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Read the latest edition of Hot House Magazine! View and download here in Acrobat: March 2015
Winning Spins By George Kanzler
Both these Winning Spins feature versatile virtuosi as leaders, musicians who have mastered more than one instrument and are conversant with, and comfortable in, a wide range of styles. The albums also are personal reflections of how the two musicians view themselves at this juncture of their artistic lives.
For Steve Turre, it means focusing on his trombone playing and love of swing and the blues, without abandoning his other interests, from funk to Afro-Latin, or his mastery of an instrument he has single-handedly brought to jazz: seashells. For Anat Cohen, it is reflecting her musical life in New York City: she says she “flows between modern and traditional jazz, between samba and choro: all maybe in a week’s time,” all while being equally proficient on clarinet, tenor sax and bass clarinet.
Luminosa, Anat Cohen (Anzic), marks a decade since Cohen’s debut album came out and, in those ten years, she has become a preeminent jazz clarinetist, even though she considered tenor saxophone her first instrument when she arrived in the U.S. from Israel in 1996. She plays clarinet on eight of the 11 tracks, and bass clarinet on two others. She only breaks out her tenor on “The Wein Machine,” her tribute to jazz impresario George Wein, which is also the only piece with downright swing rhythms.
Most of the album reflects Cohen’s affection for Brazilian music but her approach is fascinating because of how she and her band members put a unique spin on the Brazilian sources. Unlike previous jazz generations, they don’t simply graft jazz onto forthright Brazilian rhythms and forms. The rolling shuffle that introduces Milton Nascimento’s “Lilia,” the opening number, is barely recognizable as bossa nova and Cohen’s piping high clarinet strays far from the tropics, before a second section produces a swinging samba feel for fluid yet forceful clarinet and piano (Jason Lindner) solos and interactions.
Brazilian acoustic guitarist Romero Lubambo and hand percussionist Gilmar Gomes contribute effervescent sparkle to several tunes, and to a brooding Nascimento’s “Cais,” featuring bass clarinet, which Cohen plays with much more woodwind flavor than most jazz saxophonists. The fetching sentimentality of slow accordion infuses “Ternura,” showcasing Cohen’s Choro Aventuroso trio, also heard on the exuberant “Espinha de Bacalhau” with Vitor Goncalves on accordion.
Lindner uses electric piano and synths with effective restraint on a pensive ballad, “Ima,” as well as on a prancing take of electronica stalwarts Flying Lotus’ “Putty Boy Strut.” Throughout the recording Cohen, like Turre, performs with both virtuosity and admirable passion.
Anat Cohen’s Quartet appears at Shea Center at William Paterson University on March 1 and Jazz Standard March 4-8.
Tootie Heath: Following his Brother’s Path By Yvonne Ervin
Drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, the youngest of the famed Heath Brothers, was born when Jimmy was nine and he started playing the saxophone when Tootie was six years old. Percy, best known for his years as bassist with the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), was a dozen years older and left to become a Tuskegee Airman when Tootie was nine. The middle brother was and still is the biggest influence on Tootie.
Percy passed away a decade ago and the youngest Heath is turning 80 this year. “Jimmy says the 80s are the Twilight Zone!” Tootie jokes from his new home in downtown Santa Fe NM as he goes on to describe his upbringing.
“It was very simple for me: I had a path I could follow or not follow. I heard music my entire life in the house,” the drummer says, explaining that his mother sang in the church choir and his father was a clarinetist. “Jimmy was always at the piano exploring music and harmony and other people would come to the house and exchange ideas; that was the environment I grew up in. All I had to do is figure out what instrument to play; and the only instrument I could think of that wasn’t in the band already was the drums because our house wasn’t big enough to have the whole band in the house!”
Tootie took lessons from his brother’s drummer, Charles “Specs” Wright. “He took me under his wing and taught me all about rudiments and all the good stuff. Then Percy came out of the Air Force and decided he didn’t want to fly airplanes anymore; he wanted to be a bass player. It only took him a couple of years and he was gone to New York,” Tootie recalls.
“Jimmy was still around and Jimmy was always there for me. He’d pull me into programs that I ordinarily wouldn’t be invited to. That was the path that I followed and I still do,” he says. “I think Jimmy is one of the greatest composers of our time in jazz, or music, period. I’ve been really honored to have been in Jimmy’s school of music.”
One of the musicians who came to the Heath home in Philadelphia was John Coltrane, whose 1957 debut album as a leader had Tootie in the rhythm section. “Back then, Coltrane was just ‘John.’ Of course he developed into an icon of music, but at that time I was fortunate to be in a group called the Hi-Tones with Shirley Scott and her husband, Bill Carnie, and John. The group was more commercial–Shirley and Bill sang–” Tootie recalls. “But when he had a few nights in a club, John called me, Reggie Workman and McCoy Tyner. So when it was time to record, he called on me and some other friends. Of course after that, he got Elvin Jones.”
