Aretha Franklin has passed

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away today at age 76. The cause of death was “advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type.”

Indisputably a legend, she impacted many lives. Here’s what some jazzers had to say:

From the time that Dinah Washington 1st told me that Aretha was the “next one” when she was 12-years old, until the present day, Aretha Franklin set the bar & she did it with the professionalism, class, grace, & humility that only a true Queen could.

I treasured every moment that we spent together from working in the recording studio, to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or simply hangin’ in the kitchen, & I will miss her dearly. RIP Ree-Ree…You will reign as the Queen forever.

The world has suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Aretha Franklin. She was a dear personal friend, kindred spirit, passionate advocate of civil rights, the arts and freedom of expression.

Aretha had a sound that touched the deepest part of your being and she will be forever in our hearts.

  • Herbie Hancock
  • Sad day…. Aretha Franklin was a bolt of the most beautiful and soulful light that only comes around every couple of million years. Her ability was so immense. I wish The Queen safe travels.
  • Stanley Clarke

RIP #ArethaFranklin, an inspiration to countless artists from Dr. Lonnie Smith who covered “Think” on his 1968 Blue Note debut to Norah Jones who says Aretha’s version of “You Send Me” made her want to be a singer. Everlasting RESPECT to the Queen of Soul!

We all feel the loss of #ArethaFranklin today deeply and with such sadness. Love and Prayers to her family and friends Such gratitude for all she gave the world thru her music and so much more.

Flashback: Tom Schuman in 2003

Tom Schuman has been the keyboardist for Spyro Gyra since the beginning. He’s been on every recording by the perennial contemporary jazz band and has penned at least 40 of the songs on those recordings. During the 40+ year career of the group, he’s had a handful of solo albums. Fifteen years ago this month, he released Schuman Nature, an acoustic, straight ahead effort. At the time, ContemporaryJazz.com interviewed Schuman. Here a couple of highlights from that 2003 interview:

Tom SchumanQ: How did you meet Jay [Beckenstein, Spyro Gyra leader]  in the first place.

A: I was this kid in Buffalo, this teenage prodigy that everybody was talking about. So I walk into the club where Jay and Jeremy Wall had their Tuesday night jams before there was a Spyro Gyra. He band was called Tuesday Night Jam at a place called Jack Daniels. I walk in and Jay had heard about me through the grapevine and said come on up and play. I didn’t know him, I didn’t know anybody. I just started playing. He said immediately that “Wow you are something else would you like to be on our first record. We have new material and we’d like to put this record together.” I’m like “sure.” This was like my first recording session. It was a pleasure to work with those guys. The music was diverse. It wasn’t just all jazz, but it wasn’t all Funk or all Latin music it was a mixture of stuff which I really enjoyed.

Q:  Who is your favorite keyboardist?

A: Joe Zawinul is my favorite keyboard player on the planet. He doesn’t sound like keyboards. He sounds like some unearthly thing. He makes everything some completely unique to him and it’s an amazing feat. You buy a Korg Tritent for instance now and you have your stock sounds. I don’t know how much time he spends on this, but Zawinul goes in and just tweaks them out of shape completely into something different. I’m sure that he has a lot of programmers that work with him. His son is a brilliant engineer. Every time I go to hear him play I’m amazed by the sounds that are coming out of his setup. He has like 19 peddles on the bottom. He’s got everything wired together. All the midi and rack stuff is all wired together. He just brings them up with volume pedals. Nobody does that. I dig the way he goes about being spontaneous with the keyboard technology which is hard to do when you press one button and you got and you can sequence anything. He’s a great live player for that kind of stuff. That’s what I try to do and stay live with it instead of using sequencers and mini discs. If anything I’ll use samplers to recreate the original acoustic instruments.

Catch up with John Patitucci

Find out what legendary contemporary jazz bassist and composer John Patitucci has been up to! Jon Liebman recently posted an interview with the the busy bassist for his ForBassPlayersOnly.com site. Patitucci discusses his 2017 schedule, his current basses, the state of jazz, and possible upcoming projects!

Michael Franks – Blue Pacific and Walter Becker

This week, in 1990, the Blue Pacific recording by Michael Franks hit #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. It was really my first exposure to him. I recall that his voice surprised me. It wouldn’t be until later that I gained appreciation for the wittiness and uniqueness of his lyrics. I think I remember some excitement about Walter Becker producing some tracks. The late Steely Dan co-founder (Becker passed away Sept. 3, 2017) produced three of the ten tracks, with Jeff Lorber and Tommy LiPuma dividing up the remainder.  It was the first track, “The Art of Love,” that grabbed my attention – a good catchy uptempo track. I’m pretty sure we put that into rotation on the radio station’s late night jazz show immediately.

Blue Pacific by Michael Franks

Michael shared his memory, as well as a photo, of working with Walter Becker, saying “I’m so grateful I got to know and work with Walter- he was a gentleman, an incredibly talented musician and producer and a terrific storyteller.”