ol' jazz news 2009









Traditionally, at the end of October and beginning of November, an event called Zaduszki Jazzowe (All Souls' Day Jazz Festival) is organized in Krakow. This year the musicians and aficionados meet for the 54th time. Quite a tradition. As far as I know, it is the oldest existing jazz festival in the world. Its organizers have been facing extreme financial difficulties for a very long time so it is usually a showcase for local talent, occasionally graced with the appearance of an international star or two.

The 2009 edition is special because it marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of Zbigniew Seifert. The first of these gigs (on Oct. 31) is by The Jarek Smietana International Band featuring Jerry Goodman. The sextet which also includes Ed Schuller on double bass plays tribute and promotes a new album entirely dedicated to the music of the Krakow violin virtuoso.

Then, between November 5 and 7, we'll have a kind of inner, small festival commemorating the genius of Seifert. The special concert will be held at the Krakow Philharmonic on Nov. 5. The trio of Philip Catherine, Jasper van't Hof and Adam Nussbaum will be followed by a solo appearance of Joachim Kuhn and a special performance of Seifert's Jazz Concert for Violin, Symphony Orchestra And A Rhythm Group. This will feature Joachim Kuhn again, Bronislaw Suchanek with Janusz Stefanski (Zbigniew's old rhythm section) and a great young jazz violin hope Mateusz Smoczynski. His quintet will also play a club date later that evening.

The next day a new biographical book by Aneta Norek titled "Man of the Light" will be presented at the Manggha Museum and followed by a panel discussion. Then, after a screening of "Passion", a bio-pic by Erin Harper, we'll listen to another great gig by some old Seifert's collaborators: Jan Jarczyk, Jan Gonciarczyk, Bronislaw Suchanek and Janusz Stefanski. They will be joined by a great new jazz violin talent Zach Brock. The evening will finish with a solo concert by Vladislav Sendecki a piano virtuoso and international star who left Krakow some 30 years ago. Plus lots of other gigs and jam sessions.




Were he alive, Art Tatum would be 100 years old. Born on October 13, 1909 he was practically blind and had to learn to play by ear using radio broadcasts, records, piano rolls and listening to and playing with fellow musicians. He was a great accompanist for singers (e.g. Joe Turner) and often appeared with his trio (with Slam Stewart and Tiny Grimes in the 40s or Benny Carter and Louie Bellson in the 50s). Yet his favourite way of performing was playing solo concerts. Especially recommended are the seven discs of "The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces" recorded for Norman Granz's Pablo label in the mid-50s.

Then comes another giant release of 8 albums under the title "The Tatum Group Masterpieces". Here he plays with Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton or Buddy DeFranco. Tatum's outstanding technical skills made him a virtuoso practically unmatched by any other pianist. His playing was very rich, decorative but also very precise even if at extreme speed. Tatum used the stride piano as a starting point and combined it with all the other styles in jazz before.

His advanced harmonies impressed many great sax players such as Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane.The world class Polish piano virtuoso Adam Makowicz, who started his career in Krakow, has always been strongly influenced by Tatum's technical mastery and his rich imagination.

Art Tatum died of uremia on November 5, 1956 at the age of just 47.




It's hard to believe but it's true!!! Zbigniew Namyslowki, a top Polish alto player, composer and bandleader is seventy today. He has been one of the major forces of Polish and European jazz for the last fifty years!

He started on the piano at the age of four. Then came the cello and then trombone. As a teenager he lived and continued his musical education in Krakow, the cradle of Polish jazz. Although he debuted in 1954, his first really big gig was the appearance at the Second International Jazz Festival in Sopot in 1957. It is interesting to note that during his long career he has played a wide range of jazz styles starting from dixieland through modern jazz, free form and he also experimented with rock, folk and film music. He has always worked with the best musicians available and some of them were such heavyweights as Jerzy Matuszkiewicz (a founding father of the postwar jazz in Poland), Krzysztof Komeda, , Michal Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Adam Makowicz, Tomasz Stanko, NOVI Singers, Roman Dylag and Andrzej Trzaskowski and his group The Wreckers. It was in The Wreckers that he switched to alto, his main instrument ever since.

