Archive for the Stories in Music Category

Meeting the Other Richard Williams, Dr. Richard Allen Williams!

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by pogo56

Back on a September night in Boston at Wally’s Café, I was playing with the band and in walks in a familiar-looking older gentleman wearing some dark shades and a Miles Davis tee shirt. He also had what looked like a trumpet case in his hand, ready to play! As it turns out I had met him in October of 2010 in Wilmington, Delaware at a Clifford Brown Tribute concert that we were both billed on. So I got off of the bandstand and reintroduced myself and invited him to the bandstand. His name was Dr. Richard Williams. We played a few tunes then we went on break.

During the break, Richard began telling me about his life in music. He was a classmate of Clifford Brown in Delaware. Clifford was a few grades ahead of him and during Clifford’s graduation he played an excerpt from the Carnival of Venice. Hearing this inspired Richard to become a better trumpeter and do the same thing at his graduation.

Richard later went on to study at Harvard University’s Medical School. Richard told me that for one of his projects at Harvard he decided to interview Clifford Brown. He went meet Clifford for the interview on an evening in late June of 1956. He said that the interview was a couple of hours and Clifford had to cut it short because it was getting late and he had a long drive ahead of him. That was the last time Richard saw Brownie alive because he, along with Beverly and Richie Powell passed away in a car accident.

Richard decided to join the music fraternity when he started at Harvard and one of his initiations was to go to see Miles at his performance in Boston and convince him to come to Harvard with his band for a concert.

Richard was familiar with Miles music and the players that were in his band at the time. At the concert in Boston Richard noticed that Miles had a new saxophonist in his band. Richard was taken aback by the style of this saxophone player and decided to go and introduce himself to Miles and ask him about his new saxophonist. So he approached Miles and asked him about this saxophonist (who turned out to be Trane, btw) and Miles replied, saying something to the degree of, “Why don’t you go and sit down and listen, you’ll probably learn something.” So Richard did for the rest of the concert and decided to go up to Miles at the end of the concert and talk to him about why he was really there. Miles actually agreed to bring the band to Harvard and that’s where Miles and Richard’s friendship began.

Sometime after finishing his studies at Harvard, Richard started a practice and had Miles as one of his primary clients. He said that he actually lived with Miles for a number of years. He relayed many stories about Miles that I never knew. He said that Miles had a thing for hair. If you knew Miles well, he would sometime run his fingers through your hair and ask if he could do your hair. He was also a visual artist as many of you may well know. Richard has many works by Miles including some illustrated ties that Miles made.

It’s always great to meet people like Dr. Williams, people who’ve actually lived the history of this music. It’s a constant reminder to me of how NEW this music is in relation to the age of other art forms.

Dr. Williams also has a record that’s available through cd baby! You can check it out by clicking on the picture below.


Posted in Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by pogo56

Hello Everyone,

I hope that you all are enjoying these last days of summer!! Just writing here to update you on what’s been up with me this summer and what’s planned for the fall!

I started off the summer in the start of June in NY, performing and recording with saxophonist/composer Dan Blake. Look out for his album soon!! Some beautifully, soulful, intricate music!! Check out a clip from our live gig at the Douglas Street Music Collective here:

I then went on a US/Canada tour with the Grace Kelly Quintet, with special guest Phil Woods joining us for a few of the dates. It’s always a learning experience being in the presence of a master like Phil. I love picking his brain about the musical society of the past several decades. He’s got a boots on the ground perspective of the goings-on in the music!! That tour involved stops in Rochester, Cleveland, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, the Berkshires, Boston, and Montreal.

In the start of Juiy, I traveled to Europe for a couple of concerts with Grace in Stuttgart, Germany and Mureck, Austria. After the concert n Austria, I then went to Paris for 12 days of R&R with my wife and time to arrange music for the next gig. In those 12 days I did a fair share of sightseeing and I also saw many friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. While I was in Paris I saw/heard some wonderful concerts at the Sunset/Sunside (one lead by Lionel Loueke and one led by Tom Harrell) and a nice concert at the Olympia (Marcus Miller’s homage to Miles which featured Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sean Jones, and Sean Rickman).

I then ended the European tour with a week residency at the Jazz Nights Festival in Langnau, Switzerland and a member of the FLY7 ensemble (Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Edward Simon, Becca Stevens, and me). Our residency included 6 hours of instruction a day and a few concerts in the week. There were also two bands that came to perform in the evening nightly. Throughout the week I had the pleasure of hearing John Scofield’s new group (Sco, Mulgrew Miller, Scott Colley, and Bill Stewart), Nir Felder’s 4tet (Nir, Aaron Parks, Ben Street, and Henry Cole), Ravi Coltrane’s 4tet (Ravi, Luis Perdomo, Hans Glavischnig, and EJ Strickland). Here’s a clip from the concert of FLY7.

When we returned to the States, I played a few concerts in Boston followed by a set at the Newport Jazz Festival with Grace’s 5tet featuring Phil Woods and Bill Goodwin.

The following week I traveled to Washington State to attend my brother-in-law’s wedding and to visit with my wife’s family. It was a wonderful trip but it was cut short by a gig that I had at the Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway with GK5 featuring Phil Woods. While I was in Oslo I caught up with some wonderful musician friends that I hadn’t seen in a while (trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, Johnathan Blake, Lage Lund). A word to the wise: For the concert in Oslo, I brought 3 cds to sell after the concert. I sold them all, the festival took 10% commission, the currency exchange took 10% and I still got 100 USD for the sale of 3 of my cds.

So that pretty much brings us up to date. There are several engagements that I am excited for this fall/winter. Before I let you know of them, I’d like you all to join me in congratulating the alto saxophonist in my Boston-based band Michael Thomas on his recent accomplishment. Michael was just accepted into the exclusive artist diploma program at Julliard where he’ll be starting in the fall of this year!! It’s been a pleasure having Michael in my band and I look forward to hearing great things from/about him in NY in the years to come.

I’d like you all to keep on the lookout for the release of my 3rd album entitled Here Today on Steeplechase Records. The album features the Great Mark Turner on tenor, Nir Felder-Guitar, Edward Perez-Bass, and Kendrick Scott-Drums. There will be a cd release concert on September 23rd in Ny at the Jazz Gallery. That concert will feature everyone on the record, with the exception of Marcus Strickland in place for Mark Turner. Release date is slated for September 10th!

I’ll be making my 6th trip to Europe this year in October with a series of concerts with vocalist Melissa Oliveira in Portugal and guitarist Oscar Penas in Spain.

In November I’ll be subbing for the wonderful trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in his band for a series of concerts in the US as part of a Miles Davis retrospective.

All of these dates can be found on my schedule page.

Thank you for reading!! Stay tuned here as well as my youtube page.

Jason Palmer

All Keys Considered

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2011 by pogo56

This story takes place during my years in high school in North Carolina. In my junior year of high school I spent three nights a week studying at the Greensboro Music Academy. On one particular class we had the honor of having trombonist Fred Wesley at the school to present a clinic.

Sometime during the clinic Fred asked any of the students if they would like to play a tune with him and the rhythm section. I raised my hand and he called me up. I go up to the bandstand and Fred asked me what I would like to play and I told him that I would like to play Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay. This was partly because I had just learned the tune from the record.

