpeter Tom Harrell and bassist Anders Christensen. The video quality is amateurish but worth watching, especially after the first 30 seconds. It captures his command of the language and his playful, soulful spirit. Thank you, Jens.
Umezu Kazutoki reports that Japanese drummer Ryojiro Furusawa died last night. He had played with Yosuke Yamashita, Sadao Watanabe, Shigeharu Mukai and many others He was 65 years old and highly regarded by everyone who follows Japanese jazz. [Note: There are two drummers on this clip. Furusawa is the older man with the gray goatee.]