In 1961 Namyslowski formed his first own band called Jazz Rockers which was a huge success. Later, he has always supported younger talents like Janusz Skowron, Leszek Mozdzer, Dariusz Oleszkiewicz (Darek Oles) or Cezary Konrad.

Namyslowski is well known for his inclination for unusual metres and folk music, especially Polish folk music elements.

His three most important records are: Astigmatic (made with Komeda in 1965), Winobranie (1973) and Kuyaviak Goes Funky (1975). All three have been chosen the best Polish jazz recordings of all time.

This is what a great American DJ and jazz expert Willis Conover had to say about him:

"When I first visited Poland, I was quite unprepared to hear Polish musicians at so high level. Namyslowski was clearly the best. International voting has proved that audiences in Europe recognize the best Polish musician as among the best anywhere in the world. He honors 3 traditions, of jazz, of Polish, of himself . Anyone who misses Namyslowski is missing a unique source of creativity in 20th century. Namyslowski is a giant !"
Willis Connover




The Saxophone Colossus is one of the greatest jazz musicians of today and commonly considered one of the most important players in the history of jazz. His tenor madness has been going on for about 66 years now and let's hope his next 79 years are going to be as productive and creative as all of the past ones. Happy birthday Mr. TENOR!!!

There are so many outstanding Sonny Rollins albums that it is really difficult to suggest something but perhaps you could start with LPs or CDs like Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, A Night At The Village Vanguard Vol.1 & 2, The Freedom Suite or The Bridge. Among the more recent releases try Sonny, Please and Road Shows (live recordings from gigs around the world, also from Poland).

To learn more about the Colossus' other fantastic recordings, please consult a superb book by Andrzej Tersa "Don't Stop - Sonny Rollins Discography". This almost 400-page tome was published in 2008 and can easily become your favourite source of information on all Rollins' records old and new.







He used different stage names but the one that stuck was Les Paul. In 1928, at the age of 13 he was a country musician playing guitar, harmonica and singing. In his twenties he started playing jazz influenced by the mastery of Django Reinhardt. Django was his idol and later became his friend.

In 1937 Les Paul's trio including Jim Atkins (who was Chet's brother) began gigging in Chicago. They moved to New York in 1939. It was in the Big Apple that he worked on a couple of versions of a new instrument he called "The Log" which was later to become the legendary Gibson Les Paul guitar.

On July 2, 1944 he took part in the first edition of Jazz at the Philharmonic appearing with Nat King Cole, JJ Johnson and Illinois Jacquet.




Ali became famous after joining John Coltrane's group in the mid-60s. Coltrane wanted to use two drummers during his November 1965 Village Gate gig. The group recorded the album "Meditations". Soon after Elvin Jones left and Rashied Ali became the the only full-time drummer. He appears on a couple of albums of which "Interstellar Space", recorded two months before Trane's death, is the most important. This tenor-drums duo is a free jazz masterpiece.

Rashied Ali was born Robert Patterson in Philadelphia on July 1, 1933. He first started learning piano, then trombone, then trumpet before finally taking up the drums during the Korean War. When he returned to his hometown he started playing R'N'B and rock and roll. Later he got interested in jazz, especially in the music of his fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane.

In 1963 he arrived in the Big Apple and began working with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp, with whom he recorded the "On This Night" LP. Ali was very active on the New York scene founding his own label called Survival Records and his club Ali's Alley. This was an important venue in the 70s when the loft jazz scene was big and was closed in 1979.

Rashied Ali played with musicians as diverse as Sonny Rollins, Jorma Kaukonen, Marion Brown, Alan Shorter, Frank Lowe, Jaco Pastorius or Keiji Haino. In his later years he led The Rashied Ali Quintet which visited many European festivals including Krakow.




