Remember when Esperanza Spalding looked radiant at the 2011 Grammy Awards when she won for Best New Artist? Well, she’s won two more Grammys since then and is appearing at our Soul Jazz Festival on Mar 15. Tickets are as low as $20!
Cedar Walton (left) played a two-piano number with Bill Charlap in a Jazz in July concert on July 23, 2008. Photo © Richard Termine/92Y
The world lost two legendary jazz figures last week: Cedar Walton and Marian McPartland. Both were familiar and welcome guests on 92Y’s stage. Today, we honor Cedar Walton, who made several appearances on 92Y’s Jazz in July Festival, beginning with his debut on July 20, 2006.
Born in Dallas, Cedar Walton was one of the great hard bop jazz pianists. He first came to fame as pianist for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, for whom he composed such classics as “Mosaic,” “Bolivia” and “Ugetsu.” He enjoyed a long association with singer Abbey Lincoln, and he formed his own small groups, working with drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Ron Carter. He also regularly performed in rhythm sections for Milt Jackson, Frank Morgan, and Dexter Gordon and accompanied vocalists Ernestine Anderson and Freddy Cole. In 2010 he was named an NEA Jazz Master.
Jazz in July artistic director Bill Charlap and Mr. Walton were close friends. On January 22, 2010, Mr. Walton was the guest on NPR’s “Piano Jazz” radio show, and Bill filled for regular host Marian McPartland. 92Y asked Bill for his thoughts on his friend’s legacy. He wrote:
Cedar Walton was one of the greatest musicians in jazz history. His sound, his time, the profound melodic line, the depth of his harmonic language—all were part of the individuality and integrity that ensure the name Cedar Walton be remembered as one of the all time great jazz artists. In addition Walton made an important contribution as a major composer. Firm Roots and Ironclad, two of Walton’s many wonderful compositions, perfectly describe his musical aesthetic.
To know Cedar Walton was to know his brilliance and his humor, which, like his music, had layers of meaning. I feel lucky to have been able to call him my friend and will forever be in awe of his genius.
As will we all.
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra - “Stealin’ Apples” (1939)
Ken Peplowski is one of jazz’s reigning clarinetists, and he is a regular and popular guest at 92Y’s Jazz in July. He serves as Benny Goodman’s unofficial stand-in for the festival’s finale, “Benny Goodman: Let’s Dance,” so we asked him about the legendary clarinetist.
What was your first meeting with Benny Goodman?
The first time was when I was 16. He came to my home town of Cleveland, and my family and I saw him play. Then, I wound up playing in his last full–time working big band in NYC!! Our audition as a big band was frightening—he was a tough bandleader, very demanding in what he wanted, yet very mercurial at the same time.
The Pink Panther Theme Song, written by Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini and Johnny Mandel led the generation of songwriters who made their mark in the movies and TV rather than Broadway, and with music infused with jazz. We asked artists from this Wednesday’s “Mancini, Mandel & the Movies” concert if they remembered the first time they heard jazz in the movies and/or on TV:
Sandy Stewart, vocals
A 1959 TV special starring Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, and Bing Crosby
Jeremy Pelt, trumpet
Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Steve Davis, trombone
Floyd Huddleston and Al Rinker’s “Everybody Wants to be a Cat,” from Disney’s The Aristocats.
Rufus Reid, bass
Movie: Mandel’s The Sandpiper (“The Shadow of Your Smile”)
TV: Mancini’s “Peter Gunn”
Tim Horner, drums
TV: “Jazz Set” on PBS & the music of West Side Story on Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts
Film: The audition scene from The Man with the Golden Arm & Duke Ellington’s Anatomy of a Murder
What’s your first memory of jazz from the movies or TV? Jack Lemmon playing bongos in Bell, Book and Candle? The lit fuse in “Mission: Impossible”? The squad cars in “Hill Street Blues”? Let us know.
When you have as rich and rewarding a career as Johnny Mandel, you’re bound to meet some interesting people along the way—but how you meet them can be surprising.
In 1944, Johnny was hired to play in Henry Jerome’s orchestra. The band’s manager was Leonard Garment, who would become Richard Nixon’s lawyer. He would also be a founder of the National Museum of Jazz in Harlem.
