Before & After: Lou Donaldson

If we’re lucky, Lou Donaldson will write his autobiography. He was not only in the thick of things during the hard-bop, soul jazz and funky crossover eras, but the 82 year-old alto saxophonist has stories to tell, a biting sense of humor and, as he showed in front of an audience at the 2009 Portland Jazz Festival, he shoots from the hip.

1. Hank Crawford
“Save Your Love For Me” (from Low Flame High Hear, Label M). Crawford, alto saxophone; James Clay, tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper, baritone saxophone; John Hurt, Phil Guilbeau, trumpet; Sonny Forrest, guitar; Edgar Willis, bass; Bruno Carr, drums. Recorded in 1966.

Before: [after two notes of saxophone]. That’s Hank Crawford; Beautiful tone, beautiful soul, from Memphis, Tennessee. He came up with me. We met in the ‘50’s, he was playing with Ray Charles. He wrote arrangements for Ray, too. If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play no jazz, I don’t care who it is or how much you study. Continue reading

Before & After: Jimmy Heath

A bit of my Before & After interview with Jimmy Heath at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville, MD Feb. 18, 2011. Jimmy talks about Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Johnny Griffin, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, the importance of interpreting the lyric and the “three ears” through which we listen to music. Complete article appears in the May 2011 issue of JazzTimes.

Before & After: Janis Siegel

janisEverybody knows Janis Siegel from her three decades singing with The Manhattan Transfer, but her own taste and musical personality are best reflected by her various solo recordings. Siegel’s recent studio efforts have dealt with standards, Broadway show tunes and the grits ‘n gravy world of the Hammond B-3. Her new CD, A Thousand Beautiful Things (Telarc), features some of her favorite contemporary songs by Björk, Nellie McKay, Annie Lennox, Sam Philips, Raul Midon and others, recast in Latin arrangements by pianist Edsel Gomez.

In person, Siegel is both thoughtful and quick, and very much in the moment. She recognized many of the artists immediately, poring over the CD notes to examine and comment on song choice. She also expressed genuine interest in the new names, writing some of them down for later downloading. At one point she flipped the script and began playing me songs from her iPod, asking me to identify them. Continue reading