Dee Dee Bridgewater

December 23rd, 2008

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Dee Dee Bridgewater
Singing at the Triple Door with her Red Earth Group on Oct 21st 2007

Dee Dee Bridgewater triumphs on stage and on record while her passionate, honey-tongued voice amasses a long list of accomplishments, accolades, and artistic milestones that few living legends can match.
After marrying trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater in the early ‘70s, she soon began singing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra, followed by stints with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Sonny Rollins, a 1975 Tony Award for her portrayal of the good witch Glinda during a two-year stint in The Wiz on Broadway, and a Laurence Olivier Best Actress Award nomination for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day.
Speaking from her home in Henderson, Nevada, Bridgewater breezily discusses music and acting, occasionally pausing to take bites of her dinner. “As a singer and a bandleader,” she says, “I’ve been able to take things that I’ve learned in theater and apply them to my performances: communicating with the public, clowning in between songs, trying to create a repertoire that has a nice flow to it.”
That repertoire expands again with Bridgewater’s stunning new album, Red Earth, A Malian Journey. Folding West-African flavors into a matrix of jazz and blues, the album employs 10 Malian musicians – including Grammy-winning kora player Toumani
Diabaté (kora) – in a sensuous melding of that country’s traditions of musical storytelling and Bridgewater’s own life-long love of blues and jazz.
“I had wanted to do an African project, but I never could define it,” she remembers, “but once I felt very strongly that [my ancestry] was from Mali, then I decided I would focus this whole project on Malian music.”
Born to the descendants of Native Americans, Chinese, and Germans – “I just knew he was white and spoke this funny language,” she laughs, mimicking her grandmother’s memories of the latter’s own grandfather – Bridgewater was subsequently
raised on a diet of regular anecdotes about her ethnically various ancestors. Nevertheless, she eventually found that her most spiritually resonant bloodline ran through Mali.
The physical journey back began with her appointment, in 1999, as an Honorary Ambassador for the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The position called for her help in setting up self-sustaining, women’s business collectives in the villages of several African countries. “In the beginning,” she laughs, “the FAO tried do it with men, but men would squander the funds.”
In Mali, she worked with the Peul tribe, among whom she began to feel an extra-dimensional affinity. “When I was there, there were people who resembled people I know in the States,” she recalls. “It was freaky. And certain customs that we have in black communities, I understand now where they came from, because they’re right there being practiced.”
A return trip yielded the majority of recording for Red Earth. Stylistically, the record ambles through jump blues (“Children Go ‘Round”), jazz balladry (Nina Simone’s “Four Women”), scat-laden pop (“Compared to What”), and incantatory Malian traditionals, each with a story of its own. “No More,” for example, revisits the Malian protest song “Bambo,” the popularity of which, in the 1960s, forced the Malian government to abolish the previously institutionalized practice of forced marriage.
Song by song, the album works tirelessly to maintain the storytelling spirit of the griots. “In the Malian and other African cultures, they’re the oral historians,” Bridgewater explains. “At least that’s what they used to be.
“Today the griots tell stories, basically, to flatter the people they want to get some money out of,” she says with a laugh. “But they are also able to tell you a lot of the history of their country.”
Fortunately, Bridgewater – gifted with talent, accustomed to success, and trained in drama – has a subject of constant fascination for her main character. “Of course, with Red Earth,” she admits coyly, “I’m telling my own real story.”
In elegant service to its protagonist, Red Earth – signaling the reddish soil of both Mali and her native Memphis – spins an undulating yarn. Throughout,
Bridgewater’s original lyrics render Malian tales into first-person English, and remarkably, much of her singing so carefully settles into the Malian rhythms and diphthongs that her English actually sounds like a generally recognizable and yet distinctly African language.
Red Earth’s opener re-imagines the title track of Bridgewater’s debut album, 1974’s Afro Blue. Shortened considerably – but certainly not, er, mollified – the “Afro Blue” of Red Earth testifies to a skyscraping career by recalling its distant beginning. From the ground up, the song’s new moody polyrhythms promise that even 33 years on, there’s undiscovered
country left, not only in Africa, but within Dee Dee Bridgewater herself.

Photograph by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan, a photojournalist specializing in photojournalism and portrait photography for publications and corporations and a Seattle wedding photographer with an unobtrusive, story-telling approach creating award winning Seattle wedding photography and wedding photojournalism ranked among the best Seattle wedding photographers.