Fred agreed to play the tune and he pulls out a fake book. We start the tune up and all of a sudden I find myself sounding wayyyy sharp on the tune. I ended up pulling my tuning slide almost all the way out to match up with Fred’s intonation as well as the band’s. It was soo embarrassing for me at the time.

So we wrap the tune up and Fred mentions to the audience how out of tune I was. He then asked me to play the melody with him a capella so we could match up. So we play and find that we’re actually playing a ½ away from each other!! This was because the fakebook had the tune written in C minor and I had learned the tune in Db minor! That was my first introduction to the importance of learning tunes in all or as many keys as possible. Up until that point I, like many young students, have no concept of the idea of playing the same song in multiple keys. That became something that I had to consider in my practice….


The Story of Helen Morgan, if You Didn’t Know Already

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by pogo56

I recieved this story in my email box many times from friends of mine and I thought I’d share this piece of debated history with those who didn’t know about the details surrounding Lee Morgan’s death.

The Lady Who Shot Lee Morgan

By Larry Reni Thomas

Lee Morgan, the fiery-hot, extremely talented jazz trumpet player, died much too soon. His skyrocketing career was cut short, at age 33, one cold February night in 1972, at a Manhattan club called Slug’s when he was shot to death by his 46-year-old common law wife Helen. At the time, Morgan was experiencing a comeback of sorts. He had been battling a serious heroin addiction for years and by most accounts, was drug free.

His gig at Slug’s was the talk of the jazz world and was a must-see for all of those in the know. There was always a packed house during his engagements at Slug’s. He looked good, sounded great and seemed destined for a fantastic future. Then the unthinkable happened.

How could it be? Why would Helen Morgan, whom almost everyone figured loved Lee more than she loved herself, kill her constant companion? What happened in their decade long relationship that would cause her to do something that devastating to Lee and herself and to Lee Morgan’s legion of fellow musicians, friends and fans who adored him?

The only person who could answer such questions is Helen Morgan (aka Helen More). She was arrested that day, February 9, 1972, served time in prison, released and paroled. She lived in the Bronx, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers, New York, until 1978, when she moved back to her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina to be near her sick mother who passed in 1980. Helen became heavily involved in the Methodist Church, spent time with her grandchildren, took classes at a local college and received a degree.

No one knew about her past other than her family. She almost never talked about it. Yet, she still had friends in New York, like the late vocalist Etta Jones, whom she would telephone frequently to talk about old times. But almost no one, especially in the jazz scene, knew where she was, or for that matter, cared. Most of them expressed disdain for her, some were quick to call her a cold-blooded murderer.

But how cold-blooded was she? How did she feel about the tragic event? What was her life all about? What caused her to commit a crime that she had to live with most of her life? How did a country girl from rural North Carolina end up in the fast lane?

She talked about her life with Lee Morgan in a rare and exclusive interview in February 1996, about a month before she passed away of heart problems in a Wilmington, North Carolina hospital. Her health had been in decline for years, and she explained that she wanted to do her one and only interview because she wanted to tell her side of the story. She was tired, she said, and knew she didn’t have long to live.

Helen Morgan was born in 1926 in Brunswick County, North Carolina on a farm near a town called Shallotte, about 50 miles across the Cape Fear River, from the coastal city of Wilmington. By the time she was 13, the shapely, attractive, talkative, bronze-colored skin, girl had her first child. A year later, she had another child. Both of her children were raised by her grandparents. She left them and moved to Wilmington at age 15 to live with her mother. She said, at that point, she became “disillusioned with men” and was a virgin for a period after moving to Wilmington. When she was 17-years-old, she started dating a local bootlegger who was 39-years-old.

One night she accidentally walked in on him while he was counting money. “It was the most money that I had ever seen in my life,” she said, smiling. “He took a liking to me, and I took a liking to the money.”

A few months later, they were married. Two years later, her husband drowned and she became a 19-year-old widow. Her late spouse was a New Yorker. When his relatives came down to take care of the funeral, they took her back to New York, when they finished with their business. She arrived in New York, in 1945, with the intention of staying two weeks.

“I found out I couldn’t live with his family. They were living downtown in the 50s, on 52nd Street between 9th and 10th. I learned my way around and got a job. And then I began to meet other people, and started going uptown to the clubs. First club was the Blue Rhythm up on 145th Street on Sugar Hill. Little three-piece band–the drummer, singer and organ player. Della, I can’t think of her last name. Let’s see, Etta Jones.

I began to meet all these people. You know I could always fit in. Because I was a talker. And I must say myself, I was not bad looking, and I used to fit in very nicely with them. And I would be invited to the afterhours joints. But after the clubs would close, that’s when you really heard the music. The jam sessions, you know. They would come uptown and really play.

“But, you know, it’s funny,” she continued, “I met most of the jazz musicians through people who weren’t in the jazz world, but was in the dope world. Now, see me–I was a “hip square.’ That’s what they called me. Yeah. You see. I didn’t use no heroin. Because that was the thing. They called it “horse’. You know. I knew the people. The people I met were the dope dealers. I would carry it for them because they knew I didn’t use it. I met the dope dealers by going to the afterhours spots.”

It was at the afterhours spots that she got the chance to meet and listen to the conversations of some of the jazz musicians. She heard them talk about their lives and their frustrations. Helen was convinced that they used drugs to forget about how the white club owners were using them, especially the ones who made them enter through the back door and the ones who would not allow blacks in the audience. She saw how that affected them and how when they were high off of heroin, situated in the safety of the afterhours spots they voiced their displeasures and problems in a way that they would never do to the outside world.

Helen said that she thought they carried on very “sensible” talks about world affairs and what was happening to blacks at that time. She was impressed with their intellectualism, yet saddened at the same time, because she was convinced that they were all “hurting inside.” She said that she felt sorry for them because on stage and in public they were putting on a front or an act that everything was fine when it was obvious that this was not the case.

Helen explained that the musicians talked about how the whites were stealing their music, paying them next to nothing and how the whites were bringing all the heroin to Harlem. It was a sad situation that was an illusion to people on the outside who didn’t know any better.

Ms. Morgan, however, saw right through it. “It was like you (the musicians) were living this life. But you really not, you know. You’re just going through the motions. You singing. and the only time you are really yourself is when you are playing, singing and then you forget about everything. You go and play. It would be such mournful sounds. You could hear the sorrow in the music. If you listen hard enough you can hear it.”

Helen gained great respect for the musicians after her visits to the after hour spots. So much so that she invited them all to her apartment, on 53rd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, not too far from Birdland. “Helen’s place,” she said, “became a location where they could get a good hot meal.” She did not allow any drug use. It was a refuge and a safe haven from the hardships of a jazz musician’s life. It was there in her midtown Manhattan apartment, during the early 1960s, where she met the very young Lee Morgan.

“I met Morgan through Benny Green, the trombone player, who I was messing with at that time. Benny brought him around there. And I met him and we talked. And I looked at him and for some kind of reason my heart just went out to him. I said to myself “this little boy, you know.”

And I looked at him and he didn’t have a coat. I asked him why didn’t he have a coat. He just had a jacket. I said, “child, it’s zero degrees out there and all you have on is a jacket. Where is your coat?” And he told me he didn’t have a coat “cause it was in the pawn shop.” He had pawned his coat for some drugs. I told him, “Well, come on, I am going to go get your coat!” He said, “You’re going to get my coat?”

