Highly respected jazz journalist and musician Jack Massarik, who was recently diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, died on 13 July aged 74. One of the music press’s genuine characters and a font of jazz tales dating back decades, Jack was a leading jazz critic for over 40 years, including 35 years of continuous reportage for the London Evening Standard, and a much valued and loved contributor to Jazzwise magazine for over 12 years.


Jack, who was born in Stafford in May 1940, was a jazzer from the start: first on piano then adding alto sax while studying in Manchester where he played with future blues legend John Mayall, then just starting out. He returned to the gigging scene in London and briefly led a piano trio with bassist Malcolm Cecil and drummer Alan Rushton before moving to guitar in the 1980s where he worked with vibist Bill LeSage and pianist Geoff Castle.

When Jack informed me of his condition in late June he had a message for readers in his own inimitable style: “I carry bad news, or perhaps not, for readers of my work in Jazzwise magazine. It seems that my life expectancy has been reduced from 10 years to three months. There I was thinking I was being treated for long-term diabetes when my GP suggested a hospital scan. This has revealed advanced cancer of the pancreas, liver and gut. An inoperative condition, but one which might allow me to sketch highlights of my 50 years in the jazz trenches, a time of the music’s greatest triumphs and toughest battles for economic survival.”

Sadly Jack’s condition was already too severe and it proved one copy deadline too far. He will be greatly missed.

– Jon Newey

– Photo by Ben Amure



 

Charlie Haden – one of the finest double bassists in jazz who could say more with a few finely chosen notes than many lesser musicians try and say with a hundred – has died aged 76 on Thursday 11 July. The news was announced by his record label ECM, who confirmed that his wife, the singer Ruth Cameron, and his four children were at his side when he died at home in Los Angeles after a prolonged period of illness.

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, on 6 August 1937, Haden began his life in music almost immediately, singing on his parents’ country & western radio show at the tender age of 22 months. Having started playing bass in his early teens, he contracted a form of polio that affected his face and throat and prevented him from singing by age 14, thus encouraging his love of jazz and desire to play bass professionally. In 1957, he left America’s heartland for Los Angeles, where he met and played with such legends as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon.

Haden played a hugely important role in the development of free jazz,
alongside saxophonist Ornette Coleman, particularly for his pioneering exploration of ‘harmolodics’ – a system of improvising where the soloist dictates the harmony. This partnership was developed when Haden and his quartet moved to New York in 1959 and began recording with Coleman, Haden describing how they developed the concept: “At first when we were playing and improvising, we kind of followed the pattern of the song, sometimes. Then, when we got to New York, Ornette wasn’t playing on the song patterns, like the bridge and the interlude and stuff like that. He would just play. And that’s when I started just following him and playing the chord changes that he was playing: on-the-spot new chord structures made up according to how he felt at any given moment.” This avant-jazz ensemble also included trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins and recorded the seminal Shape Of Jazz To Come.  In addition to his influential work with Coleman, Haden also collaborated with a number of adventurous jazz giants, including John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Keith Jarrett, and Pat Metheny.

In 1969, Haden joined forces with pianist/composer Carla Bley, founding the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group’s self-titled debut is a milestone of modern music, blending experimental big band jazz with the folk songs of the Spanish Civil War to create a powerfully original work of musical/political activism. After two further recordings he reconvened the Liberation Music Orchestra in 2005, with largely new members, for the album Not In Our Name. This recording dealt primarily with the contemporary political situation in the United States.

 An acoustic bassist of extraordinary gifts, Haden’s talents as a musician have been in constant demand by his fellow artists. As a result, he collaborated with a genuinely stunning array of musicians including Hank Jones, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Kenny Barron, and Pat Metheny with whom Haden shared a 1997 Best Jazz Instrumental Individual/Small Group Grammy Award for their album, Beyond the Missouri Sky.

Haden’s love of world music saw him teaming with a variety of diverse international players, including Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti, Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, and Portuguese guitar giant Carlos Paredes. In addition, Haden explored diverse streams of American popular music with both his acclaimed Quartet West, as well as on such collections as 2002’s inventive alliance with Michael Brecker, American Dreams.

