Humor: The Top 15 Things More Popular Than A Jazz Piece

 

By Doc Wendell

 

Okay, so I’ve been a music journalist for a number of years now. It’s not news that if I wrote a piece on Beyonce’s “Lemonade”, I’d have tens of thousands of “hits” or “likes” on this site and on social media. But I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to the most disrespected and misunderstood art formed created in America; jazz. What can I say, I’m a die-hard jazz geek. I like supporting the underdogs too because I’ve learned that what’s most popular often lacks depth, substance and intellectual stimulation. With that being said, jazz posts are always an unpredictable hit or miss. I thought I’d explore some of the social media posts that are more popular than a jazz post. Since some arrogant, snide journalist will most likely respond with “Oh yeah, I get millions of “hits and “likes” on my jazz posts, Doc!”, I’ll reword that and say here’s a list of 15 things more popular than one of my jazz posts.

1) Pictures of boobs

2) Pictures of booty

3) A dishonest political post by the Donald Trump campaign

4) More pictures of boobs

5) A Dishonest political post by the Hillary Clinton campaign

6) More pictures of booty

7) A dishonest political post by the Bernie Sanders campaign (Yeah, I said it!)

8) A cute photo of your pet/pets

9) A photo of any type of food wrapped in ten miles of bacon

10) A condescending “What If I Told You?” meme with a picture of Laurence Fishburn in the Matrix spouting some overly paranoid conspiracy theories created by psychotics and stoners

11) A condescending “So let me get this straight” meme with a picture of Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory spouting some overly paranoid conspiracy theory created by psychotics and stoners.

12) Any post on weed, whether it be a picture of kush, how other drugs are more dangerous, or how many diseases it supposedly cures.

13) A post with pictures of weed, boobs, and booty all together (The American dream)

14) A condescending meme by baby boomers on how the rock/pop music of their generation was somehow “better” than that of any other.

15) A re-posting of a reality deprived, incoherent celebrity giving their two-cents on politics and other world issues while high on painkillers. 

 

 

Happy 90th Birthday, Miles Davis

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

When I think of what it takes to be the perfect musician, I think of Miles Davis. I first heard Miles when he played on all of those classic sides with Bird on the Dial label in the late ’40s. Nobody sounded like that. There was the fast freneticism of Dizzy Gillespie and the dynamic swing of Fats Navarro. Miles sounded like neither of these trumpet masters. His sound stood out. Bird was playing everything imaginable. Miles created this beautifully elegant contrasting style to what Bird was blowing. Sometimes Miles would play just a few notes with these huge spaces between them and a glorious syncopated swagger similar to the way Thelonious Monk played the piano but slicker and more romantic.

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I was a budding young guitar player in high school when I first heard Miles and I had to own every album he ever recorded. It took a while to do so but I finally got them all. Those albums on Prestige in the early to mid ’50s were so extraordinary. Everyone played on those records. Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Lucky Thompson, Horace Silver, Percy Heath, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Red Garland, John Coltrane, Bird, Paul Chambers, Art Taylor, J.J Johnson and Philly Joe Jones; Miles played with only the best because his music called for the best. Along with Art Blakey and Horace Silver, Miles helped sculpt the hard-bop genre which substituted the complex bebop chord changes with a more accessible blues and gospel-soul groove while maintaining the virtuosic soloing approach adopted from the bebop school.

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Miles kept growing because he had to. Remaining stagnant and becoming some sort of “relic” went against everything he stood for. Miles’ recordings for Columbia records changed  music forever. With Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Miles Ahead, and Porgy & Bess, he was able to get throngs of people who never considered buying jazz records paying close attention to the music for the very first time without compromising his artistic integrity. No one did that like Miles and no one will ever be able to do it like that ever again, not on that level.

Miles changed the way I approached phrasing on the guitar. He taught me to not throw out my entire technique in one over-indulgent solo. I could take my time, play fewer notes but notes that had more potency and vulnerability all at once. I hear the entire history of the blues in Miles’ trumpet lines.  Miles sang through his trumpet and would instantly establish a mood and could keep you there for as long as he wanted. Miles could capture a feeling of loneliness and longing that was painfully soulful and irresistible. It was hard for me to grasp this as a child but as an adult, it hits like a brick. It takes incredible courage to go to that place so freely. Some go there and don’t survive it. Miles faced those demons but was aware of them and fought them with every fiber of his being because there was always some new musical territory to explore.