And I said, “Yeah, and I’m not going to give you the money! Because you might spend it on drugs. We are going to go and get it!'”

She said it was too cold for anybody to be outside without a coat. When she asked Lee where was his trumpet (“his axe”) he told her it was in the pawn shop too. Helen asked him how was he going to work if he didn’t have an instrument.

“How is a carpenter going work without tools?” she asked him and every other jazz musician she saw in that sad shape. But because she said she felt sorry for Lee Morgan, Helen went and got his trumpet and coat out of the pawn shop. After that, she said, Lee Morgan “hung on to me.”

Lee moved in with her and she “took over total control of Morgan.” She fed him, nursed and pampered him, and started to get his show business career back in order. Helen began to try to book him gigs again. She found out that he really wasn’t working a great deal because most people knew about his chronic no-shows and his drug habit. He was not working much except for the Jazzmobile on some summer Saturdays, Blue Note studio recording sessions and other assorted functions.

She recalled the time when a well known jazz musician passed and he was asked to play at the funeral. Lee told her that he could not do it because he did not have any shoes. All he had was bedroom slippers. They laughed when he told her that one of his fellow musicians told him, “Damn, Morgan, all God’s children got shoes!”

It’s not that he couldn’t get a gig. Everybody wanted to hire him. They were just worried that he might not show up. Helen became a stabilizing force for Lee, according to her, but she couldn’t completely stop him from using drugs. When Lee moved in, he brought a non-musician friend, Gary, with him. She called Gary a “parasite.” Ms. Morgan claimed he could not stand her and that he did everything to “make something come between me and Morgan.”

She found out that keeping hustlers, hanger-ons, fans, dead-beats and junkies away from Lee Morgan would be something that she would have to deal with for the rest of their lives. She eventually left the apartment and moved into another place. It was around then that her phone calls and her persistence began to pay off. Lee started getting a band together and getting ready to work again. Helen said that most of the club owners said they couldn’t depend on him. Some of them had been burned in the past when Lee Morgan was advertised all week to come to their establishment and he didn’t show up.

“If he did not have money to get high with then he did not even show up,” she said. “Ain’t nothing else was on his mind but getting high. Getting high made him normal. He told me that once. He said that Art Blakey was the one who turned him on. Art turned a lot of them on. Lee told me he asked Art how long would the high last? He said Art told him–forever! I am not saying that Art made them use it. I’m just saying that he was the influence. It’s making you feel so good. You know. I never thought much of Art because he turned so many of them on to heroin. All of them (the jazz musicians) were on it.

They were raggedy and pitiful. Real pitiful! Pitiful! Oh! But they came to my house and they were made welcome. Unless they were really doggish. I would let them in because they were people and one thing they were a mystery to me because I could never figure out how anything could make you in the dead winter time, zero weather, take off your coat and sell it. One time Gary and I was talking and he asked me why hadn’t I ever tried heroin.”

He said “Well, you missed the essence.”

I said “No Honey, I ain’t miss no essence. Looking at you’all I see the essence. Looking at you’all is a enough essence for me to not to want it! And looked at me and said ‘I guess you right. I guess you right.'”

According to Helen, Lee was a full-fledged junkie at that time, during the early 1960s, he had had his teeth knocked out and had broken some braces that had been in his mouth for years. She told him to clean up so she could try to get him some gigs. She convinced him that he could play again if he quit using so much heroin. Lee Morgan turned himself in to a hospital in the Bronx to beat his heroin habit. That meant that there was no more Gary. She never saw Gary again.

Ms. Morgan found a new apartment in the in the Bronx where Lee moved in to when he came out of drug rehabilitation. It was there in their apartment in the Bronx that she was able to help Lee Morgan get back on his feet. Helen was able to convince most of the club owners that she would personally make sure that Lee would make his engagements. She was extremely proud that she had, in her words, brought him back from near death.

“I’ll never forget,” she said, “the DJ for the black program was Ed Williams and Ed Williams was in my corner. He did the eulogy for Morgan. And people told me that he mentioned me. He said, “Regardless to what happened, we can not leave Helen out of this.”

He said, “Because Morgan was dead to us before she came on the scene. And she brought him back to us 5, 6, 7, 8 years, you know. She brought him back alive to us.”

Mrs. Morgan got him to start dressing neatly again and cleaning himself up. Whenever they would go out or go on the road, she went with him. Lee liked to wear a shirt and a tie and keep his shoes shined, So she made sure all of that was done before he went out for a gig. Helen would iron his shirts for him because she said that he didn’t like what they did to them at the laundry. They were seen together a great deal and were often out at other jazz and social events. It was backstage after one of those affairs that she first met the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, who was an old friend of Lee’s. Helen said he was a “nasty.”

“When I met him,” she recalled, “he said, ‘Hello.'” I said, ‘Hello.’ And he said, “and who are you supposed to be?’ I said, ‘I’m suppose to be…I am ..I am not supposed to be…I am Helen Morgan!”

“Oh you Lee Morgan’s woman, huh?”

And I said, “yes!”

And he said, “I guess you know who I am?’ I said, I don’t have to know who you are! And he laughed, you know. He say, “I see you got a quick mouth.’ And the words he said was like this, “I don’t mess around with bitches with big mouths.’ That was one of his favorite words. And I said, well I don’t consider myself that. But, you know, we ain’t got nothing to say to each other anyway because I don’t play the trumpet, so I sure can’t talk about no music with you, you know.”

Lee Morgan’s first band, according to Helen, after he got out of rehab, was a very young and highly impressive quintet, one that was exciting live and at the forefront, on the cutting edge of the post-bop, funky soul jazz scene of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It was known as an adventurous group that went out sometimes and took a few avant garde excursions, but always stayed in that soulful, funky, swinging pocket. His working band consisted of Lee on trumpet, Harold Mabern on piano, Jyme Merritt on bass, and Billy Higgins, drums. The substitutes, whenever there were adjustments to be made, were Cedar Walton, piano and Herbie Lewis on bass.

There was also a young reedman named Frank Mitchell, who Mrs. Morgan said they found in the Hudson River. She was sure that somebody killed him but she didn’t say why she thought that way. Frank wrote the tune “Expoobient” from the hit album of the same name. Helen managed Lee’s band business and kept them touring on a regular basis to places like California for a month, with two weeks in Los Angeles at Redondo Beach and two weeks in San Francisco.

The band was also booked in Chicago for two weeks and Detroit for two weeks, on their way back to the East Coast where she had work arranged at most of the major clubs in New York and other cities. She also set up an engagement on the Caribbean island of Antigua that went very well. From roughly 1965 to 1970, Helen was Lee’s true and trusted confidant, manager, and spokesperson. If anyone called their apartment and asked him about work, he handed the phone to her. She did the negotiating with the employers, the arranging of airline flights and transportation needs and Mrs. Morgan was the one who made sure they had hotel rooms.

Meanwhile, Lee concentrated on practicing with his band and recording. He let her handle the business end. No doubt he loved and respected her, so much so, he wrote a composition called “Helen’s Ritual,” which was inspired by Lee watching her take hours getting ready to go out and rubbing generous portions of lotion on her legs and the rest of her body in the process. She was not only the band’s manager, she was their cook, coach, cheerleader and probably their best critic.