Haden was invited to establish the jazz studies program at California Institute of the Arts in 1982, has earned countless honours from around the globe, including the Los Angeles Jazz Society prize for Jazz Educator of the Year, three Grammy Awards (alongside a multitude of nominations), myriad DownBeat readers and critics poll winners, a Guggenheim fellowship, four NEA grants for composition, France’s Grand Prix Du Disque Award, Japan’s SWING Journal Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. As well as the Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award for a lifetime of contributing to improvised music.

The genesis of his 2008 release, Rambling Boy, began in the late 1980s when Haden and his wife Cameron visited his grandmother in Missouri to celebrate her 80th birthday, as Haden explained: “Ruth got all of us to sing together and before you knew it, the kids were all singing harmony with my brothers and sisters and they all blended so well. It was just such a natural event and it felt so good and sounded so good that I knew in my heart that one day we’d all sing together.” Charlie Haden Family & Friends: Rambling Boy brought his personal history full circle bringing together a new generation of the Haden Family – a legendary Midwest music institution in the 1930s and 1940s.

2010 saw the release of the ECM recording Jasmine, Keith Jarrett's first recorded collaboration in decades other than with his standards trio, and reunites him with the great bassist Charlie Haden, a close partner until the mid-1970s. Intimate, spontaneous and warm, this album of love songs recorded at Jarrett's home, has affinities, in its unaffected directness, with his many of the works of both artists. A second instalment from these sessions, Last Dance, has also just been released on ECM.

Founded in the mid-1980s by Haden, Quartet West was to become recognised as one of the most elegant and coherent small-groups in contemporary jazz. Together with Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone, Alan Broadbent on piano and Larance Marable on drums, Haden resuscitated and modernised a typically Californian way of playing the "jazz game", one made of softness, sophistication and sensual clarity. The quartets six recordings – Quartet West (1987), In Angel City (1988), Haunted Heart (1992), Always say Goodbye (1994), Now Is the Hour (1996) and The Art Of Song (1999) – can all be read as autobiographical, melancholy plunges into the intimate recesses of the bassist's imagination: as many chapters of some dreamlike auto-fiction that multiplies the connexions and relations between Californian jazz of the immediate post-war period, and Hollywood during the same era, which was marked notably by the deadly sophistication of the great noir films.

The most recent release by Quartet West Sophisticated Ladies saw the group with a new drummer Rodney Green, alongside a strong cast of contemporary female vocalists including Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renee Fleming and Charlie’s wife, Ruth Cameron.

Charlie Haden is survived by his wife of 30 years, Ruth Cameron, as well as his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden.


BBC Radio 4
will kick off a three-part music series Playing The Skyline, beginning this coming Monday at 9pm. Presented by Tim Marlow the series looks at an alternative method of composing, as seen through the eyes of both jazz and classical musicians and composers who discuss and perform their interpretations of British skylines. The inaugural episode (14 July) was recorded on the Millennium Bridge, London and features leading UK jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine and composer Anna Meredith whose work has included pieces commissioned for the last night of the BBC Proms.

Acclaimed pianist Gwilym Simcock and 18-year-old singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford will feature in the second episode, which was recorded in Port Talbot, in their home country of Wales (21 July). The series concludes its most rural episode with classical composer and conductor James MacMillan, who is inspired by views of two Scottish skylines from Cumnock and Ben Wyvis (28 July). As well as improvising, the musicians will take the dividing line between sky and land and translate this onto manuscript paper to literally ‘play the skyline’.

– Tom Wight

For more info www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04966rw

Listen to a preview clip in which Courtney Pine talking about how the appearance of The Dome to St. Paul’s Cathedral, inspired his method of composing here:

 

 

 

Following last week's decision by Arts Council England to cut Jazz Services' funding from March 2015, Jazz Services hosted an open meeting in Bankside SE1, on Wednesday 9 July, to discuss the recent rejection of its NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) and to take opinions about its possible future direction and the needs of the jazz sector. Since the Arts Council’s announcement there has been much speculation about where Jazz Services can go now – although it remains fully funded until March next year – with plenty of comment being offered from both detractors and supporters.

