Archive for Davis

Funny Miles Story

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by pogo56

One of my professors in college just told me a funny story about meeting Miles on several occasions.

The first time he met Miles was in Detroit at a club called the Minor Key. He was about 15 at the time and was already playing saxophone. He went to a matinee show and afterwards he saw Miles standing alone and decided to approach him and ask for his autograph. He didn’t have a program or a record for him to sign with him so he reached in his pocket to see what he had. He pulled out his musician’s union card.

So he approaches Miles, introduces himself, and tells Miles that he plays saxophone. He then asked if Miles would sign his union card. Miles took the union card out of his hand, takes a look at it, ripped it in half, and gave it back to him.

Decades later, my professor was in Boston playing with a big band. The leader of the band happened to be good friends with Miles. Miles’ band was also in town and the big band had a night off during one of Miles’ performances. So the bandleader asked my professor is he would like to go and meet Miles. Trying to put the past behind him, he agreed.

So they arrive backstage at Miles’ show and Miles is sitting down on a huge black beanbag and the room is fairly full of people. The bandleader goes up to Miles, greets him, and then introduced Miles to my professor. By this time it’s pretty quiet in the room and all the attention is focused on the three of them.

Professor goes on to tell Miles the details about the first time they actually met back in Detroit at the Minor Key. To that, Miles responded, “I wouldn’t do no shit like that!!”

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.

Nothing to Hide Liner Notes

Posted in Improvisation, jazz trumpet music, Musical Influences, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by pogo56

Hello all,

Since many folks that I know are checking out Nothing to Hide in the digital only format, I thought that I’d copy a sketch of the liner notes that I wrote for the album here. Digital formats have a big drawback where you only get the music, not the story behind the concept and the players. It’s sad to see. Most of the history I obtained about this music came from liner notes and books. This will probably assist in informing you on where each song’s concept came from as well as information about the player’s on the record. Here are the notes:

The concept for Nothing to Hide stems from the idea that I am an open book when it comes to paying homage to the trumpeters and musicians that influenced my styles of playing, composing, and arranging.

Fly Little Bird Fly: I developed a love for this Donald Byrd composition after hearing Darren Barrett, one of my musical mentors, perform it with his band on several occasions. Donald takes this tune at a breakneck tempo on the original Blue Note recording. I decided to arrange it in 5/4 time and play at slower pace. The staggered entrances and exits for this track was an idea of mine that was inspired by Wayne Shorter’s composition entitled Unity. I like to call this method the “Unity” method.

Nothing to Hide: I drew inspiration in composing this tune from a Kurt Rosenwinkel composition entitled Undercover. In 2008 I became the first trumpet player to be hired by the iconic guitarist. When performed live, Nothing to Hide, played in 13/4 time, features everyone in the band. It’s an epic tune that tends to cover many moods throughout the course of the performance. We usually open or close a set by playing this tune.

LaRue: My intention for this arrangement was to showcase one of my favorite Clifford Brown compositions (LaRue) and add a dash of another (Delilah), which occurs at the end of this track. The original recording of LaRue featured Kenny Dorham’s great hornwork, so I wanted to pay homage to him on this recording as well by documenting this tune. In arranging this song I decided to speed the tempo a bit and incorporate the bass figure from one of my original compositions entitled Laid Up, which appears on my previous release Songbook.

The Gigolo: This is one the more risky arrangements that I chose to present on this recording. I arranged this Lee Morgan original in 9/4 time using a bass line from an excerpt from my Sudoku Suite entitled Guidance that has a coda section which features Lee Fish. This rendition of The Gigolo is taken at a brisker pace as compared to the original version recording on Morgan’s record of the same name.

Strength and Sanity: Booker Little is one of the most underrated, unrecognized trumpeters in the history of this music. His untimely death in 1961 at the age of 23 was a huge blow to the continuum of jazz trumpeters, especially considering the death of Clifford Brown 5 years earlier. The first time I heard this composition, I was instantly wrapped up in its serenity. Booker’s body of compositions taught me not only to disregard my fear of dissonance, but to actually embrace it in my style of writing and arranging. I didn’t stray too far away from the properties of the original recording on the track.

Here and Now: The complete working title for this tune is: Where is the Place and Time for Everything that Everyone’s Been Talking About? Here and Now. It’s enlightening to perform this waltz because I enjoy the exchange with Michael Thomas, while at the same time we also share the responsibility of playing the 4 bars of the melody while the other improvises. To me, it’s a fun, simple, musical challenge. This particular version also features Greg’s great guitar work.

