music clip of the day


Category: jazz

Monday, April 22nd

One of my favorite musicians of all time died over seventy-five years ago at the age of twenty-five.

Charlie Christian (1916-1942, guitar) with Cootie Williams (trumpet), Johnny Guarnieri (piano), Dave Tough (drums), et al., “Waitin’ for Benny” (full session), live (studio), New York, 1941




art beat: yesterday, Intuit (Chicago)

Robert Johnson, City, 2018

Tuesday, April 16th

sounds of Chicago

Listen to this guitarist (2:47-), who just celebrated his 92nd birthday with a gig at Chicago’s Green Mill. Even at twenty-three he was utterly original.

Charlie Parker (1920-1955, alto saxophone) with George Freeman (1927-, guitar), et al., “Keen and Peachy” (C. Parker), live, Chicago, 1950


Monday, April 15th

Why not begin the week with something beautiful?

Bill Evans (1929-1980, piano), “Like Someone in Love” (J. Burke, J. Van Heusen), recorded 1962




random sights

yesterday, Oak Park, Ill.

Monday, April 1st

3 x 2 x X = ?

Tomas Fujiwara (drums, composition) with Gerald Cleaver (drums), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), “Blueberry Eyes,” live (studio), New Haven, Conn., 2017




random sights

yesterday, Forest Park, Ill.

Wednesday, March 20th

voices I miss

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007), violin, live (“Lush Life” [B. Strayhorn], “Keep on Trucking, Brother (A Message to Bruce)” [L. Jenkins], “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” [Trad.]), New York, 1977



musical thoughts

A jazz musician playing alone is like a tightrope walker working without a net. Playing a music of rhythmic verve, he lacks a rhythm section. Playing a music of spirited interplay, he lacks the company of others. And when the musician’s instrument happens to be the violin, he’s working not only without a net but without a tightrope.

The violin lacks all the advantages of the one instrument with a long-standing tradition of solo jazz performance, the piano. Where a pianist can play more than one musical line at a time (accompanying herself with her left hand, for example, while “soloing” with her right), a violinist can’t. Where a pianist can readily play complex chords, a violinist is limited to four strings and beset by innumerable fingering problems. And the range of pitches available to a violinist is only about half that available to a pianist. When a jazz violinist steps onstage by himself, he either falls flat on his face or, defying the conventions of gravity, flies.

Last Friday at HotHouse, jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins not only flew but soared. A dignified man so diminutive that he makes a violin appear large, Jenkins focused the listener’s attention not on what was absent—other musicians, multiple lines, an expansive tonal range—but on what was present. His concert provided a response of sorts to the familiar Zen koan: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Playing for a small but attentive audience, the longtime associate of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—who hadn’t performed here for several years—displayed a powerful and original musical vocabulary. Just as a poem forces one to consider language word by word, a solo jazz performance forces one to consider music sound by sound. And that was how Jenkins constructed each of his pieces: sound by sound.

He began most of them with a simple melodic statement that sang. Then he would veer off into gradually accelerating repetitions of two-, three-, and four-note patterns. Unlike a horn player, he never had to stop for breath, so these patterns could go on and on. Out of them would emerge long, winding bursts of melody, like swallows taking flight through a swarm of bees. Then Jenkins would return to repeated patterns, steadily building the intensity until he reached a climax and suddenly stopped.

The narrative structure of many of his pieces was thus not unlike that of a sexual encounter. But the steadily mounting intensity was invariably coupled with precise articulation, lucid organization, and exquisite control. When near the end of his set Jenkins rocked back and forth like a man possessed, his seemingly unshakable control of his instrument only heightened the dramatic impact.

A master colorist, Jenkins called forth a seemingly limitless array of sounds, from singing to fluttering to stinging to rasping to wheezing. But what was ultimately even more impressive than the variety and virtuosity of his playing was its logic and coherence. And unlike some jazz musicians, whose solos can be neatly divided into segments “inside” or “outside” normal harmonic and tonal conventions, Jenkins’s playing was all of a piece.

Jenkins’s HotHouse set readily calls to mind Richard Goode’s magnificent recent performance at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall of five Beethoven piano sonatas. Neither musician spoke a word to the audience, but neither seemed remote. Both played so wholeheartedly that they virtually disappeared in the music. Both are virtuosos who put their virtuosity entirely at the service of the music, never exploiting it simply for effect. Both played music that often pitted a coming-apart-at-the-seams emotional intensity against an ultimately prevailing clarity and order. Perhaps one day, solo jazz concerts of the caliber of Jenkins’s will be met with the same degree of anticipation and excitement that performances of Beethoven piano sonatas by artists such as Goode typically receive today.

—Richard McLeese, “Flying Solo,” Chicago Reader, 10/27/1994


art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago 

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), The Bedroom, 1889

Tuesday, March 19th

sounds of New York

We Free Strings,* live New York, 1/18/19


*Melanie Dyer, viola; Charles Burnham, violin; Gwen Laster, violin; Alex Waterman, cello; Ken Filiano, bass; Michael Wimberly, percussion.

Thursday, March 14th

sounds of New York

Tim Berne (alto saxophone, composition) with Herb Robertson (trumpet), Marc Ducret (guitar), Joey Baron (drums), et al., live, New York (TV show), c. 1990


Monday, March 4th

No one fired up this pianist—one of the most influential in the history of jazz—like this drummer.

Bill Evans Trio (BE [1929-1980], piano; Philly Joe Jones [1923-1985], drums; Marc Johnson [1953-], bass), “Nardis” (M. Davis), live, Italy (Umbria), 1978




reading table

How many poems have gotten so much attention with so few words?

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

—William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), “The Red Wheelbarrow”

Tuesday, February 26th

what’s new

More from this new album.

Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone, percussion), “One Time In,” published 2/11/19 (Trio Tapestry with Marilyn Crispell [piano], Carmen Castaldi [drums], 2019)




reading table

Emily Dickinson, writing to her cousins (Louise and Frances Norcross) after the death of their father, closes with this (letter #278, poem #528 [Franklin], 1863):

Let Emily sing for you because she cannot pray.

‘Tis not that Dying hurts us so –
‘Tis Living – hurts us more –
But Dying – is a different way –
A kind behind the Door –

The Southern Custom – of the Bird –
That ere the Frosts are due –
Accepts a better Latitude –
We – are the Birds – that stay.

The Shiverers round Farmer’s doors –
For whose reluctant Crumb –
We stipulate – till pitying Snows
Persuade our Feathers Home

Wednesday, February 6th


Fats Waller (1904-1943, piano, vocals), “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” (F. E. Ahlert, J. Young), 1935




random sights

this morning, Chicago (Monadnock Building, 1891-93)

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