Her favorite phrase when the band was really playing well was “Go head Morgan! Go head Morgan!” She said Lee would laugh and the people, including the band members would laugh at her, too. Helen didn’t care. She kept on saying “Go head Morgan! Go head Morgan!” because it made the band members feel good to know someone was listening and, most importantly because it made her feel good. There was one summer engagement in Rhode Island at the ritzy Newport Jazz festival when the music didn’t feel so fine.

“We was at Newport. And they were drinking. All this drinking. I said, you’all ain’t doing nothing out there. All you sound like little children up there. And I…..And they used to say if I didn’t say nothing they knew they wasn’t doing nothing. And I was just sitting right there looking at them. I said, all you’all sound like little children up there. And then Miles told them and Morgan said, “Yeah, that’s what my wife just told me–that I sound like a little child and that we sound like little children.” Miles said, “Well, she told you right!'”

The good years for the Morgans were when Lee was working and on methadone. Helen was meeting and greeting people who were mostly high-profile, show business personalities who she and Lee would sometimes entertained at their Bronx apartment. They both enjoyed a good party. It was at one of their early morning after-the-set parties that she met an interesting guest. She met the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, a tall, crew-cut, white boy sitting on a pillow in her living room amid a sea of black faces.

Given the time and the place, the late 1960s, during the latter stages of the non-violent civil rights movement and the start of the violent end of the movement, Mulligan was more than a bold white boy. He was out of his mind and out of his place. Especially to Helen Morgan, a fast-talking, former farm girl from North Carolina who was definitely at that time, when she and Lee were doing well, living large and in a very fast lane.

“I’ll never forget I had a party and Gerry Mulligan came to my house. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know nothing about no Gerry Mulligan, you know. And he was sitting out there….And I seen this white boy sitting out there in the corner. And you know, we have a habit, you know how we say, ‘Nigger!’ You know how we call each other Nigger, you know. (Laughs) In a minute, you know. And think nothing about it “cause it was love with us! So I didn’t even know when he came in there. But somebody said something and I said, Nigger is you crazy? And I turned around and looked in this white guy’s face. And I cut me off. And I said, “Well, I done said it now. I said, Well, who are you? And somebody said, “That’s Gerry Mulligan.’ And I said, So! (Laughs). And then Morgan came over there and said,”

This is my wife Helen.’ I was not one of nicest persons either. I will not sit here and tell you that I was so nice because I was not. I was one who will cut you. I was sharp. I had to be. I had to be sharp. And Gerry Mulligan sat over there and I said well make yourself at home, you know. And he sat over there because in my front room I didn’t have no chairs. You sat on pillows and things like that. And he sat and had food. I always had plenty food. You served yourself because I partied too. I was no waiting on nobody. I cooked the food, you know. But it wasn’t no waiting on nobody.” “One time, a trick I pulled,” she continued. “I got some snuff (Laughs) and it was some kind of snuff. And I had this party. (Laughs) and I told them that it was Nigerian coke. They lied and said that they were high.

And it would burn them. I said, hold your head back. Aw, they would jump on it. And it was brown–Nigerian coke. Nigerian coke. And I laughed. Me and my friend did this. And I’d catch them. And they’d never been– because some people had never been in my house before and they had been coming… I remember seeing two of the people. I didn’t even remember them. They remembered me and how much of a good time they had at my house and had I gotten anymore of that coke? And I said, what coke? coke? They said, “that Nigerian coke, you had.’ I said, Oh no. (Laughs). I say, now you see how people’s minds. They weren’t high. You know. We had wine. They was high off the wine and smoking reefer.

And we had some coke before, but I wasn’t giving them all my coke and they didn’t have any.” Helen laughed when she talked about the happy times when Morgan was making a little money. He made money from the hit LP Sidewinder, but she insisted that he wasted it all on drugs. Mrs. Morgan contended that during that period (roughly 1965 to 1970), Lee was shooting “tremendous” amounts of cocaine. He had taken the usual path of some former heroin addicts, who when placed on methadone, shot cocaine instead because they figured it wouldn’t hurt since the white powder was not heroin.

Most of the time it turned out to be like jumping from a boiling pot to a frying pan or exchanging one bad habit for another. In the case of Lee Morgan, it turned out to be, according to her, exactly that and much, much more. He started to run the streets a great deal and sometimes he wouldn’t come back to their Bronx apartment for days. She began to wonder if their wonderful, fun-filled fast times were about to end. It was around that time that Helen began to ask herself : “Did I love him (Lee)? Or did I think he was my possession? And I think part of that might have been my fault because I might have stopped being..I might have started being too possessive or too much like a mother to him.

I was much older than Morgan because he was in his thirties when he died and I was in my forties or late forties. I thought about it because it was like to me, I thought about it. Like I made him. You know. I brought you back. You belong to me. And you are not supposed to go out there and do this. He started seeing this girl and as I understand it now. See I was on him about using so much cocaine. She was using cocaine with him. She was shooting cocaine with him. And you know how long that is. That’s pop, pop, pop! with that because it ain’t going to last you but a hot minute snorting it and less than that when you shoot it.

So I knew that because he’d be there with me when he’d get it. And I said, You using, you shooting, you using too much cocaine, you know. You using too much. You not eating, you know. And your nerves, you using. And I guess I was beginning to sound like a mother. And this girl, she had been after him for a long time. But when he was out there strung out she wasn’t. But once he got himself straight she wanted him. And then they were hanging out, you know. He had somebody (his age) to play with.

I saw her hanging around and I’d go to the bathroom and they would be there, you know. And I said, You better be careful, girl, you know. And I told her, You better be careful, you know.” Shortly afterwards, Helen stopped going to the clubs to see Morgan perform. She was still handling his business and they were still living together.

They were still going out together in public and when he was invited to be on several TV specials she accompanied him, not his new girlfriend. This situation perplexed Mrs. Morgan so much that she tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. Lee was home the evening it happened. He called a cab and took her to the hospital to get her stomach pumped. Once she completely recovered from that ordeal, she sat down to have a heart-to-heart talk with Lee about their shaky future. “The thing we need to do is separate,” she told him. “You go ahead and be with her and I’ll still do your business.

But what you are doing is not right. I’m not one of those woman that can talk about I’m the main woman and you got somebody else out there. I’m not built that way. That’s not me. I’m no main woman if you leaving me here every night by myself and you out there with somebody else!” Mrs. Morgan said she asked Lee to leave and he wouldn’t. He was not secure enough to go and live with his new girlfriend, Helen contended, because he had sense enough to know that what he was doing with her would do nothing but bring him down. She was convinced that she brought him his much sought after stability. She told him that if he wouldn’t go then she would and that she was going to Chicago to visit some old friends.

Helen also informed Lee that she didn’t know when she was coming back and that maybe when she came back he would “have his act together.” “I even sat down and talked to the girl at the club,” she explained. “I said, I don’t want you to think that..I don’t know what he is telling you. But you sitting here and I’m telling him to go with you. I’m not keeping him. Begging him to stay. I’m telling him that it’s best for everybody around because I feel like something bad is going to happen out of this. And that Sunday he begged me not to go. He said, “Helen, don’t go. Don’t go to Chicago. I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to leave me.