The meeting was chaired by Dominic McGonigal and James Joseph, respectively Jazz Services’ recently appointed Chair and Vice-Chair. McGonigal began by addressing some points as to the nature of the ACE’s decision, saying it largely pertained to issues of governance that have already been addressed. The floor was then opened up to the crowd, which consisted of mainly artists and promoters (although someone introducing himself as an audience member for jazz received a spontaneous round of applause) as well as those following on Twitter.

Along with plenty of support for Jazz Services’ work there were criticisms, but these were generally framed in such a way as to inspire debate rather than damnation. Issues like funding, partnerships, and the organisation’s general direction and possible rebranding all came under the spotlight, with McGonigal stressing the preservation of the unique impartiality of Jazz Services, recognising the needs of the jazz community and planning to sustain the core activities such as touring support.

If the meeting wasn’t entirely conclusive about where Jazz Services should go next, it certainly gives them plenty of useful feedback from the scene itself, which can only help when going forward.

Click here to sign the petition to support Jazz Services

 

TD-Jamie-Cullum-21

After Jamie Cullum’s success here in 2011, it was no surprise that this show in the Theatre Antique here at Jazz a Vienne, would sell out very quickly, his billing with French Manouche singer Thomas Dutronc no doubt accelerated the rush for tickets (Dutronc is the son of singer Françoise Hardy and his father is the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and film actor Jacques Dutronc).

For this concert Cullum expanded his current touring band to the status of ‘big band’ with strings and extra horns – so that he could film the show for a Concert DVD to be released in conjunction with the new album, which will be released on Universal in the autumn.

For Cullum, this album is hugely important – his award-winning BBC Radio 2 show on Tuesday nights has ‘re-ignited’ his passion with, and his desire to play, more jazz – so he has been writing new and arranging old material which culminated in recording sessions with Nostalgia 77’s Benedic Lamdin. Even Marc Connor, Cullum's manager, described this as, “Jamie’s most jazz-based album yet.”

The decision to film the show was only taken two weeks ago and proved to be a massive challenge to arrange an additional 24 musicians. The venue, a Roman amphitheatre that holds around 7,500 is a fantastic setting and once the decision was taken to film a show from the current tour – was Cullum’s first choice. The weather in Vienne has been very unsettled and the previous night had seen quite heavy rain during Joe Satriani’s show.

Fortunately, although spitting during Thomas Dutronc’s set it didn’t actually rain and by the time Cullum took to the stage it had almost completely stopped. Dutronc (with special guest guitarist Angelo Debarre) was excellent playing a mixture of songs ‘Allonges’, ‘Charleston’, ‘J’aime Plus Paris’, ’Tiger Rag’ and ‘I’ll see you’, evoking memories of Django and Henri Salvador in his prime.

TD-Jamie-Cullum-32
While a very large space the Theatre Antique is also quite intimate and suited Cullum’s presentation of his music. Always the showman, still jumping off the piano and leaping around the stage, much to the delight of the crowd, it was the more intimate moments during the ballads when you could see him hold the audience and take them with him on a song that showed his growing artistic maturity. The new songs are certainly far jazzier than before, the addition of a big band, ably led by saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Tom Richards and featuring among others saxophonists Ben Castle and Tom Challenger and trombonist Barnaby Dickinson alongside his regular band of trumpeter Rory Simmons and drummer Brad Webb, who were superb throughout.

The older songs unsurprisingly got the most reaction ‘When I get Famous’, ‘Don’t Stop The Music’, ‘I’m All Over It’ and ‘These Are The Days’ turning into real anthems for him. The sight of most of the Theatre Antique jumping up and down together in unison at the climax of the show wearing their free red or blue rain-macs was a wonderful sight and contrasted with the total hush as he sung a solo version of ‘Gran Tourino’ with not a sound coming from the audience.
TD-Jamie-Cullum-41

Tour manager Danny White, who has been with Cullum for more than 12 years and has seen virtually every show, told me he thinks he is better now than he has ever seen him – the popularity of the radio show and his busy touring schedule are attracting new fans and also existing jazz fans who perhaps have dismissed him in the past but have gained respect because of his obvious love of jazz and the eclectic playlist on his show.

The new album and Live DVD should be out in the autumn 2014 and promises to be extremely interesting.

– Tim Dickeson (story and photos)

 

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