Arts Institutions In The Time Of COVID

Virtual-Jazz-Jam

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When an arts center depends on its community, how do you deal with lockdown conditions? Ellen Kodadek, artistic and executive director of Flushing Town Hall, talks with us on Arts Express about some of the strategies they have implemented at her institution, including virtual hangouts and virtual jazz jams.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NY radio and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Waltz For Debby

Monday morning, 60s jazz singer Monica Zetterlund  rehearses her signature song in her native Swedish with Bill Evans at the piano. Great to watch her as her doubt and pleasure register so transparently.

More at BillEvansArchive

St. Thomas: Sonny Rollins

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Monday morning, as winter starts to creep up, “St. Thomas” with Sonny Rollins as the place to be is okay with me .

Tenor Sax : Sonny Rollins

Piano : Kenny Drew

Bass : Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen

Drums : Albert “Tootie” Heath

Thanks to YouTuber BluesBeBopper2000

Billie Holiday: The Last Interview

billie

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This new compilation of interviews with Billie Holiday has an introduction by journalist and writer Khanya Mtshali. Listen to my conversation with Ms. Mtshali, as broadcast today on Arts Express radio on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, as she explains why Billie Holiday was not the person you thought she was.

Jazz and Self-Determination

audience back view band blur

Photo by Lucas Allmann on Pexels.com

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These are some excerpts broadcast today on Arts Express from a fascinating panel called “Jazz and Self Determination” at this year’s Left Forum. The speakers you’ll hear in order are Jeremiah Hosea, Ras Moshe Burnett, Ahmed Abdullah, Greg Tate, and moderator Althea Sully Cole. Listen as they grapple with what self-determination means to a jazz musician both personally and creatively.

 

Oh, Lady, Be Good

AnitaODay 1958

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If you ever done any theater improv, you know that the art and craft of making things up on the spot is a tricky one to master. The imperative is always to deal with what is happening in your environment at that very moment—to accept what’s in front of you and then embellish and extend. It’s always tempting to speed ahead in your mind, rather than trust that if you just follow your way from moment to moment to moment, you’ll get to where you need to go.

It was with delight that I read the following about musical improvisation in Anita O’Day‘s autobiography High Times, Hard Times (a wonderful portrait of a giant of jazz song). The parallels to theater improv were immediately recognizable. I had never heard anyone talk about musical improvisation the way she does.  In the following paragraph she writes about how she learned to improvise on a melody by being committed to staying in the moment, and using any cues in her environment she could at that fleeting instant to spur her imagination:

“I saved ‘Oh, Lady Be Good’ as an encore. At the point where the bridge comes to the second chorus, i needed an idea from somewhere. I saw a polka dot blouse. So I developed that chorus as a bagful of polka dots. To keep the version going, I searched for ideas. Where was I going to get my inspiration? I looked around the room and that gave me the idea of singing  the structure of the room—long wall, short wall, long wall, short wall. That gave me the frame for the chorus. I turned to the band. Five men. So I put it into five rhythm. Anything that I could get an idea from, I put to work to fill out my time on the stand. I did it that way because technically I was not knowledgeable about music. I needed to get the thought behind the sound going, and I took it from wherever I could get it. In all, I did twelve choruses of “Oh, Lady, Be Good!” and when I finished the place exploded. People shouted, stampeded, applauded, whistled, stood on their chair and cheered. It was the response you dream about…”

Thought and action at the speed of sound. Just thrilling.

Moonlight In Vermont

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One of my favorite standards as whisky-in-hand performed by Messrs. McKee and Turner on the rooftop of Josh’s apartment. Dig the passing subway.

Thanks to YouTuber Josh Turner Guitar

Whoa, Nellie!

nellie mckay

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The wonderfully versatile singer, actor, and songwriter Nellie McKay spoke with us a while back, following her engagement at Birdland in New York City. You can listen to the interview as broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC by clicking on the little triangle above.

Just In Time: Andre Previn

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Andre Previn died this month. I only knew of him as a composer and conductor of music for film, but he was also a very fine jazz pianist as this performance of “Just in Time” from the Broadway show Bells are Ringing, written by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne, attests.

Thanks to Counterpuncher Jeffrey St. Clair for pointing out this video,

and thanks to YouTuber lstash

 

“And The Walls Came Tumbling Down”

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Monday morning, Mahalia Jackson suggests extra-legislative means to erase borders with “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho.”

Thanks to YouTuber Paulo LaPraga Vinhal

Gold Dust At My Feet

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Monday morning, Nellie McKay and Friends heating things up on The Sunny Side Of The Street.

Nellie McKay – vocals; Dan Levinson – clarinet; Gordon Au – trumpet; Jim Fryer – trombone; Chris St. Hilaire – snare drum

Thanks to YouTuber Dennis Lichtman

Compared To What?

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Nellie and Company take a swing at the Eugene McDaniels classic made famous by Les McCann and Eddie Harris

piano & vocals – Nellie McKay; bass – Alexi David; guitar – Cary Park; drums – Kenneth Salters

More Mckay at Nellie McKay

“She’ll Have You Doing Things That Ain’t Right, Son”

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Was there anyone cooler than Louis Jordan? Wild singer, saxophonist, songwriter, and bandleader who also had dance moves of elegance and wit to compare with Fred Astaire. Monday morning, the call goes out to “Caldonia.”

Thanks to YouTuber vintage video clips