Luana: This tune and the original record that it’s on have a special place in my heart. Freddie Hubbard’s Hub Cap was one of the first albums that I owned of Freddie as a leader. The first time I heard Luana I knew I had to transcribe it and perform it with my band at the time. I then had the great fortune of meeting Freddie Hubbard in Boston and was fortunate enough to talk shop and have his signature on the cover of Hub Cap. For the version on this album I reigned in the tempo a bit and combined Freddie’s melody and harmonic progression with a tune of mine entitled Preservation of the Lower 9th Ward (aka Lower 9th Ward). Maybe you’ll hear that tune on a later release or at a live performance because we perform it quite often.

Half Nelson: This Miles Davis original was arranged in 9/4 time by Lee Fish. Lee brought in this arrangement around the time when we started rehearsing these songs. As soon as we played it, I thought that it would be a great fit to the set. The intro to this song also serves as the outro, where Lee is featured.

I’m extremely excited to present to you the members of my working band. We perform weekly (Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoon) at Wally’s Café in Boston’s historic South End. I’ve been presenting quintets and trios there every weekend since 2000. I may be the only musician of my generation that’s held a residency at the same club for this amount of time. This is something that I’m proud of because I enjoy bringing the music to the people in such an intimate setting as Wally’s Café. Over the course of my residency there, I’ve had the great fortune of having some of the most creative, young minds in this music on the stage and this is the latest batch:

Michael Thomas: Michael joined the working band in 2009. Hearing him in his element always makes me wonder if there’s anything that he can hear that he can’t play. He is one of those players that give you the impression that nothing comes between what he hears in his musical imagination and his instrument. If I played alto, I know that I would be checking out Michael’s style for reference. A recent graduate of Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, Michael’s talents have already taken him to stages big and small in the U.S. and abroad to countries such as Latvia and Panama.

Greg Duncan: I have had the distinct pleasure of having Greg in the band for the past four years. His instrumental versatility and instincts go far beyond what he plays in his own solos. I’ve found him to be one of the more inventive accompanists that I’ve gotten to play with thus far. One word that comes to mind when I hear Greg improvise in this particular context is fluid. When he plays, the thoughtful ear is informed of how much extensive homework Greg has done on his instrument to get to where he is now.

Lim Yang: Lim’s a solid bassist who joined the outfit almost two years ago. Originally from South Korea, Lim made the move to Boston to study music. I was very lucky to become acquainted with Lim’s playing when I did because it happened to be around the time when the bassist in my band was making the move to NYC. Lim stepped in and made an immediate positive impression which led me to believe that her contribution to the band would be invaluable. She’s proven me right.

Lee Fish: Of all the members of the band, Lee’s been a member the longest. Lee’s got big ears, great instincts, and has an extremely balanced sound on the drum set, which is paramount in a recording situation. Lee’s also a talented composer and arranger.

J.P.

My New Record is Available Now!!

Posted in Improvisation, jazz trumpet music, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by pogo56

I’m proud to announce that my newest cd entitled Nothing to Hide is now available by clicking here. If you live in Boston, you can also purchase them from me at my weekly gig at Wally’s Jazz Cafe on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons. I’ll probably always have some on me so if you see me playing somewhere else you can also grab a copy then too.

Onward and upward!

J.P.

If you Hear Something, Say Something

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by pogo56

I’m sure many of you that read this blog are familiar with the Miles album My Funny Valentine Plus Four and More, the live one at Lincoln Center. On the track Stella by Starlight, during the top of one of Miles’ solo choruses he plays and F# on the E half-diminished chord and there’s a person in the crowd that screams yeah. Now I don’t about you, but to me that was a feel-good moment. That record was one of the first Miles records that I owned (thanks BMG, R.I.P.) when I was in high school. At the time I didn’t think that it was okay to voice sounds of approval at intimate concerts like this one. This one person made it okay to feel like it was okay. I remember rewinding that one particular moment and wondering what it was that Miles played which cause this person to call out. I just think that that note really resonated with him, causing him to speak uncontrollably. So my question is how many of us have experienced this? How many of us have experienced this but have held back in fear of disturbing the experience for others? Let me be the first to say that it’s not cool to ruin another audience members listening experience, but I think that it’s okay to aver a sound of joy to a performer if you hear something that touches you right at that moment.

If you know me as a concertgoer, you know that I can become quite vocal when I hear something that touches me. Throughout my years of doing this I don’t ever remember receiving any snide looks from anyone, so I think that it’s okay. I consider it to be a transfer of energy from the audience to the band. Bands, especially today, really need this. For me as a performer it’s a good feeling to hear these sounds every once in a while and I gain more inspiration to play my best at all times when I experience this. I don’t think that it’s an ego-stroke per se, but more of a subtle approval from someone that you are well on your way towards “speaking” in this music, as opposed to only playing the changes, etc.

So my plea to all of you is to speak up if you hear something that you like from a performer in real time. You don’t have to wait until their solo is over to do so. They’re probably going to take 30 more choruses after that special moment anyway, lol!!

Swing it out!

J.P.