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Miles Davis Tag

A Fan's NotesThanks to Kyra Kverno and Nikki Vee for the photos. Click on any photo for a larger image.

It was raining on Friday morning, and it looked like the first day of the Newport Jazz Festival was going to be a wet, soggy affair. But by the time I arrived at Fort Adams, the rain clouds had cleared, and the weekend-long event was in full swing.

The first rule of multi-stage, multi-day festival-going, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that you can’t see or hear everything, and trying to do so is a recipe for disaster. So you map out your weekend beforehand, hoping to stick with the schedule. Something unexpected always intervenes, but it’s often a delightfully unexpected surprise.

Soul Serenade - Billy PaulIt’s time to head down the Turnpike to Philadelphia again. These trips to the City of Brotherly Love are pretty much my favorite part of writing this column. As I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, it was the kids of Philadelphia, with their profound love of soul music, that had an everlasting effect on a kid growing up an hour away in Atlantic City. It’s a debt I can never repay, for a gift I will never forget.

You know the names. They echo down the halls of the virtual museum of American soul music, in the wing that they call Philly Soul. Gamble & Huff, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Stylistics, Barbara Mason, the Intruders, Teddy Pendergrass, the Delfonics, MFSB, Patti LaBelle, Blue Magic, Hall & Oates, the Soul Survivors. And they’re not all Philadelphians either. Out-of-towners like Jerry Butler, the O’Jays, and the Spinners found their greatest success when they recorded in Philadelphia.

Soul Serenade - Ramsey LewisWe tend to put music in categories, rock, jazz, pop, soul, etc., and all too often the audience for one genre does not cross over to another. It seems to me that this is a change from the ’60s when all kinds of music were melding together and everyone was into everything, or at least willing to listen. Miles Davis played on the same bill as the Grateful Dead. Harry Chapin opened for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It was all there for the taking.

That’s not to say that once in awhile an artist didn’t manage to cross over in a big way. Lots of soul records were big hits on the pop charts. A harder feat was to put a jazz record on the charts though. There were only a handful of records by jazz artists that managed to appeal to a mass audience. One of the biggest of these records was by the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

A Fan's NotesSixty years ago this summer Miles Davis made his first appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. It was the first of several notable appearances by the legendary trumpeter, and this year the festival commemorated the occasion with a host of performances and ancillary events to mark the anniversary. To one degree or another nearly every performer at this year’s festival had a direct or indirect connection to Davis, or at least bore some degree of his influence.

Over the course of three days last week my response to the jazz is dead proclamation changed from “oh really, that’s a shame,” to “you’ve got to be kidding, music this vital will never die.” I want to say at the outset that I’m not expert. I’ve always liked jazz, and some jazz artists like Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Charlie Haden are among my favorite musicians ever. It’s just that I’m no expert on the subject. So if I get anything wrong, please feel free to educate me in the comments section.

Although I’ve been covering the Newport Folk Festival for many years, I’ve never covered the Newport Jazz Festival for the very reason stated above. I just didn’t feel that I could write about it in an educated manner. But this year was the 60th anniversary of the Jazz Festival, which qualifies it as the oldest popular music festival in the world, and I had to jump in. I’m very happy that I did.

I wasn’t going to resurrect another holiday Soundtrack Saturday post, but I couldn’t help it. A) This is such a great movie, B) It has a great soundtrack and C) I wanted an excuse to reintroduce you all to that bananas Unicef “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” clip. This was originally posted in December 2009, and was the last installment of A Soundtrack Saturday Christmas. Enjoy and have a great holiday!

Since the moment I first saw Scrooged (1988),  it instantly became one of my favorite holiday films. I mean, you have to love any adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol that includes the Solid Gold Dancers and casts once-and-future New York Dolls frontman David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

The problem I faced was that the soundtrack album for Scrooged is woefully out of print. I was having a hell of a time finding most of the tracks, and I really thought I might have to scrap this post altogether and find another film. But I was determined to write about the movie, so I soldiered on and managed to find the entire soundtrack, thus saving my dream of A Perfect Soundtrack Saturday Christmas.

If you’ve never seen Scrooged, I’m sure you have your reasons, e.g. you don’t like Christmas movies, you hate Bill Murray, you’re angry at Johansen for the Buster Poindexter years. If that’s the case, then maybe I can change your mind, because this is a funny film whether Christmas is your thing or not.