I said, we can’t live like this. It’s not me. And I didn’t go to Chicago. And I told him, you know, Morgan, I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.” That turned out to be a profound and a prophetic statement because it would lead to her making an uncharacteristically dumb move for a lady who had been doing the right things up until that point. She continued to stay at home and Lee even came home a night or two after their discussion. But that didn’t last long. Before the weekend, he was back in the streets, hanging out with his friend and shooting cocaine until the wee hours of the morning. He was working at Slug’s, a downtown club she had booked him in all week that second week in February 1972.

She had promised the club owner, like she had done many times in the past, that he would be there and Lee was there, with his quintet. sounding good and making the news as the act to catch, oblivious to what was about transpire, unaware that this much-heralded, routine gig at Slug’s would be his last. “On that Saturday, I don’t know what possessed me. I said, I’m going to Slug’s.

He was working down there that whole week. I hadn’t been down there that whole week. And I had a gun. He was the one who bought me the gun because he said he don’t be home and he wanted me to protect myself. And I put the gun in my bag. And a fellow was staying with me named Ed, Ed was gay. And Ed knew all the musicians and everything you know. And I said, Ed come on and go with me and Ed said no. He said, “Don’t go, Don’t go down there.’ I said, no I’m going down there. He said, “I just don’t want you to go!’ I said, I’m going to stop in Slug’s and say hello and then I’m going over to the Vanguard and hear Freddie.

I got a cab and went down there and went in Slug’s. And Morgan came around there where I was and we was talking and the girl walked up and she said, ” I thought you wasn’t supposed to be with her anymore.’ And he said, “I’m not with this bitch, I’m just telling her to leave me alone.’ And about that time I hit him. And when I hit him I didn’t have on my coat or nothing but I had my bag. He threw me out the club. Wintertime. “And the gun fell out the bag,” she continued. “And I looked at it. I got up. I went to the door.
I guess he had told the bouncer that I couldn’t come back in. The bouncer said to me, “Miss Morgan I hate to tell you this but Lee don’t want me to let you in.’ And I said, Oh, I’m coming in! I guess the bouncer saw the gun because I had the gun in my hand. He said, “Yes you are.’ And I saw Morgan rushing over there to me and all I saw in his eyes was rage.” It was at that point that Mrs. Morgan shot Lee and her whole world changed the moment that shot went off. She said she became extremely panicky and threw the gun on the counter on the bar. Pure pandemonium broke out and the bar’s occupants fled.

The police and an ambulance arrived on the scene. Helen sat there in the middle of all this in a complete daze, wondering if this was a dream, or was it a nightmare? “I ran over there and said I was sorry. And he said to me, he said, “Helen, I know you didn’t mean to do this. I’m sorry too.'” “I can remember the cops throwing me out. I went into hysterics and I don’t know. It seem to me like everybody must have left. And I don’t know where the girl went.

I ain’t never seen that girl since. I think she thought she was next. But she never entered my mind. You know, it’s a funny thing, she didn’t enter my mind. When that gun went off it snapped me back to reality to what I had done. I didn’t have a coat. I didn’t have a bag. I didn’t have nothing. I was just sitting there, you know. Seemed like it hadn’t registered. I said, I couldn’t have did this. I couldn’t have did this. This must be a dream and I’ll wake up. I couldn’t be sitting here. And then I just went to jail and sat there. “And the next morning I had to go to court. My kids was upset. They don’t know what to think. But the musicians were there. They were there. Everybody kept saying, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Don’t worry. We behind you. Don’t worry. We’ll get you a lawyer. Don’t worry.’

I was just going back. Worry about what? And the lawyer told me do not plead guilty. Plead not guilty. I didn’t understand that, I said, “Well I killed him. I’m guilty, you know.”

So I did what he said–not guilty. And then I went on back. And when they had the hearing, my mother came up. Then that was another…She was in trauma because she couldn’t believe it. This is my daughter!

I said, “well, Helen, you got to get yourself together. It’s done. You done put yourself in it now. So, you got to get yourself together. You got to get your mind together. You got to get yourself together mentally to accept what you have done.”

Helen said she spent several weeks on Riker’s Island in jail before she realized no one was going to help her except herself. She fired her lawyer after he paid her only one visit and failed to say anything to her after their initial meeting. Her supporters had dwindled down to family members and close friends who stuck with her in and out of prison.

It wasn’t until she had been out of New York for almost 20 years, in failing health, back down south in North Carolina near where her life began, that she decided to grant an interview and talk about the sad, tragic event that had shaped her fall from being “Lee Morgan’s woman,” a possessive lady in the fast lane, to the devoted, loving, church-going mother and grandmother known as Ms. Morgan. Less than a month after she gave this interview in February 1996, Helen’s song came to its coda, its final note, when her weak heart gave out and she died at a hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina, surrounded by her loved ones.

Short Story on Jazz in the White House…

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by pogo56

Tonight I was talking to Phil Woods after our gig with Grace in Vienna about his time in Dizzy’s big band. He was telling me about the time when they came back from a State-Sponsored Ambassador tour for a performance at the White House. He told me that after the concert, the only senator to come backstage and congratulate them on their work was…..John F. Kennedy!! Phil said that JFK shook every bandmembers’ hand! Hearing this just deepened my love and respect for this great man. Who in the White House today besides the First Family do you think would greet the band nowadays?

So Funny, I had to Repost!!

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , on January 11, 2011 by pogo56

A friend of mine sent me a link to this site which contained these quotes from college students, reflecting on the jazz history class that they were enrolled in. Some of my friends think that this tread is fabricated, but I think that it’s too random to be. What do you all think? Here’s the thread:

These are quotes from students in a college jazz history class. They are extracted from the essay topic, “What I learned over this semester in jazz history.” These are all genuine responses, completely unaltered. They are all 18+ year old students; not high school or middle school age kids. None of them are music students; they all took this class as a gen. ed. credit and a hopeful “easy A”.

1. “Free Jazz is an era that I wished I had never learned about.?

2. “Free Jazz. Wow; what a sound it makes. An awful, horrible sound. I don’t see how that can actually be called a sound. My 5 year old nephew could pound on the piano and make the same sound! He may even make a better sound. To be honest, that sound is one big mess”.

3. “With swing, it’s kind of up in the air for me. I must say I tried like hell to keep up with it.”

4. “My favorite jazz has a bluesy, Mexican feel to it.”

5. “Though Jazz started in New Orleans, it traveled all around the world picking up and dropping off things along the way.”

6. “One thing that confused me was Jelly Roll Morton. Did he play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? I didn’t think that they were around back then.?

7. “Jelly Roll (Morton) bridged the gap between piano and ragtime.

8. “My grandpa likes it, but I think scat stinks.”

9. “Chick Corea, Dizzie Gillespie, Bix Biderbeck, and the monk created the first cool group.”

10. “I wished Don Cherry would put his trumpet back in his pocket.”

11. “There is not enough space in my head to fit all that I learned.”

12. “This class taught me about a lot of things that I never knew about.”

13. “Some of the big jazz musicians we learned about were: Lous Armstrong, Duke, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Cillespic, T. Mark, Ken Barns, Buddy Baldwin, Jellyroll Mortin, Sydney Bichai, Fats Waller, Earl Hines, and many many more.”

14. “Coming into class on the first day, I assumed there would be a boring professor standing in front of the class droning on and on about jazz. Here’s where it started; this is who played it; and here we are today; blah, blah, blah. I now realize that my assumption wasn’t all that wrong.”