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Billy Bang

November 25th, 2008

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Billy Bang playing with his Quartet October 19th as part of the Earshot jazz Festival of 2008

Billy Bang along with Andrew Bemky on piano put, on a wonderful show with amazing performances especially on a piece based on Bang’s Vietnam experiences, which he was playing in this photo.
The next step in the Stuff Smith–Leroy Jenkins continuum, Bang has redefined jazz violin. His bluesy, emotive style stands among the most compelling and enjoyable in jazz. With Todd Nicholson, on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums.

Photograph by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan, a photojournalist specializing in photojournalism and portrait photography for publications and corporations and a Seattle wedding photographer with an unobtrusive, story-telling approach creating award winning Seattle wedding photography and wedding photojournalism ranked among the best Seattle wedding photographers.

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David Sanchez Quartet

October 3rd, 2008

 David Sánchez played with his quartet at the Triple Door last October 25th during the Earshot Jazz Festival 2007. Here is an excerpt from Earshot Jazz Magazine.

Click here for the complete schedule of the 2008 Earshot Jazz Festival:

David Sánchez commands a room, infusing
his huge tenor-saxophone tone with the musical passion of his native Puerto Rico. Specializing in jazz interpretations of mountainous works by Latin American composers, this Latin Grammy winner and his quartet exude palpable charisma and create music to remember every time.
“Technically, tonally, and creatively, he seems to have it all,” gushes jazz critic Howard Reich. “His sound is never less than plush, his pitch is unerring, his rapid-fire playing is ravishing in its combination
of speed, accuracy, and utter evenness of tone.”
Such ecstatic accolades follow Sánchez wherever he plays. After abandoning early efforts on the conga in favor of the tenor saxophone at age 12, he never looked back. Thanks to the enthusiastic endorsement of saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, Dizzy Gillespie
invited Sánchez to join the United Nation Orchestra in 1990 and “Live the Future” tour – with South African singer extraordinaire Miriam Makeba – the next year.
Since then, Sánchez has toured and recorded with dozens of other stellar notables and produced sessions for Columbia Records, with which he has enjoyed a lasting relationship as a recording artist. After earning several Latin Grammy nominations, Sánchez released Coral, which took home the “Best Instrumental Album” in 2005. His most ambitiously reverential work to date, Coral documents Sánchez and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra playing interpretations of masterworks by such Latin American luminaries as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Alberto Ginastera.
In his more intimate quartet, Sánchez folds Afro-Cuban rhythms into a mien of late-stage bebop and searing, trigger-happy solos. Newly signed to the resurging Concord Records, he came to Seattle with a growing legend that stands boldly on the cusp a fresh new chapter.

Photograph by Editorial Photographer and portrait photographers Daniel Sheehan. Daniel specializes in portraits and photojournalism for publications and corporations. At night he shoots jazz musicians on assignment for Earshot Jazz. Please respect his work and ask for permission to use any pictures.

Daniel is also a bridal photographer. He does wedding photography in an artistic, editorial fashion with classic photojournalistic style.

Cuong Vu Trio

September 29th, 2008

Another highlight was the performance of the Cuong Vu Trio.

Few young trumpeters inspire as much
excitement as the deliciously melodic Cuong
Vu. While collaborating with such varied
artists as Laurie Anderson, David Bowie,
Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Cibo Matto,
Mitchell Froom, Chris Speed, Bill Frisell,
and Pat Metheny, Vu has grown into a
heralded composer and bandleader in his
own right.
Drummer Ted Poor and electric bassist
Stomu Takeishi round out the Cuong Vu
Trio. Th e former swings, rocks, and impro-
vises with a facility that belies his mere 25
years. As for Takeishi, Pat Metheny describes his playing as “really the most original…out there right now. He hears into the
music the way that very few people ever
have.”
“Th is band took me about seven years to
form,” Vu muses. “It wasn’t until Stomu
and Ted came into my musical life that I
was able to fi nd the chemistry that I was
looking for.”
Born in Saigon, the 38-year-old Vu im-
migrated to Seattle as a child and began
playing the trumpet a few years later. He
won notice for his performances even
while at the New England Conservatory
of Music on a full scholarship. He has
since been honored by the Colbert Award
for Excellence, a pair of Grammys for
Best Contemporary Jazz Album (with the
Pat Metheny Group) in 2002 and 2006,
and the Italian Jazz Critics’ Society’s Best
International Jazz Artist of 2006.
Behind the international accolades
stands a fearless innovator. As heard on
albums like Bound, It’s Mostly Residual,
and the mind-expanding Th is Th is and
Th at, the emotional range of Vu’s original
works spans the continuum from lush
piles of harmonic melancholy to frenetic,
electrifi ed romps through vertiginous
improvisation.
Vu recently joined the UW jazz faculty,
but don’t expect him to begin cowering
in ivory towers. “I don’t want to disap-
pear,” he insists, “the way it seems to
happen to so many musicians who go
into academia.”
For this year’s festival, the Cuong Vu
Trio will premiere new work commis-
sioned by Earshot Jazz.