Miles would have turned 90 years old on Thursday, May 26th, 2016 and I had to take the time to say thank you for music that will always be a part of my life and identity. And I thank you Miles for forcing me to push myself beyond my limited comfort zone and being the ultimate teacher. Let’s celebrate Miles’ music on his birthday and not his very human and often overly publicized flaws. There’s a lifetime of music to  choose from and no two Miles musical explorations sound remotely alike. Miles is more than just a jazz musician; he is forever. Happy Birthday, Miles.

 

The Prospect Of Anything

By Doc Wendell

 

The prospect of anything good to come of today has already proven to be completely out of the realm of possibility. There’s a dreary, gray front hovering over the entire city of Los Angeles, leaving no other valid reason of being in this god-awful place besides a plethora  transcendent taco stands to make me even fatter and more unhealthy. I started the day by checking what was happening on Facebook; big fucking mistake. That’s the perfect way to lose all hope in humanity (if you haven’t already).  Just tons of nit-wits blaming the Universe or “Mercury being in retrograde” for their problems instead of getting a proper diagnosis of being extremely bi-polar or smoking way too much of that Yi-Ya Dick Cheney GMO strain of weed. Or you’ve got flocks of dumb, paranoid psychotics co-signing moronic conspiracy theories and regurgitated boomer sci-fi political idealism in a typically All-American vulgar fashion. Let’s not forget the dip-shits thanking Jesus for their underachievements. Tomorrow I’ll start my day off by not starting it at all. I’ll beat ’em to the punch, damn it!! I learned my lesson, dear lawdy lawd!! And thank you!!

This lame little rant could be a follow-up to my “Why Not Be Sick?” piece written on this site a few weeks ago but I don’t even have that all-net, bad motherfucker and shamelessly prideful All-Doc-All-The Time moxie to be ill today. That would have worked yesterday when I actually physically felt like shit but I blew it. Today it’s barely a lazy man’s ennui running the dull little slide show.

More hate mail. I love this portion of the day. One guy from Oxnard writes: “The golden era of jazz is over so why do you review the new stuff?” That same bloke wrote me two weeks ago and said: “You focus too much time on the old jazz from the ’40s and ’50s. Why don’t you support the jazz world of today?” Ignorant little fucking piece of shit. I hope he gets hit by a bicyclist while working his way over to the annual Oxnard “Strawberry Festival”.

Oooh, the prospect of anything at all..Not today. The mere concept sends waves of panic up my curved and nearly lifeless spine as I’m hunched over this lousy computer. But be cool y’all; Docville USA is still the sexiest, hippest place in the galaxy, it just needs some fumigation to get rid of all of those Un- funky, psycho-babblin’ honky-low, soul jerkin’ termites that would inspire a written piece like this one, so be patient and have a wonderful…Well, I tried.

 

 

 

Music Review: Marquis Hill-The Way We Play (Concord Jazz)

 

By Devon Wendell

 

29 year old Chicago jazz trumpeter Marquis Hill is one of the freshest voices in jazz today. Hill won the 2014 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition award. The Way We Play is his debut on Concord Jazz and what a delightful way to kick off this new chapter of his career.

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Hill’s exceptional group The Blacktet consists of Christopher McBride, alto saxophone, Justin Thomas, Vibraphone, Makaya McCraven, drums, and Joshua Ramos on bass. The album kicks off with a sly and funky introduction of the band spoken by vocalist Meagan McNeal. The title track is fused with Gigi Gryce’s hard-bop classic “Minority”. Harold Green III adds some poignant spoken word poetry that deals with racial inequality and violence still prevalent in today’s society. The spoken word portion is very brief and then Hill soars on the trumpet, delivering one of the most inspiring solos of his career. There are hints of Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw in his licks but there’s that added ingredient that makes Hill one of the most uniquely powerful trumpeters in the world.

Justin Thomas cooks on the vibes, filling the space of a pianist.  The rhythm section of Makaya McCraven and Joshua Ramos burns with soul and a terrific sense of focused  dynamics. The rendition of Horace Silver’s “Moon Rays” is simply fantastic. It swings with the intense elegance of that mid-’60s Blue Note Records sound. The chord changes leave plenty of space for Hill and McBride to solo with a sense of abandon yet their solos are extremely thematic without losing any spontaneity . McBride brings to mind the alto-sax stylings of Jackie McLean and Phil Woods in their prime.

There have been thousands of versions of Victor Young and Ned Washington’s standard “My Foolish Heart” but the reading on this album is sensational. Christie Dashiell’s pained vocals are sweet and sultry. Hill’s muted trumpet solo has a thick, robust tone that makes his melodically lyrical lines all the more potent. Listening to Hill play “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” unaccompanied is surely an album highlight. Hill glides across the changes of this Jimmy Van Huesen-Johnny Burke classic with the skills of a true master. I just wish it were a little longer.