Shelby Lynne has just released a deeply personal album called Revelation Road. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with her about the recording process that found her playing all the instruments on the new album, a stunning song that directly addresses a childhood tragedy, and some of her favorite music, among other things.

When I first heard your new album, and hadn’t read anything about it, it sounded like a few people sitting in a room and playing. I understand that that’s not how it happened at all. Tell me about your recording process.

Most of the time it started out with just me and the guitar, and singing the lead vocal. Some of the time it started out with me just playing drums. Then I would start layering around it. It’s really kind of different every time depending on the song. It sounds funny but I would just stand in the room and allow myself to be drawn to where the music called me to play with it.

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has been one of the music industry's best kept secrets for almost a decade now. Starting his career writing songs for and with artists like Dionne Farris and Rahsaan Patterson, and coming into his own as an artist with his self-titled 2003

We’re honored to have Cowboy Junkies guitarist Michael Timmins as our guest for today’s edition of Desert Island Discs. The Junkies are currently celebrating the digital release of their latest offering Demons (physical copies of the album will be available on February 15th), a tribute to the music of singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt.  Demons is the second release in their four album arc dubbed “The Nomad Series.”  We’ll tell you some more about the album in a moment, but first, here are Michael’s desert island picks!

1) The White Album – The Beatles

I think that Magical Mystery Tour has more songs on it that I’d consider my favorite Beatle songs, but the White Album has so much variety and oddness that I think it can be listened to endlessly.

Although he’s known to many simply as the eccentric bespectacled guy who serves as the band leader for the CBS Orchestra on The Late Show with David Letterman, Paul Shaffer’s career has been a wide and varied one, taking him from the position of musical director for the Toronto production of “Godspell” in 1972 all the way to being the musical director and producer for the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony…and, trust me, you don’t get a gig like that without some serious music street cred. Shaffer has detailed many of his experiences – with the help of David Ritz – in his newly-released autobiography, We’ll Be Here For The Rest Of Our Lives, a light and breezy trip through his life and times in which he chats about Saturday Night Live, This is Spinal Tap, and many, many more topics which would appeal to the average Popdose reader. And what luck: although his press schedule was decidedly rigorous, your pals here at Popdose managed to score ten minutes to chat with Mr. Shaffer about his book and some of the topics contained therein.

It’s great to talk to you, Paul. I’m a big fan.

Hi! Thank you. How are you?

I’m great. I just finished your book yesterday, and it’s fantastic.

Thank you!

Now, how long was the idea of doing an autobiography gestating?

Oh, you know, I’ve wanted to do one for years. Some ten years ago, I got a book deal and tried to do it. I wrote three stories up, and I just never had time to go back to it. So this time, when I was re-introduced to David Ritz, who is the A-list celebrity biographer, just a couple of years ago, he said, “If you ever want to do a book”… I thought, “Well, that’s the way to do it: do it with somebody, and that way, he has the responsibility of turning it in on time.” And we did! But we had fun together, the two of us, and he…besides doing all of the music biographies, like Ray Charles and Smokey Robinson, he also did Don Rickles. So I knew he had me covered. And he was able to get my voice down and, of course, we worked well together as well. It really was co-writing.

MikeStern_photo1[1]After the rise of rock and roll, jazz, and jazz guitar especially, has carried a penumbra of snooty affectation.  If you take the time to learn how to play over “Giant Steps,” and learn four different voicings for a Bb13(#11) chord, why would you care about the pedantic, pentatonic noodling of Eric Clapton? That’s kid’s stuff. If someone is really into jazz guitar, they don’t like rock and roll.

I’ve always thought that was crap. I love jazz, and rock, and more or less every other genre of music.  That jazz is more complex, and requires more of the player than the other, does not invalidate other genres.

Case in point? Mike Stern.  Stern is one of the best-known jazz guitarists currently working, but few have taken better advantage of the genre-busting power of the electric guitar.  He has played with everyone from Miles Davis and Joe Henderson to Roy Hargrove and the Yellowjackets, but he has never turned his nose up at rock and blues music, and on his latest release, Big Neighborhood, on Heads Up records, his original compositions run the gamut from rock to funk to jazz, and feature a star-studded guest list from Steve Vai to Randy Brecker to Medeski, Martin & Wood.