Before & After: Igor Butman

Listening With Russia’s Jazz Ambassador

 

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.

Interview with Sonny Rollins, Pt. 6 (conclusion)

IMG_7996

Sonny Rollins, Molde

This interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes. Pt. 1 of this interview is here, followed by Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4 and 5. Photo by Larry Appelbaum.

 

Appelbaum:  What do you think makes a good improvisation?

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Interview with Sonny Rollins, Pt. 5

IMG_7994This interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes. Pt. 1 of this interview is here, followed by Pt. 2, Pt. 3 and Pt. 4.

 

Appelbaum:  You did an interview with Arthur Taylor–very interesting interview–that

was published in his book “Notes and Tones.”  And in the interview, you say, “I don’t have

the greatest opinion of myself.  I recognize a lot of my faults.”  And I guess, first, I need

to, I’m obligated to ask: What do you think those faults are?

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Interview with Sonny Rollins, Pt. 4

IMG_8050This interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes. Pt. 1 of this interview is here, followed by Pt. 2 and Pt. 3

 

 

Appelbaum:  Let’s jump ahead a little bit to your first recording session.

Rollins:  Okay.

Appelbaum:  I assume it was with the vocalist…

Rollins:  Babs Gonzales.

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Interview with Sonny Rollins, Pt. 3

IMG_8065This interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes. Pt 1 of this interview is here. Pt. 2 is here.

 

Appelbaum:  Let’s continue.  When you were at a certain crossroads, you were playing the

horn, you loved this music so much, you knew you’re going to dedicate your life to it, but

in terms of style, many people of your generation–horn players–went either

towards Coleman Hawkins or towards Lester Young.  And I wonder if you ever felt you

had to make a choice, and if so, how did you make that choice?

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Interview with Sonny Rollins, Pt. 2

IMG_7997

This interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes. Part 1 of this interview is here: https://larryappelbaum.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/interview-with-sonny-rollins-pt-1/.

Pt. 2

Appelbaum:  I meant to ask…how did you acquire the nickname “Sonny?”

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Interview with Sonny Rollins Pt. 1

with Sonny RollinsThis interview with Sonny Rollins was commissioned as an NEA Jazz Masters oral history in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Oral History Program, recorded on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. Rollins, who was 80 years old at the time, seemed to enjoy the questions and the flow of the conversation, which stretched to nearly 3 hours, pausing only to change tapes.

 

 

Part 1:

Appelbaum:  Let me begin by just asking some basics to establish some context.

Tell us first of all the date you were born and your full name at birth.

Rollins:  Oh, I was afraid you were going to ask me that.  Ok, my full name at birth was

Walter Theodore Rollins, and I was born September 7, Sunday morning, 1930 in Harlem,

America on 137th Street between Lenox and 7th Avenues.  There was a midwife

that delivered me, and that was my–how I entered into this thing we call life.

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Before & After: Sonny Rollins

Molde Sonny Rollins

At age 81, Sonny Rollins shows no signs of slowing down. He still records and tours internationally, keeping his musical tools sharp and his ears open. Though adulation makes him uncomfortable (of late, he humbly refers to himself as “a musical primitive”), Rollins has received nearly every important accolade in the world of music and the arts, including two Grammys, the Edward MacDowell Medal, Sweden’s Polar Music Prize and the NEA Jazz Masters Award. On March 2 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama at the White House. (Kennedy Center Honors, what are you waiting for?) Rollins latest release is his second volume of Road Shows recordings on his Doxy label.

In July of 2010, I caught up with the celebrated saxophonist in Norway at the 50th anniversary of the Molde International Jazz Festival, where he performed an outdoor concert for thousands of dancing, rain-soaked fans. At his hotel, we took a few minutes to enjoy the panoramic view of the fjord, and then sat down to listen.

1. Coleman Hawkins
“Picasso” (from The Jazz Scene, Verve). Hawkins, tenor saxophone. Recorded in 1948.

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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