On Donald Byrd’s “Fly Little Bird Fly”, Harold Green III serves up some truly psychedelic prose. This rendition has a delightful Afro-Cuban flavor to it with the assistance of percussionist Juan Pastor. The rest of the album consists of slow and intensely subdued covers of some very familiar material like Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”, Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” Carmel Jones’ “Beep Durple”, and Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. The complex harmonies between Hill’s trumpet and McBride’s alto saxophone create a distinct, hypnotic ambiance within each nuance of these classics, breathing some new and energetic life into them. It is also apparent that both soloists have a deep understanding of the language of bebop which is refreshing, to say the least. The entire band has a more traditional sound than most of the wannabe ’60s era Miles Davis’s and John Coltrane’s flooding the jazz market right now. Hill and his Blacket swing and swing hard.

Even with some modern touches added, Marquis Hill’s The Way We Play is a straight-ahead, bop-influenced masterpiece with a very distinct mood and attitude that celebrates Hill’s Wind City roots and so much more. The Way We Play will be released on  June 24, 2016. Do not let this one pass you by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music Review: Gregory Porter- Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note Records)

By Devon Wendell

Many have labelled Gregory Porter as being a “pop-jazz” singer. I don’t think this could be further from the truth in terms of the essence of what Porter has achieved as an artist. Porter gets right to the heart and soul of jazz on his upcoming album Take Me To The Alley;  the much anticipated follow -up to Porter’s critically acclaimed 2013 Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit. We’ve heard those pervasive elements of gospel and blues in the music of such jazz icons as Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Porter possesses that same purity and love for jazz that many might miss because his music is vocal jazz that is accessible to a pop audience. But that does not take away from the depth and integrity of his music. Take Me To The Alley is a poetic, honest, and soulful statement that is true to Porter’s uniquely wonderful style.

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Take Me To The Alley features the production wizardry of Kamau Kenyatta; producer of both the Water and Liquid Spirit albums. The band on this album cooks and consists of Chip Crawford, piano and musical director, Aaron James, bass, Emanuel Harrold, drums, Yosuke Sato, alto saxophone, Tivon Pennicott, tenor saxophone, Keyon Harold, trumpet, Ondrej Pivec, organ, and Alicia Olatuja on guest vocals.

The prevailing theme throughout Take Me To The Alley is the all-powerful resilience of love, despite the constant hurdles, distractions and obstacles. “Holding On” and “Insanity” are two contrasting examples of this. The first is a testimony of its power; the second is a saddened plea not to abandon it during the darkest moments of a romantic relationship.

Porter examines all sides of the spectrum. On the haunting ballad “Consequence Of Love”, Porter looks at the dangers of trying to control love’s divine power. Porter may be the preacher and poet at the helm but the band’s subtlety and focus to detail makes the music all the more compelling.  “Don’t Lose Your Steam” is dedicated to Porter’s young son. He advises him to hold onto who he is and to the love he possess and creates in the face of adversity. You never once doubt the sincerity of Porter’s poetry and vocal delivery. The song has a funky Motown rock and soul feel to it with slyly punctuated horn hooks. The vocal harmonies between Porter and Alicia Olatuji are magnificent. Ondrej Pivec’s organ work here is raw and nasty in all the best ways.

The title track is a sweet sermon set to music. Chip Crawford’s tasteful piano accompanies Porter on one of his strongest ballad performances of his entire career. Porter’s lyrics speak of a healing of “the afflicted ones”. this is a hope filled blessing for the downtrodden and the suffering; a message humanity needs to hear more of these days.

“In Fashion” bring things back down to earth as we witness the perception of a woman’s dress in the eyes of an obsessed male. In “Daydream”, Porter enters the colorful imagination of his son and all of the beauty and wonder that exists within this sacred world. Tivon Pennicott’s gentle tenor sax lines help to create this irresistibly innocent mood. “French African Queen” focuses on feminine and racial inequality in a rather quirky style not often heard in Porter’s music.

Family is a priority in Porter’s life and music. The lush and tender “More Than A Woman” and “In Heaven” are about the strength and love Gregory received from his late mother, Ruth Porter. These compositions will most definitely bring tears to the listeners eyes.

Porter’s distinct views on spirituality, love, transcendence, together with this tight and thematic ensemble of amazing musicians will transport the listener to this precious, hypnotic world that they will not wish to abandon once the album is finished playing. And then there’s Porter’s voice which encompasses everything great in American music and much more. Take Me To The Alley is Porter’s most poignant and powerful recordings thus far, which is saying a lot. It will be released on Friday, May 6th, 2016. Do not miss it.