15. “I assumed that jazz had started in the African-American community only because it fulfilled a multi-cultural course that I was required to take.”

16. “Jim Crow, in a way, was the first jazz musician.”

17. “Jazz was put into effect by Jim Crow”s Law.”

18. “I really enjoyed hearing the big band, Frank Foster’s Arrangement”.

19. “I learned in this class that, contrary to my mom’s opinion, Kenny G is a joke. A really non-funny one.”

20. “I fell in love with that tune, “Stablemates”. It really hits home.?

21. “Jazz musicians don’t play for women any more.”

22. “I learned that going to jazz concerts gets me in good with the girlfriend.”

23. “I learned a lot about Be Bop, Swing, Drugs, and Fusion.”

24. “I found new respect for Miles Davis. He was adamant about not using drugs when everyone else was trying to get him to try some.”

25. “I liked hearing the Original Dixieland (Jazz) Band, and how they were the original Dixieland band.”

26. “You might want to mention to future classes that jazz brings true romance to a scene.”

27. “I’m glad I took this class, because I feel more comfortable to talk about jazz in its awesomeness.”

28. “Drugs caused many artists their careers in many ways.”

29. “Jazz is a style of music that is almost very sober.”

30. “I figured jazz started in the 1960s, but to my surprise, it started back in the late 18th century.”

31. “Smooth jazz now just plain old angers me.”

32. “A lot of the things that I learned were facts that I never new about, not only in jazz, but in life as well.”

33. “I got really excited by the tenor sax, soprano sax, baritone sax, but not so much the alto sax.”

34. “I can’t believe that blacks had time to invent jazz if they were hanging out in the whorehouses with Jelly Roll Morton.”

35. “A lot of black jazz musicians were very talented, which probably came from them not having anything else to do.”

36. “When blacks and whites finally decided to get together to make jazz, it was a big hit.”

37. “Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz were two guys who would sit down and enjoy cool jazz.”

38. “Going to the club gave me jazz sensations.”

39. “I hear the hard-bop jazz influence on bands today such as Matchbox Twenty and Dave Matthews Band”.

40. “I’m now going to start this essay on jazz.”

41. “James Crow worked to bring the slaves together with the creoles.”

42. “Learning jazz has helped me beat my mom at Jeopardy. She had no idea who a blind pianist from Toledo, OH was for $800.”

43. “I learned the definition of supreme technical virtuosity is to play like Louie Armstrong.”

44. “Charlie Parker was a famous jazz musician who played saxophonists.”

45. “Getting 81% (on a test) is all well and good until you see that dumb guy next to you who picks his nose getting 91%. I then started studying and coming to class”.

46. “I asked the drummer what the names of the names and styles of the tunes that he played but he didn’t seem to know”.

47. “TV has become more jazzy to me now.”

48. “Studying jazz has been a coming out party for me.”

49. “I loved the vibrational solos of Clifford Brown.”

50. “When I think of tradition and instruments, I think of Fiddler of the Roof”.

51. “I learned a lot from the different guest speakers in class, whether they were an experienced piano player, a director of music at a major motel, or a guitar player with an oddly placed handkerchief in his pocket.”

52. “Jazz has the technique of classical music, the feeling of blues, and the hope of children everywhere.”

53. “I know what troubles musicians now when I watch and listen to them play.”

54. “My ties to jazz were through Bleeding Gums Murphy, a character on a TV show called the Simpsons. It comes on at 8pm on Sunday nights.”

55. “I was surprised to find out about the different styles of jazz like hard, be, and post bops.”

56. “I thought that jazz was a certain amount of instruments that you played and was composed for you(,) not believing that it was their improvisation and the jazz musicians who made up the music on the spot doing what they wanted to do with the tunes. I know this is hard to explain but it is true.”

57. “When I try to play jazz, I mess around with the instruments pounding out random notes that were just me making nonsense up and it sounding like a big pile of crap.”

58. “Jazz is more profound when it doesn’t help pay the bills.”

59. “The first thing I learned in jazz history that happy birthday is the most played jazz classic. You want to hear happy birthday in swing BAM! You got it You want to hear happy birthday in classic jazz BAM! You got it. You want to hear happy birthday in be bop BAM! You go(t) it. It’s great The second thing I learned is free jazz is where its at. I think that I could be a free jazz musician cause it all sounds like a drunk 7 year old jamming down on some notes and making the sweet sweet music fly. Free jazz was defiantly the best part of the class but unfortunately you didn’t play free jazz enough. My one suggestion for your next class is that you start out every class with a 5 minute free jazz intro. Over all and all, I defiantly learned a lot in jazz history class.”

60. “Hip hop and pop are fine, going out for fame and bling bling. Jazz has been around for a while, is out of style, but can really sing.”

61. “Jazz musicians sing and play music because they can’t contain their passions. Their music starts in the soul radiates out in every direction.”

62. “Jazz is a very dynamic kind of music. Loud and Soft.

63. “Swing makes you want to get up and dance and free jazz just makes you want to get up.”

64. “If any kind of music can calm a hectic day, its cool jazz. If you feel like going out and dancing, however there is ragtime.”

65. “In conclusion, jazz is music.”

66. “Jazz has come from the fields of New Orleans to my 2pm class, and beyond.”

67. “Unlike other forms of music, jazz is listened to by old people as well as us.”

68. “I learned what intros and outros were in this class. Now I look for them when I go searching for good music.”

69. “I went to do my (jazz) listening report at the house of blues.”

70. “Jazz has taught me a lot about the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.”

71. “I thought of jazz as a thing of the past, something old African American men listened to on old record players while sitting on their front porches smoking cigars.”

72. “Steve Turre has taught me that sea shells should be left on the ground instead of his mouth.”

73. “Over the course of the semester my knowledge of jazz has gone from nothing to practically nothing.”

74. “Even though I probably won’t listen to jazz after this semester, it has given me a greater appreciation of movies.”

75. “My favorite person to study was Sonny Rollins. He knew that he had to throw his saxophone off the bridge when he heard how good Charlie Parker was.”

76. “Jazz to me was the ‘shoo opps’ from groups in streets downtown in the olden, golden days.”

77. “Happy birthday That song is just amazing to me.”

78. “My all-time favorite jazz artist to listen to was Buddy Baldwin, AKA “the jazz king”. I think I’m going to go out and buy a couple of his CDs?

79. “I was surprised to find musicians with such odd names such as Vilage Von Guard.”

80. “Jazz is not as popular with all of the adolescence going around.”

81. “I like jazz more in books than on cds.”

82. “I remember coming into class with no facts but a whole plate of bullshit to dish out.”?

83. “I found myself learning about Blues, Early Jazz, Dixieland, Swing, Be Bop, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Third Stream, Japanese, Post Bop, Fusion, Smooth, Modern Jazz, and the list goes on.”

84. ” ‘Call and Respond’ is where one musician plays and the other one tries too hard to figure out what he’s doing.”

85. “The people in Dixie Land originated jazz music.”

86. “Jazz is now a part of me from 2pm-3:15pm every Tuesday and Thursday.”

87. “Jazz started in the fields where they used hand-me-down instruments and wore hand-me-down clothes.”

