February 28, 2017
Virginia Schenck Aminata Moseka (Airborne Ecstasy)
On this attractive album, subtitled An Abbey Lincoln Tribute, Atlanta-based singer Virginia Schenck delivers fine interpretations of a dozen songs written by Lincoln in many of which she made clear her strong bonds with the freedom movement in the USA. Here, Virginia (who is usually known as ‘VA’) is joined by a trio of instrumentalists who are also well-established in Atlanta. Clearly, there will be added interest for fans of Lincoln but those who are unfamiliar with her work will find much to admire in the blending of melodic charm with meaningful lyrics. Virginia’s voice has a maturity that suits the material well. It is obvious that the singer understands and endorses the messages contained within the sometimes mystical lyrics. Wholly admirable instrumental contributions from pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan, and drummer Marlon Patton, who are best described not as accompanists but as collaborators. Virginia makes her own mark on Lincoln’s material as she ranges over a wide stylistic palette. At one extreme is The River, a free form imagining of a traffic-clogged freeway (whereon alto saxophonist Kebbi Williams also plays); at the the other extreme is the splendidly swinging Learning How To Listen (to my ears bearing an occasional resemblance to Benny Carter’s When Lights Are Low). The only non-Lincoln song is Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk, which is given a very pleasing reading. New to me and perhaps new to many, this is a singer who is very well worth hearing.
For more information on Virginia Schenck (including booking) contact Mouthpiece Music.
Josh Green Telepathy & Bop (indie)
A big band playing original compositions that meld modern jazz with contemporary classical music, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra makes its recording debut with this album. Josh’s composing and arranging career has ranged through film and television, the concert hall and the Broadway stage. His emotionally and intellectually stimulating compositions heard here have been inspired by works of art by René Magritte, La Victoire, which has a subtly Latinesque feel, and Edward Hopper, Soir Bleau: A Rag of Sorts, that hints of a long-gone European atmosphere, and there are musical images of Cuba, Reverie Engine: The Ambiguous Rhumba, and Hungary, through Improvisations & Nebula, where Josh reflects upon György Ligeti, a composer he admires. The title work is a three-part suite that links bebop with avant-garde classical music. All of these influences have materialized in Josh’s music since he embraced jazz fully, a decision that was prompted in part by the death of Michael Brecker, one of his musical heroes. The skilled musicians of the Cyborg Orchestra include John Lake (trumpet); Chris Misch-Bloxdorf (trombone); Charles Pillow, Todd Groves, Jay Hassler (saxophones); Nathan Schram, Nick Revel (violas); Clarice Jenson (cello); Michael Verselli (piano); Nathan Kochi (accordion); Sungwon Kim (guitar); Brian Courage (bass); Josh Bailey (drums). Joining the big band on three tracks is the PUBLIQuartet, consisting of Curtis Stewart, Jannina Norpoth (violins), Nick Revel (viola), Amanda Gookin (cello), and Cody Brown (drums). First-rate musicianship throughout, with several good solos, notably from Michael Verselli and all three saxophonists. Altogether, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra is an exciting experience.
Rich Halley & Carson Halley The Wild (Pine Eagle 010)
Constantly developing intriguing musical concepts, Rich Halley and Carson Halley now present a set of ten exploratory themes, all of them instantaneous improvisations. The Halleys, father Rich and son Carson, have played music together for the last two decades, sometimes in quartets but often as a duo and their closely integrated interplay reflects their empathy. Rich plays tenor saxophone, Carson, plays drums, both are imaginative improvisers, their music ranging widely in rhythmic and melodic styles. Among the works heard here are Wild Lands, Flat Plane of The Sky, and The Stroll, and these bring to my mind musical depictions of the natural images of the continent; not the urban sprawl in which most jazz was born and has flourished but the sweeping physical grandeur of the Americas. On the shortest track, The Old Ways, Rich sets aside his saxophone and plays wood flute while Carson drums solemnly. This time, again to my mind – and admittedly influenced by the title – the haunting sound evocatively captures the spirituality of the people of the First Nations. Altogether this is effective, involving and inspirational music.