Playing tenor saxophone was a young man who was also studying economics at NYU and trying to decide which career to follow. He was doing a bit of both by playing sax and managing the band’s books—Alan Greenspan, future chairman of the Federal Reserve. “Alan was very bookish and a nice guy. He also did the payroll, so we always got paid on time,” remembers Johnny.
The band was one of the first to play bebop, and it made air checks in the huge Child’s Restaurant under Paramount Theater in Times Square. Those live air checks have survived and have been released on a CD. It’s the only CD to feature Johnny Mandel and Alan Greenspan together.
To learn more about Johnny and Alan playing together, read these NEA and JazzWax (Part 2) interviews.
And for more Mandel, check out Jazz in July’s “Mancini & Mandel at the Movies,” on July 24.
Origin: from left, Chick Corea, Tim Garland, Steve Wilson, Steve Davis, Avishai Cohen (hidden), Jeff Ballard
A true “musician’s musician,” alto saxophonist Steve Wilson is one of the most prominent figures in the New York jazz scene. From 1998-2001 he was a member of Chick Corea’s groundbreaking band Origin, and last week he spent a morning chatting with WBGO’s Gary Walker. Here are some highlights…
On how did he and Chick first connected:
I was working with Avishai Cohen’s band on his first recording—this was around 1998—and Chick was producer, so he was at the studio. Shortly after, he called me and said, “I’m trying this experiment for a sextet, and I’ve written some new music. I have a three-night engagement in Albany.” I had the open dates, so I said sure. Right after the engagement, Chick immediately called us all and said, “I’ve already told my agent to start booking dates for the band.” And that’s how the group Origin got started.
What exactly is West Coast Jazz? For a demonstration, here is Chet Baker performing Jimmy Van Heusen & Jule Styne’s “Time After Time,” from a 1964 Belgian TV broadcast.
For an explanation, 92Y’s Jazz in July artistic director Bill Charlap recommends the preface from Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s by Robert Gordon:
In the early 1950s the attention of the jazz world was focused on Los Angeles. Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan had gained fame (and a spread in Time magazine) by forming a piano-less quartet; his new group was drawing standing-room-only crowds nightly to an intimate club called The Haig. Several miles away in the town of Hermosa Beach, bassist Howard Rumsey and a crew of ex-Kentonites drew equally enthusiastic crowds to an old crew of ex waterfront bar, the Lighthouse Cafe…In this hothouse atmosphere experimentation was rife, and attempts to adapt the instruments and techniques of the concert hall to jazz were tried, sometimes with a fair amount of success…Somebody coined the term “West Coast jazz” to describe the music being produced in California, and the tag stuck…
“Hey there cutes, put on your dancin’ boots and come dance with me!”
That’s the first line from Michael Bublé’s single “Come Dance With Me,” which he performed on Dancing with the Stars this past season. Frank Sinatra originally recorded “Come Dance with Me” in 1959 if you prefer the classic version.
Van Heusen won four Oscars and an Emmy and you probably know his songs, even if you didn’t know he wrote them (hint: if you’ve ever watched “Married, With Children” you know at least one!) Which songs would you like to hear at Jazz in July?
92Y begins a series of posts celebrating our Jazz in July summer festival with one of the funniest—and most infamous—stories in jazz history. It’s about the great stride pianist Fats Waller, whose music is the star of Jazz in July’s Opening Night on July 16.
Here’s the lowdown, as told by Nancy Caldwell Sorel in The Independent of London:The ebullient young man with the dazzling jazz style was a big hit at the Sherman Hotel. His nightly audience included men with wide lapels and bulging pockets. One evening Fats felt a revolver poked into his paunchy stomach. He found himself bullied into a black limousine, heard the driver ordered to East Cicero. Sweat pouring down his body, Fats foresaw a premature end to his career, but on arrival at a fancy saloon, he was merely pushed toward a piano and told to play. He played. Loudest in applause was a beefy man with an unmistakable scar: Al Capone was having a birthday, and he, Fats, was a present from “the boys”.
How did it end? Hint: very well. So, what’s your best birthday present?