A musician, bandleader, arranger and composer but first of all an important and influential music theorist, George Russell will perhaps be best remembered for his modal approach to jazz composition. His Opus Magnum, a book titled The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization published in 1953 prepared the ground for the modal experiments of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Although he started his career as a drummer, his life and plans changed radically after his unsuccessful attempt to join the Marines while still a teenager. Diagnosed with tuberculosis he was hospitalized for 6 months. At the hospital he was taught the basics of harmony and arranging by a fellow patient. When he was released, Russell was employed by Benny Carter but soon was replaced by Max Roach. He decided to give up drums and concentrate on composition.

As tuberculosis struck again, he had to turn down the offer to drum for Charlie Parker and go to hospital, this time for 16 months. During this stay he started to work on his Lydian Concept, an innovative theory which he was to develop and improve for the rest of his life.

After moving to New York, Russell became a member of an informal group meeting at Gil Evans' place. The group included some future jazz revolutionaries like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Lewis, Max Roach or Gerry Mulligan.

His first important composition "Cubano Be/Cubano Bop" was written for Dizzy Gillespie's big band and combined jazz and Afro-Cuban elements for the first time. Then Buddy DeFranco recorded his next composition "A Bird in Igor's Yard" fusing the achievements of two 20th-century's music giants, Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker.

In the 50s and 60s he created bands to test and develop his concepts and so a string of great albums soon followed. The George Russell Smalltet recorded "Jazz Workshop" with nine musicians including Art Farmer, Bill Evans and Milt Hinton. They also appear on the later "New York, N.Y." in an amazing company of Ernie Royal, Bob Brookmeyer, Phil Woods, John Coltrane, Al Cohn, Benny Golson, George Duvivier and Max Roach among others (plus Jon Hendricks rapping poetry). Another important record from that period was "Ezz-Thetics" which featured Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis and Steve Swallow.

Disappointed with the state of the American jazz scene, Russell moved to Europe for the next five years, most of which he spent in Scandinavia. He continued recording, particularly for the Italian Soul Note label, often with some of the best Scandinavian players like Bernt Rosengren, Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen, Arild Andersen or Polish ex-pats Vlodek Gulgowski and Bronislaw Suchanek. In 1965 on "At Beethoven Hall" he joined forces with another giant Don Cherry.

In 1969 Russell came back to the US to join the newly-formed jazz department faculty of the New England Conservatory at the invitation of its president Gunther Schuller and taught there until 2004.




The 14th Summer Jazz Festival at the Pod Baranami Cellar in Krakow has already started. The festival's first edition took place in 1996 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the legendary Piwnica Pod Baranami cabaret. Since that time all the best Polish jazz musicians have appeared. So, fans could see for example Adam Makowicz, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Tomasz Stanko, Andrzej Kurylewicz, Wanda Warska, Michal Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Jerzy Dudus Matuszkiewicz, Leszek Mozdzer, Andrzej Dabrowski, Wojciech Karolak, Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski and many, many others.

This year the festival is a real monster offering such a big number of gigs that nobody is able to see them all. It began with the New Orleans Sunday on July 5. On that day the cream of Krakow's trad bands performed in the street gardens of jazz clubs and restaurants in the Main Square. The bands also went on special New Orleans parade from the Barbican to the Main Square.

There are concerts every day until July 31. For three days (July 16,17,19) the Krakow's Opera House will host the NDR Big Band (from Hamburg, Germany) with brilliant guests Maria Schneider, Joe Lovano, Joao Bosco, Nils Landgren and Roman Dylag. Some of them will also appear during the Krakow Jazz Night special concert (July 18) which will feature a great pianist Vladyslav Sendecki and his new project My Polish Heart. This event will include the NDR Big Band with lots of guest soloists plus other bands playing in nine different places.

But that's not all of course! You will have a chance to listen to musicians like Joe McPhee, Herb Geller, Bobo Stenson, Claudio Fasoli, Karen Edwards, Ed Schuller, Harry Sokal and great Polish players Janusz Muniak, Jan Jarczyk, Bronislaw Suchanek, Janusz Stefanski, Jarek Smietana... it is impossible to just mention all the cool jazz people who will appear.

It's got to be funky and YOU gotta be there!! Destination Krakow!!