For more information on Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra and the Rich Halley-Carson Halley Duo (including booking) contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected]).
All albums available from Amazon.
February 20, 2017
The Girl in the Green Hat
This new book is my 22nd crime novel but this is the first to be aimed at young readers although, stylistically, I feel sure that it will also appeal to adults.
As with all my recent crime novels – Dead Man Running, Dark Echoes, Penitence, All Cut Up, Shadows of the Night and The Harlem Trilogy (Harlem Nocturne, Harlem Madness, Harlem Blues) – this new book is available in print and as a Kindle ebook.
Helplessly caught up in a million-pound diamond robbery, 15-year-old Jennifer Jackson’s quiet – be honest, boring – world turns upside down.
On a roller-coaster ride that mingles excitement with terror, it’s too much for a schoolgirl to handle alone, but by Jennifer’s side – no, leading the way most of the time – is her grandmother.
And Mabel Moffett is like no other grandmother. She knows about guns and knives and parachuting and secret codes and – well, everything.
Meeting head on all kinds of trouble – from armed gangsters to human traffickers – Jennifer learns a lot about herself and the real world; a world that will never be the same again – and it certainly will not be as boring.
The Girl in the Green Hat
by Bruce Crowther
ISBN-13: 978-1542573566 & ISBN-10: 1542573564
My books can be found at Amazon.
February 15, 2017
It is not only musicians who have made an important and valuable contribution to jazz. There have also been club owners and promoters and record producers (Milt Gabler, Norman Granz, Barney Josephson, Gene Norman, Rudy Van Gelder), writers (Whitney Balliett, Will Friedwald, Gary Giddings, Ted Gioia, Dan Morgenstern), filmmakers (Frank D. Gilroy, Gjon Mili, Thomas Reichman, Bert Stern, Bertrand Tavernier), and photographers. The work of this last group has gone far beyond publicity material, edging across the border into art and creating some of the lasting images of the music in the past hundred years. Significant names include William Claxton, William P. Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, David Redfern, and Valerie Wilmer. Apart from the last-named, none of these artists of the camera named here is still with us but their work lives on in many areas of the arts.
Chuck Stewart, another exceptional jazz photographer, died on 20 January 2017. He was born Charles Hugh Stewart in Henrietta, Texas, on 21 May 1927. Raised in Arizona, Chuck had his first brush with commercial photography when he used a Box Brownie to record a visit to his school by the legendary contralto Marian Anderson. Sales of the pictures he took that day raised $2, which was riches indeed in those Depression years. At his mother’s urging, Chuck took piano lessons, but this never developed into anything approaching a professional standard. However, his interest in photography grew and after graduation from Ohio University he moved to New York where he joined Herman Leonard with whom he worked in the city’s clubs. This was at the end of the 1940s, and the jazz scene was thriving as the tail-end of the swing era met with newly-arrived bebop. Drafted into the military in the early 1950s, Chuck would later state that he worked as a photographer at the atomic bomb testing sites in Nevada. Back in New York, he periodically ran their studio when Leonard was out of the country working on motion picture commissions.
Although specializing in jazz, his first and enduring musical love, Chuck also photographed artists from other musical areas, among them the Beatles, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Tito Puente and Frank Sinatra. For Chuck to attain and maintain his commercial success he clearly needed more than the jazz world and he also worked in many other areas, including sports, fashion, theater and films. It is, however, the images he recorded of jazz masters that stand out and they include Count Basie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, James Moody, McCoy Tyner and Dinah Washington. An indefinable element that appears in much of Chuck’s work is the fact that his subjects liked and trusted him, and this is most apparent when he photographed musicians on recording sessions. Many of these photographs appear on album sleeves, estimated at more than 2000, while his entire library of negatives exceeds three-quarters of a million.
Among the books displaying the work of jazz photographers are these by William Claxton, Jazz, William P. Gottlieb, The Golden Age of Jazz, Herman Leonard, Jazz, David Redfern, The Unclosed Eye, and Valerie Wilmer, Jazz People, all of which help us see into the hearts and souls of many of the greatest figures in the history of jazz.
All of these books can be found at Amazon.