Percy also had a hand in his baby brother’s career. Tootie lived with him when he first moved to NYC to replace Jones on trombonist J.J. Johnson’s band in 1959; and the bassist recommended his brother to play with the MJQ for its final two years. “It was very meaningful and I learned a lot about playing acoustically with vibes and piano and bass without any amplification,” Heath says, adding that pianist John Lewis was influential in shaping his sound with certain cymbals and drums.
Before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, Heath spent a few years in Denmark where he played with many ex-patriots including pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who is still living in Germany but no longer touring. “He was one of the most important people I’ve ever played with; he plays a serious brand of South African music,” Heath says. “I’d love to play with him again, but it’s time to play with the important people of today―Ethan Iverson and Ben Street―and I’m very happy to do that!
“I’ve been following Ethan and his work with The Bad Plus for years,” Heath continues. “And I’ve become very good friends with their drummer, Dave King.” However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Heath first played with Iverson and Street, when they accompanied Lee Konitz at the Iridium. The trio has since cut three albums. The new one, Philadelphia Beat (Sunnyside), was recorded in Philly and features tunes as diverse as “Bag’s Groove” by MJQ’s Milt Jackson and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Drummer Tootie Heath with Ethan Iverson, piano, and Ben Street, bass, will celebrate the release of Philadelphia Beat at the Village Vanguard March 3–8. Both the Vanguard and Heath turn 80 this year.
Coming next… Roy Haynes’s birthday celebration weekend at the Blue Note
Hot Flashes BY SETON HAWKINS
As someone who took up the electric bass in high school and waited until halfway through college to tackle the acoustic bass, Mark Wade’s back story might not immediately indicate a future career as a versatile musical voice and champion of new music. However, with performance credentials including stints with Jimmy Heath, Don Byron, Sharon Isbin, the Key West Symphony and the Janacek Symphony, Wade has proven to be precisely that.
Equally comfortable in classical music and jazz, Wade’s multifaceted career has enabled him to develop unique insights into the music industry, that have inspired him to take on producer and impresario roles through his non-profit organization New Music Horizons.
To hear Wade describe it, his musical origins were “a very backwards road,” as he slowly wound his way toward taking up acoustic bass and approaching multiple genres of music. “It’s a different road from what most people take,” he recalls “When most kids were hitting 19 or 20 and had been playing for maybe ten years, particularly in classical music, I was instead a college jazz major who had started on electric bass! I started playing classical music as a hobby. When I got out of college, I joined a community orchestra, so my hobby turned into a part-time job, which then turned into an absolute part of what I do as a professional musician.”
While a circuitous path, Wade finds a common thread in his continual search to pursue difficult challenges in music. This desire led him from rock into jazz and, ultimately, into incorporating classical music into his working repertoire.
A founding member of the Queens Jazz Overground, a collective-styled organization focused on presenting concerts, developing artists and building audiences, Wade has engaged heavily on the arts administration side in order to promote new music.
Moving on from the Queens Jazz Overground, Wade has since found a new path through New Music Horizons which is dedicated to supporting emerging composers in the classical and jazz fields by curating high-quality performances and developing dedicated audience members. Wade’s career-long work across genres uniquely qualifies him for this vision.
“Playing classical music and jazz, and playing new music in both genres, you see the difficulty artists can have in connecting with new audiences,” he explains. “And ‘connecting’ doesn’t just mean getting people to show up to the gig, it means introducing audiences to new compositions and getting them to come back. So this organization is here not only to promote emerging composers at legitimate cultural institutions, but also to engage the audiences and get them deeper into music.”
The impact of Wade’s efforts has certainly been felt, not least of all by Wade himself. February 2015 marked the release of Wade’s debut album, Event Horizon, an offering that beautifully embodies and reflects the bassist’s focus on engendering new music. Comprising almost exclusively Wade’s original compositions, Event Horizon is a trio record―with Tim Harrison on piano and Scott Neumann on drums―highlighting a versatile and imaginative musical voice interested in showcasing compositional chops rather than simple head charts. Should be no space before highlighting
“I always wanted to wait until I had something creative to contribute, and a band and music I wanted to record,” he explains. “While I was in residence at Flushing Town Hall, it all came together. The trio I put together for that residency became the band I decided to record.”
Indeed, the trio CD serves as a logical continuation of Wade’s passions in his music and in his arts advocacy role. “There’s very much a connection here,” Wade notes. “I’m running an organization dedicated to promoting original music, and on my record, I’m playing my own music. That can be a bit unusual for a debut record, but this is something I feel strongly about. The work with New Music Horizons brought back my desire to compose.”
Wade leads his trio in a release party at Somethin’ Jazz Club on March 5. To learn more about him and about Event Horizon, visit www.markwademusicny.com. To find out more about New Music Horizons, visit www.newmusichorizons.org.