88. “If Wynton Marsalis said jazz was dead in the 1970’s, what was he playing at the time”.

89. “Weather Report was the final big band back in the day.”

90. “My girlfriend and I both agreed the next morning that jazz-club food was something we could’ve done without.”

91. “Jazz agitates me.”

92. “I like jazz, but I need something else besides rhythm, melody, and harmony.”

93. “I had no clue that so many (musicians) used drugs. Thinking about that, there is no doubt that they are living the life I dream of. They are spending money on things that they don’t really need or even want.”

94. “I noticed that there weren’t many jazz women in our textbook until I looked to see that the author was a guy. All guys are sexist, women bashers, who don’t ever give us our credit.”

95. “The part I most enjoyed was studying and appreciating slavery.’

96. “Its hard to imagine where Winton Marsalis gets his ideas from.”

97. “I’d like to see midgets getting bribed in every jazz club. Not just with Birdland. I’m of course talking about the jazz club, not Charlie Parker.”

98. “We’ve had our share of good times and bad times over the semester. By bad times, I mean my tests.”

99. “Count Bassie WAS the swing era”.

100. “This class increased my intelligence with aptitude.”

101. “Duke Ellington had the ability to turn jazz compositions into pure magic.”

102. “Swing died in World War II when the soloists took over.”

103. “I could go on and on about jazz, but I won’t.?

104. “Tony Williams was my favorite drummer because his group, Lifetime, is the same name as my favorite channel that I watch.”

105. “How do the musicians know what to play when their eyes were closed the whole time? And what was with the piano player talking while he played his solos. His musician friends must have been thought he was crazy.”

106. “I technically wasn’t in your class but I was happy to be along for the ride.”

107. “I was in jazz band in high school but we didn’t play jazz music.”

108. “Dizzie Gillespie was the one who jammed on the drums.”

109. “I thought doing our listening report would be a painful sort of torture.”

110. “I was bummed out at the beginning of the semester because I thought Louis Armstrong was going to be one of the guest lecturers.”

Famoudou Don Moye
Sun Percussion
Rhythm and Melody in Motion

2010 Musical Year in Review

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , on December 26, 2010 by pogo56

This year has been good to me musically speaking. I’ve had the great fortune to play with some great players as well as travel to some wonderful lands abroad. I’d like to catch you all up on where the music took me this past 2010.

In addition to performing at Wally’s Café regularly this past year with my great 5tet, I got the year started of on an interesting note at the end of January in NYC at the Stone. My dear colleague altoist/composer/bandleader/visionary Matana Roberts included me in her curation to the Stone for the month. For that performance I brought down my 5tet (Me-trumpet, Michael Thomas-alto, Greg Duncan-guitar, Lim Yang-bass, and Lee Fish-drums) to premier my project on the music of Minnie Riperton . That was a quite fun project to arrange, rehearse, and present. For the project I chose tunes by Minnie such as Come Inside my Love, Memory Lane, Lovin You, Take a Little Trip, and I’m a Woman. I hope to record that project independently in the next 5-10 years.

The month of February also brought some great experiences for me as well. I was called to perform for a week with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, performing the music of Count Basie . It was an audition of sorts for an exiting member of the trumpet section. It was my first time playing/subbing in the group. I wasn’t selected for the permanent position because I’m not a lead player by any means and I hadn’t been subbing as long as the player that was chosen, and in this environment where there are so few jobs for trumpeters, Skain said it wouldn’t have been fair to give me the gig. I dug it!!! It was an awesome, unforgettable experience meeting the cats in the band and playing alongside them.

Later in February I also celebrated my 31st birthday by recording my 2nd album as a leader. My album Nothing to Hide is my debut on the Steeplechase label and it’s the first album that I highlight my working Boston-based 5tet on. The album was released in September of this year.

In the month of March, I presented a great series of concerts in London at Pizza Express with a wonderful European 4tet. I presented my compositions with Michael Janisch on bass, Juilan Siegel on tenor, and the great Jeff Ballad on drums. Those four sets of music were simply magical!! Check out the review here. While I was in London, I also taught some private trumpet lessons to the students at the Royal Academy of Music. It was great to share with some strong British talent.

In April I had a ball recording in Baltimore for one of Warren Wolf’s projects. If you don’t know who Warren, check him out at his site. He’s one of the most talented musicians that I’ve ever known. For the session there were many great players/friends including Orrin Evans-piano, Vicente Archer-bass, John Lamkin-drums, Plume-alto, Darent Polk-trombone, Delandria Mills-flute, and Todd Marcus-bass clarinet. I don’t know about a release date on that project.

Then end of April marks Jazz Week in Boston. During that week there are scores of events and performances pertaining to jazz in greater Boston and the surrounding areas in New England. One of these events was the Boston premier of the movie that I starred in entitled Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench..

In the month of May, I made my debut with the wonderful Aardvark Jazz Orchestra at Boston College. The concert featured the music of the great Mary Lou Williams and Geri Allen was the special guest for the night.

June was a warm-up to a hot summer of performances around the world with Grace Kelly and her 5tet. I always have a ball playing in that band. It’s a pleasure to be a part of a great band of inspiring players and to hear Grace’s growth and development first-hand (ear) is indeed a treat. We started the month off with a short trip Stockholm, Sweden for a set at the Jazz Festival. That was a really nice experience and I’ll never forget staying up past midnight with the sun still visible in the sky. The following week, I went to Grand Rapids to serve on the faculty at the Aquinas College Jazz Camp. I think that this may have been my 6th consecutive year at the camp! I missed one day of this week-long camp to go to Rochester NY for performance with Grace Kelly at their International Jazz Festival. We played 2 sets there to a packed venue. It was waaay too small to hold all of the people who wanted to go to the show. The line outside was around the corner and down the street. From what I was told, many people had to be turned away. I hope the festival and many other festivals get it right next time we roll through to play for you.

After the festival performance in Rochester I returned to Grand Rapids to complete the camp. From there I met Grace’s band for a performance in Lansing Mi. From there it was on to Chicago to hold court at the Jazz Showcase for 4 nights. It was my first time performing in or around Chicago since I was a student at Ravinia. It was a nice run at the club and meeting Joe Segal was a gas. He’s an interesting person….
From Chicago we (the GK5) went north to the beautiful country of Canada for a performance at the Trane Studio as a part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. It was nice to be in Toronto again for a minute, but our stay there was short. I believe one of the sets was recorded for live broadcast at a later date. After Toronto we traveled east to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. That was also a cool gig from my recollection. The space was too small for the crowd there too. One of the highlights in Montreal for me was getting to see the We Want Miles exhibit at the museum. What a treat it was to see a dozen or so of Miles’s trumpets, Trane’s tenor, Tony’s drumset, Miles’s clothes, Wayne’s handwritten leadsheets, Gil Evans’s scores, and some never-before-seen footage of Miles at home!! It was sooo awesome. I ended up receiving the coffee-table book of the exhibit from my wife as a gift!!!

