Sting, Branford, and Herbie

If you have an iPad, I recommend downloading the free Sting 25 app. Sting is celebrating 25 years as a solo artist. Among the cool things in the app are clips from his 60th birthday concert, from early October, in which he teamed with other artists. On “Consider Me Gone,” we’re treated to Sting with Branford Marsalis and Herbie Hancock. The man on the bass for that evening was another contemporary jazz legend, Christian McBride.

Top Names Assemble for Jazz for Japan Benefit Recording

Jazz for Japan benefit recordingJazz For Japan is a benefit album recorded in two days by 25 of the top jazz musicians in the world benefiting the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. The recordings took place last week in Los Angeles at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Legendary and Grammy nominated performers include: Kenny G, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Rickey Minor, Tom Scott, Billy Childs, Boney James, Lee Ritenour, Keiko Matsui, Bob James, and many others.

Larry Robinson, Jazz For Japan producer states; “This project came about after discussing the tragic aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with my co-workers. I told them that many of the American jazz musicians tour Japan numerous times a year. It was at that moment the seeds of Jazz For Japan were born. Within five days we called all our jazz friends and put together this truly amazing line up of musicians to record at Hollywood’s famous Capitol Recording Studio who all donated their time.”

The album features jazz standards including “Maiden Voyage,” “Body & Soul,” “Watermelon Man,” “So What,” “Sophisticated Lady,” etc. along with a DVD release including interviews with the artists stating their support and sympathy for the Japanese people. “You, the Japanese people inspire us with your resilience. We are trying to send our strength with what we have – and that’s music,” states Steve Gadd (drummer, performing on “Maiden Voyage”, and “So What”).

Jazz For Japan is being produced by Avatar Records and is available now worldwide via iTunes with profits benefiting the International Red Cross in Japan.

News: Oscar Peterson Tribute, David Benoit, John Beasley Tribute To Herbie Hancock

Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, and Nancy Wilson were among the musicians who paid tribute to the late Oscar Peterson on January 12 at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. The event, titled “Oscar Peterson: Simply the Best” saw 2500 fans offering a final farewell to the legendary pianist. He died on December 23, at the age of 82, of kidney failure. Several good recaps of the emotional goodbye were written by J.D. Considine, John Stewart (for the Mississauga News), and Scott Anderson (for Reuters). An archive is available at the CBC site. Share your thoughts on Oscar Peterson in The Forum.

David Benoit counts Oscar Peterson as one of his influences. The contemporary jazz pianist is recording an album of compositions from his favorite artists, including Peterson, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, the Doors, the Beatles, and Elton John. It’s titled Heroes and will be out this year.

Also on the topic of tributes: John Beasley has been working on a tribute to Herbie Hancock. He’s joined by Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and Jeff “Tain” Watts. The recording, expected in March, is the one of the first on a new label called Resonance Records. According to the press release, Resonance Records artists “benefit from an innovative revenue-sharing concept that not only offers greater economic return, but also allows them to produce their music without the typical studio time restrictions and their related expenses.”

Review: Jaco Pastorius Big Band – Word of Mouth Revisited

A scenario I’d like to see at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony: The Grammy returns to honoring jazz during its primetime special. Some of modern jazz’s best known bassists are playing a tribute to Jaco Pastorius. After thunderous applause, the award for Best Large Ensemble Album is announced. The winner: The Jaco Pastorius Big Band – Word of Mouth Revisited.

Word of Mouth Revisited covers Jaco’s compositions from his early days with conductor/arranger Peter Graves’ orchestra to his work with Weather Report and Word of Mouth. There’s an unreleased bass recording of Jaco himself on one of his favorite Herbie Hancock compositions “Wiggle Waggle.” It was recorded in the late 70s and the current Jaco Big Band plays the rest of the parts. This fourteen-piece big band is tight. I can’t say enough about the crispness of their sound. It’s easily the best big band I’ve heard in some time. The thirteen arrangements – by Graves (who hired Jaco in 1971 for his orchestra), Larry Warrilow (Jaco?s longtime friend and collaborator), and Jaco are excellent.

Then there is the who’s who of bass players: Marcus Miller, Christian McBride, Jimmy Haslip, Victor Wooten, Victor Bailey, Gerald Veasley, Richard Bona, and Jaco’s nephew, David Pastorius all contribute to this recording. It goes without saying that the rhythm on this CD is unbelievable. The bassists obviously seem inspired and actually seem to exceed their already formidable skills. Drummer Mark Griffith deserves special recognition for his excellent work on driving the tempo. Griffith is a standout on a CD where every single musician is worthy of note.

Whether you know everything Jaco or not, Word of Mouth Revisited is a release any modern jazz fan will want in his or her collection. It’s this year’s most welcome surprise.

George Duke Goes Indie

George Duke - Face the MusicIt’s the year of major modern jazz artists striking out on their own. Branford Marsalis released Footsteps of Our Fathers earlier this year on his own label, Marsalis Music. Now George Duke has released his first album on his label, BPM (Big Piano Music). Face the Music was released September 3 and consists of mostly instrumentals. “The basic idea for this project was to use the same rhythm section for the entire album,” Duke says. “Though there are horns and vocals in spots, the rhythm section is the focus and identity of the music.” The rhythm section consists of Christian McBride and John Roberts.
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