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: Sachal Vasandani

IMG_0003Before & After

Sachal Vasandani

by Larry Appelbaum


With the release of his third recording, Hi-Fly (Mack Avenue), Sachal Vasandani continues his inevitable transition from rising star to established headliner. Like many singers of his generation, he’s studied and assimilated the past while keeping up with current developments inside and outside of jazz. For this session he gnawed on fresh fruits throughout and chose to listen to each track in its entirety before offering reactions or sharing insights. Still, he couldn’t stifle his occasional yeas and grunts of appreciation.


Gregory Porter

“God Bless The Child” (from Be Good, Motema). Porter, vocal. Recorded in 2011.

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Listening Session: Valery Ponomarev

In the fall of 2009, I arranged a listening session with trumpeter Valery Ponomarev when he came to D.C. to play Twins Jazz. We did the piece in English and it was translated by my friend Cyril Moshkow for his Russian language magazine This is the first time this piece has appeared anywhere in English.


1. Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw

“Boperation” (from The Freddie Hubbard-Woody Shaw Sessions, Blue Note). Hubbard, Shaw, trumpets; Mulgrew Miller, trumpet; Cecil McBee, bass; Carl Allen, drums. Recorded in 1985.

The original recording of this was with Fats Navarro and Howard McGee, but this sounds like a recreation. I can hear it in the execution of notes. Of course this is the beautiful Freddie Hubbard. What can you say, man? The other one is Woody Shaw. You can hear it in the articulation. It’s incredible. These are the best trumpet players that ever played trumpet, at least in jazz music. To hear Freddie play? Wooo! These two guys make me feel glad I’m a trumpet player. I’m happy I belong to the same clan and I enjoy hearing them play and the way they express themselves.

How would you describe their personalities?

In a way, they’re the same, in a way, different. Freddie was incredible. He was very well educated and he could speak with confidence about a lot of things, when he was not affected by substances. As soon as that kicks in, Jesus, it’s a monster. It was too much. I would speak with him for a minute and he’s a great guy, and you can learn from him and enjoy his company, and all of sudden he turns into a monster and you just have to walk away.  I met him sometime in 1974 in a club. I told him I had transcribed nearly every thing by Clifford Brown and he said, “me too.” Next time we hung out I was already with the Messengers. Freddie came to the gig and his presence was felt. I bumped into him many times and we talked on the phone many times.  He left me a phone message one time where he said: Hi Valery, this is Freddie. I just heard you play Theme For Ernie. You sounded beautiful. Thank you.” I saved it! Woody Shaw is similar in a way o Freddie; A great friend, always very respectful. And then all of a sudden–boom–turns into a monster. Not the same way as Freddie. Woody was a smart person but more streetwise than Freddie.  When Woody was free of tension, free of responsibilities he was an incredible player. I heard him playing in Boomers and the spirit there was really free. Boomer’s was a place on Bleeker St in the Village. It was the hang for everybody: Freddie Hubbard was there, Slide Hampton, Junior Cook. That’s where Blakey told me I was in the band. And at Boomer’s, Woody was flying. Then you hear him on records and the responsibility affected him. But I was there when nothing would come between him and his soul and expressing his personality. He was amazing. He has a live recording that really captured his articulation, execution, sound technique, emotion. Jeez, it’s all the highest possible level.  On that tape I hear the same Woody Shaw I used to hear at Boomers.

[eats his ginger scone] Continue reading