Krzysztof Komeda died 40 years ago, on April 23, 1969. A pianist, bandleader and composer of jazz and film music, he died in a Warsaw hospital a couple of months after a tragic fall in California. His brief career was full of great achievements with a milestone record Astigmatic standing out. He was also known for his film scores of which Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski is perhaps still the most popular.

Komeda was born in Poznan, Poland, on April 27, 1931. As a child he entered the Poznan Conservatory to study piano. He wanted to become a classical piano virtuoso but his dreams were destroyed when the Nazi invasion hit Poland in 1939. He returned to piano playing after the war had ended but this time it was jazz. Komeda discovered jazz while still in his secondary school. He was initiated by one of his schoolmates Witold Kujawski who played jazz bass. Then he spent some time gaining experience while playing both traditional and modern jazz but also popular and dance music.

The first real breakthrough came when his sextet successfully appeared during the 1st Jazz Festival in Sopot in 1956. That was a pivotal point in his life. After six years of war he decided to become a medical doctor. When he graduated however he was a doctor for a couple of months only as he decided to focus on jazz exclusively.

When a young film director Roman Polanski asked him to compose music for his etude Two Men And A Wardobe, Komeda began his lifelong adventure with film. From that moment on he divided his time between jazz and film.

Astigmatic, his best record, was released in 1966. It was recorded by a quintet which included Komeda on piano, Zbigniew Namyslowski on alto, Tomasz Stanko on trumpet, Gunter Lenz on bass and Rune Carlson on drums.

In January 1968 he went to Los Angeles to work on music score for Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. The film became a huge success. In autumn he had an accident and was hospitalized. When he returned home he started working on a new score for Buzz Kulik's The Riot. Suddenly his health deteriorated and he had an operation after which he was paralysed and unconscious. He was transported to Poland in spring 1969 where he died on April 23.



















BUD SHANK (1926-2009)

Born Clifford Everett Shank,Jr., on May 27, 1926, on a farm near Dayton, Ohio he has been better known to the world as Bud Shank. Usually, and stereotypically, labeled simply as a great cool-school West Coast jazz musician, he was much more than that. His playing style often described as pretty, elegant and lyrical could be hard, muscular and fiery as well, drawing from the Charlie Parker bebop tradition.

Shank started his musical journey on clarinet at the age of ten, inspired by the radio broadcasts of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Soon after, only four weeks later, he gave his first public perfomance. Although he had always wanted to play alto, he got his first job on tenor when he joined the Charlie Barnet's band. That was in 1947 after he had dropped out of UNC deciding to become a pofessional player and relocated to LA. In Barnet's band he moved from tenor to alto which was to remain his main instrument.

Through frequent jamming in Los Angeles he met Art Pepper, Bob Cooper, Shelly Manne and other Stan Kenton alumni. When Kenton formed his new band called Innovations in Modern Music, Bud Shank got an invitation, also because he could double on flute. In this ambitious and really big orchestra in 1950 and 1951 Shank met more great artists like Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, June Christy or Laurindo Almeida.

Between 1953 and 1956 he played in the Lighthouse All-Stars group led by the bass player Howard Rumsey. The band regularly gigged at the Lighthouse Cafe (hence the name) in Hermosa Beach. It was in that club that that he had a chance to musically encounter Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Jimmy Giuffre, Hampton Hawes or Russ Freeman.

Bud Shank's appearances at the Lighthouse and at the Haig prove that he could also swing hard. At the same time Shank started working with the guitarist Laurindo Almeida in his quartet which recorded for Richard Bock's Pacific Jazz Records. This softer and quieter Brazilian-flavored music predated the later bossa nova madness.

For years he worked with fellow saxophonist and his close friend Bob Cooper, experimenting with new sounds (Shank on flute and Cooper on oboe). They made an LP aptly titled "Oboe/Flute" with Sonny Clark and Max Roach. His versatility and perfect flute playing secured him a lot of studio work, not only in jazz but also in cinema, classical and pop contexts as well (his is the solo on "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas).