Photograph by Portrait Photographer and corporate event photographer Daniel Sheehan a  photographer in Seattle who specializes in portrait photography and photojournalism for publications and corporations.
Daniel is also photographs weddings for A Beautiful Day Photography. He  wedding portraits are made in an artistic, editorial fashion.

 

Jazz Sax

September 29th, 2008

Anat Cohen was another favorite of mine from last year’s Earshot Jazz Festival.

Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen is winning high praise for her explorations of Afro-Cuban styles, Argentinian tango, Brazilian choro, classical,
and jazz music. In the decade since she came to the U.S. from her native Tel Aviv, Israel, Cohen has graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, played with such notable Latin American-
styled bands as the Choro Ensemble, New York Samba Jazz (led by Brazilian drum master Duduka Da Fonseca), the pop outfit Brazooca, and the Three Cohens
(with her musical brothers), in addition
to touring the world as lead tenor saxophone in Sherrie Maricle’s all-female big band, the Diva Jazz Orchestra.
In 2005, Cohen’s debut CD, Place and Time, netted the distinction of being one of All About Jazz: New York’s “Best Debut Albums of 2005.” She followed with two discs, Noir and Poetica, this year. On the first, Cohen plays clarinet and tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones at the head of an ensemble of three woodwinds, three trumpets, two trombones, three cellos, and a rhythm section of guitar, bass, drums, and percussion on 10 songs that jazz historian Dan Morgenstern describes as “unfold[ing] like a Pan-American film score.”
Poetica takes a different, but no less compelling, approach to showcasing Cohen’s continually impressive talents as an arranger and bandleader. Here supported
mostly by pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Omer Avital, and drummer Daniel Freedman, Cohen plays only the clarinet on a set list that includes Brazilian, Israeli, and French songs, plus John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” and two originals. On the strength of these two releases, Cohen now comes to Seattle on a wave of critical praise.

Ahmad Jamal

September 29th, 2008

One of the highlights of the 2007 Earshot Jazz Festival for me was the performance of Ahmad Jamal.
It was the firast time I got to see him play after listening to his music for decades.
Here is what they wrote about him in Earshot Jazz Magazine.

Pianist Ahmad Jamal has infused small jazz ensembles with an orchestral spirit for almost half a century, attracting innumerable
accolades: National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellow, Duke Ellington Yale University Fellow, Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. Then there are the award-winning recordings,
like Jamal’s seminal “Poinciana,” which took up residence on the Top-10 charts (overall!) for 108 weeks in 1958-60. There are the film credits for music – notably Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County – the published music transcriptions, the shopworn excerpts from Miles Davis autobiography, in which he gushes uncharacteristically about Jamal’s influence on the trumpeter’s
own music.
But none of this speaks to the music itself. Here, Jamal’s own words speak ironic volumes. Rather than jazz, Jamal prefers the term “American classical,” and he insists that his trio – with bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad
– is instead a “small ensemble.” Yet this “Golden Era” ensemble has proved instrumental in cementing the piano trio as a timeless form for jazz itself. “No musician
has had a more profound effect on the orchestral approach to small group in the last 35 years,” wrote the Village Voice. Make that 50.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1930, Jamal took to the piano very soon after. At age three, he was playing. By seven, he’d begun formal studies. At age 14, the irrefutable
child prodigy joined the musicians union, then promptly finished college master classes while still in high school. Discovered, as it were, by producer John Hammond while playing with his piano/bass/guitar ensemble (The Three Strings), Jamal quickly signed a deal to make a record.
Since then, Jamal has released at least 80 more albums. At their best, they document an incontrovertible genius of American music. As a soloist, Jamal improvises
with matchless clarity, by turns as prominent and fully voiced as an operatic chorus or as fragilely delicate as silence itself. He plays like a conduit, channeling some inexhaustible, unrepeatable source of musical ideas, accessible only to him by cosmic circumstance.
Though he prefers not to say much more about it, Jamal’s stated philosophy is Islam. His recent album, After Fajr, takes its name from the Islamic dawn prayer. Its title track adds Jamal’s choral arrangement and lyrics to the small ensemble.
“I have put the oldest instrument in the world – the human voice – on the track,” he writes in the album’s liner notes. “My audiences have loved it every time we perform it and we hope the entire recording will be a favorite of our fans.”
Those fans include three generations of inspired musicians. From his first collaborators
to recent artists – pop and soul singer John Legend and rappers Common
and Nas – who sample his music, the rippling effect of Jamal’s importance can scarcely be encapsulated.