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: Slide Hampton

This B&A originally appeared in JazzTimes in 2003.

Slide Hampton’s abilities and  accomplishments as a trombonist, composer, arranger and bandleader make him one of the most respected active musicians in jazz.  Born into a musical family in Jeanette, Pennsylvania, Locksley Wellington (Slide) Hampton grew up in Indianapolis where he began playing trumpet before switching to the trombone. After playing in a family band, he cut his teeth in the 1950s with Buddy Johnson, Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson before forming his own octet with Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Julian Priester and George Coleman. The 1960s found Hampton with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, Art Blakey, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Woody Herman, and serving as musical director for R&B singer Lloyd Price. In 1968, Hampton moved to Europe where he found musical challenges and steady work for nearly 10 years before returning to the U.S. in 1977. Since then, he’s worked with Continuum (dedicated to the compositions of Tadd Dameron), and led The Collective Black Artists Orchestra, The Manhattan Plaza Composer’s Orchestra, and The Jazz Masters. His still active brass group, The World of Trombones, has just released Spirit of the Horn, with special guest Bill Watrous, recorded during a 2002 live performance at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh.   Continue reading

Before & After: Billy Cobham

Drummer, composer, producer and bandleader Billy Cobham has played every style of music, from military marches and mainstream jazz to Afro-Cuban and the Grateful Dead. Best known for his jazz-rock innovations through his work with Dreams, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and his own groups, Cobham has spent the past 29 years living in Switzerland, which he values for its peaceful lifestyle and as a convenient jumping off point for world tours. Cobham’s legendarily strong technique is matched by his strong opinions about music, which he was not shy about sharing.

1. Gil Evans

“Las Vegas Tango” (from The Individualism of Gil Evans, Verve). Evans, arranger, piano; Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, trumpets; Jimmy Cleveland, Tony Studd, trombones; Ray Alonge, French horn; Bill Barber, tuba; Garvin Bushell, Eric Dolphy, Bob Tricarico, Steve Lacy, saxophones; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, bass; Elvin Jones, drums. Recorded in 1964.

Before: Gil. Nobody writes like that, the chords and the phrasing. [as drums enter] That’s Elvin. What’s really funny about this is that Elvin has a way of playing in 3 while the rest of the band is feeling 2. Gil told me he likes to write and play on the edge of chaos but without falling in. He had this freedom and his using Elvin provides a looseness that could not happen with any other player. So Gil would match the music with the musician. I haven’t mentioned the bass player because the bass player is not listening to what’s going on. The bass player’s in his own world. I can feel that he’s reading what’s on the paper, and it’s correct. Now we have an oboe or English horn player in the mix, which means that everything’s being played very softly. That could be Kenny Burrell. This sounds like early to mid-1960s. You can tell by the quality of the recording that a lot of concessions were made, the technology wasn’t there. And if they did two or three takes of that, it was a lot. These guys know exactly what’s going on, they know how Gil likes to phrase. It’s beautiful. Continue reading