The start of July saw our tour continuing across the pond in Estroil, Portugal. We performed at a casino as a part of a double bill with Wallace Roney’s group. After that performance I jumped on an EasyJet to Paris to meet up with my wife Colleen for a couple of days of R &R with a dear friend Julien Augier(insert picture), a great Parisian drummer and his wife. I ended up landing in the afternoon and playing a gig later that night with Julien and a few friends. After Paris, Colleen and I took a train to Regensberg, Germany to meet back up with the GK5. There we had a residency to perform a series of 2 concerts. That city is such a beautiful city, probably my favorite German city to date. It’s one of the few cities in Germany that wasn’t bombed to hell during the war, so a lot of the original architecture is still intact. We traveled from Germany to Denmark following our performance in Regensberg for a performance at the Aarhus Jazz Festival. After the performance there, we went to Copenhagen for a few days of vacation. I took some of that time to complete the mixing of my Steeplechase record that I record back in February. From Copenhagen we completed our tour of Europe at a wonderful festival in Warsaw, Poland.

August began with a strong performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in RI with the GK5 . We opened for the Jamie Cullum band. I got to meet George Wein shortly after the performance. He told me that I have my s@$# together on the horn. He’s a sweet guy and it was nice to perform at the festival once again since playing there with Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Jazz Orchestra several years ago. We completed that month with more domestic performances at local jazz festivals in Cape Cod, Salem, and Newburyport.

September also saw some more exciting performances with the GK5 in Massachusetts (Beantown Jazz Festival), Maryland (Easton), Missouri (Kansas City), and NY (at Birdland). The end of the month brought me a special opportunity to perform in the Berklee Performance Center with Lewis Nash. I hadn’t played with Lewis since I was an undergrad at NEC, so it was really nice to connect with him again on the bandstand. Also on the gig was Billy Pierce on tenor, Allan Chase on alto, Ron Mahdi on bass, and Consuela Candelaria on piano.

October of 2010 saw me again in Europe with the GK5. This time we made stops in Germany, France, and Austria. We were hoping around the place for this trip. It was nice however to have a few days off in Toulousse, France before our performance at their jazz festival. During our evenings off I was able to see Craig Taborn’s trio in action as well as an amazing performance by Wayne Shorter and his quartet featuring Danilo Perez on piano, Brian Blade on drums, and Jahn Pattituci on bass. That performance will forever hold a dear place in my heart because it was the first I’ve experienced an artist perform four encores. After the final song of the planned set, Wayne came out and took a bow with the band in a manner that gave the intention that he was done for the night. But with the crowd’s egging on, he decided to do one more and that one more became four more.

The end of the October I traveled to Philly and Wilmington, Delaware for a special concert in honor of Clifford Brown’s 80th birthday . It was indeed a special occasion for me because I was fortunate enough to perform two selections off of Clifford’s string album with a chamber group. It was my first time performing with a string section in that type of format. I also worked the day before with students at the University of the Arts. That clinic exposed me to some exceptional young musicians.

In November, I had my 3rd annual residency at the JazzUv Festival in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. This festival is a really nice occasion filled with concerts, masterclasses, and exhibitions, showcasing artists such as McCoy Tyner, Jane Bunnett, Ray Drummond, Grace Kelly, Francisco Mela, and the great Jack Dejohnette on drums. I had the honor of playing a concert with Jack and that was one of the highlights of my year (and my career frankly). I also played with him during his masterclass. It was nice to hang with him off the bandstand too. He’s a deep, philosophical cat.

In the first week of December, I brought my quintet down to New York for a special engagement at the Jazz Gallery. Throughout the year I was working on a project spotlighting the music of Janelle Monae. I arranged six songs off of her album entitled Archandroid for my quintet. I presented them throughout my two sets at the Gallery. I think that the tunes came off quite nicely considering the limited amount of rehearsal time I had with the band prior to the gig.

In the middle of the month of December, I had the great fortune of recording my 2nd release for Steeplechase Records. For this record I was lucky enough to roundup Mark Turner on tenor, Nir Felder on guitar, Edward Perez on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums!! As of now I am still figuring out the name of the record as well as the artwork, etc. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and involved in the progress so stayed tuned!!

I’m excited about all that’s happened with me musically this year in addition to the exposure that I’ve gotten from my performance in the critically acclaimed Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. I’ve also taken on more of a teaching load this year via my new position as an Assistant Professor in the Ensemble Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Some of you may be thinking that with all of this work, I must be making a pretty good living at this. Life is good and I’m VERY thankful for the work, but rest assured that despite my frugality, I am barely making ends meet…

Thanks, more to come!


The Molden Style..

Posted in jazz trumpet music, Musical Influences, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by pogo56

I took a trip down memory lane today and checked out Joe Wilder’s album entitled Wilder n Wilder. This record was recommended to me by my friend and mentor Jeremy Pelt back when I was a student at NEC. He told me about it but I couldn’t find it in any of the dozen record stores in Boston or Cambridge at the time.

So I go home for the summer vacation from school back to NC. I’m at a Wal-Mart of all places about to check out. I think I have about 10.00 worth of food or something at the checkout. I glance over to the bubble gum shelf and low and behold is the record Wilder n Wilder (I kid you NOT). Of all places it was sitting there as if it was waiting for me. I think I only had 10 on me at the time so I put the food back and bought the record of course. That record fed my soul and still is till this day.

So all you trumpeters out there, if you are looking for a player that seamlessly melds the old style with the modern style (Molden), please look no further than this record.

Until next time!

Jason Palmer

Guy and Madeline News on the Horizon

Posted in Improvisation, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2010 by pogo56

Hello Everyone,

We’re are a few weeks away from the theatrical opening of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. It’s opening in select theatres nationwide on the weekend of November 5th. You can always refer to the website to find a theatre near you. When I return from my European tour with Grace Kelly’s 5tet on the 25th, I’m going into the NPR studion in Boston to do an interview about the movie. Also the day before the opening on the 5th, I’m making a quick trip for a pre-screening and Q&A on Prof. Richard Brown’s Movies 101 program.

Oscar-nominated actor/director Stanley Tucci (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, JULIE AND JULIA, EASY A) is a big fan of the movie and is lending his support. Guy and Madeline therefore, is now a “Stanley Tucci Presentation”, and Tucci will be helping to spread the word on the release.

Guy and Madeline is opening November 5th weekend in NYC at the Cinema Village at 22 East 12th St., NY NY 10003. Theatres to follow are:

12/3 Toronto (The Royal)
12/10 Los Angeles (Laemmle Sunset 5)
1/7 Seattle (Northwest Film Forum)

Any other openings will depend on ticket sales during opening weekend. So if you want the movie to come to a city near you and you’re not in NYC, call a friend in NYC and ask them to buy a ticket and bring a friend.

Until next time!


Notes from the Road

Posted in Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by pogo56

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to let you know what I’m up to. I’m currently out on tour performing with Grace Kelly’s Quintet. We had our first gig at The Domicile in Pforzheim last night.

This club has been around for 30+ years and over the years many, many greats have performed there. I was talking to the owner Axel about the players who have come through and he mentioned Woody Shaw, Nat Adderley, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redman, Maynard Ferguson, etc. There were pictures of these players on one of the walls. He lives upstairs from his club and the dressing room is up in one of his flats. He also has a nice record collection in the dressing room, which is situated more like a living room in a home.

The gig was sooo much fun, great crowd and great music. There’s always special moments happening on stage and I never know when they’ll happen so the mystery of it all is very attractive to me. It’s one of the reasons I love this music.

I think I’m going to walk along the Danube today, it’s pretty nice out!! Next stop, Ingolstadt, Germany!!

Stay tuned!