Before the so-called "world music" became fashionable he had recorded with Japanese and Indian musicians (an album with Ravi Shankar). Apart from his time with Barnet and Kenton, Bud Shank also played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Ellington loved his playing but he had to turn down Duke's offer for personal reasons.

In 1974 he reunited with Laurindo Almeida founding (together with Ray Brown and Chuck Flores, then different drummers) the acclaimed foursome called the LA4. The band was a success, touring and recording extensively. In later years he gave up flute altogether devoting his time to alto solely. His sound became stronger and his playing freer and more dynamic.

Active till the end, Bud Shank died on April 2, the day after a recording session, at the age of nearly 83.




If you are going to the City of Light, be sure to visit Musee du quai Branly. They present an internationally co-produced exhibition titled "Le Siecle du Jazz". It basically covers the 20th century to show the history and development of the music but also looks at the end of the 19th century to examine its roots and beginnings. What is especially interesting is the fact that the curator Daniel Soutif tried to present the phenomenon in the broader historical and cultural context, showing the connections between jazz and the graphic arts. So photography, cinema, painting, graphic design and comics are heavily represented as is literature.

From Storyville to the Lincoln Center. From the Original Dixieland "Jass" Band to the Downtown avantgarde. And last (but definitely not least): Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Francis Picabia, Fernand Leger, Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat but also Herman Leonard, William Claxton, Louis Malle, John Cassavetes... And the list goes on and on. Interested? Go there before June 28, 2009.



IAN CARR (1933-2009)

Ian Carr died on Feb. 25, 2009. He was best known as a fantastic trumpet player, composer and a bandleader. He also wrote on jazz, taught it and was a broadcaster of note. For about twenty years he led the famous and pioneering jazz-rock group called Nucleus.




February 15, 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of Zbigniew Seifert's premature death. The late Polish virtuoso jazz violinist has almost been forgotten, at least by the media and the general public. Seifert's pioneering and groundbreaking recordings were basically unavailable for too many years. It seemed that nobody was interested in reissuing them. Luckily, most of these "lost" gems can be purchased in CD format now (alas in limited editions).

Zbigniew Seifert was born and spent most of his very short life in Krakow, Poland, a town that spawned many geniuses in the past. He started his musical education on violin, then got interested in jazz and switched to alto, as violin was generally not considered jazzy enough at that time (even in the jazz circles). Very soon Seifert led his own, award-winning, quartet. Then he joined Tomasz Stanko's revolutionary free jazz quintet. It was during that period that his talent grew immensely and rapidly and he was ready to contemplate taking up the violin again.

After the Tomasz Stanko Quintet had disbanded, Seifert decided to have a solo career and moved to Germany and eventually to the US. He worked and recorded with numerous outstanding musicians in Europe, some of whom were Hans Koller, Joachim Kuhn, Jasper van't Hof, Chris Hinze, Charlie Mariano and a band from America called Oregon. On his dates as a leader Zbigniew also used such great artists as Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez, Billy Hart, Cecil McBee or John Scofield.

That was just a beginning of a stunning and unique career which was brutally terminated by the onset of cancer. Zbigniew Seifert's early death at only 32 was a shock and tragedy for all his friends, fans and fellow musicians as well. His recorded output is rather scarce but always worth looking for. You might like to start experiencing Seifert by listening to some of his best recordings on albums which include Man of the Light (1976), Passion (1978), Solo Violin (1976) and Violin (with Oregon, 1978). For his alto playing check Music For K (1970) by the amazing Tomasz Stanko Quintet.




Freddie Hubbard died at 70 due to complications after a heart attack on Nov. 26. He was a trumpet virtuoso known for his melodic skills.

Miriam Makeba died in a hospital in Italy on November 9 at the age of 76. She suffered a heart attack after a benefit concert. Like Nina Simone she was a TSOL.

On November 4, 2008 Barack Obama became the new president of the USA. The question remains: can all of America really take it? Let's hope the answer is YES!!

William Claxton, one of the greatest jazz photographers of all time died in Los Angeles on October 11, aged 80.





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