Chet Baker - Long Ago and Far Away

Chet Baker died in 1988 but his legend has stubbornly refused to diminish and today he is one of the most consistently reissued jazz artists with interest in his early glory years as high as that in the ravaged, damaged artist who would continue to record until the end of his life. In a rare, hitherto unpublished, interview Roy Carr talked to Chet in the mid-1980s not long before his death and in a frank conversation teases out areas of Chet’s life the trumpeter rarely talked about.

By the mid-1980s, Chet Baker was running Chuck Berry a close second in the way he was dissipating his talent in favour of a hard nose take-the-money-and-run career move. Though I had encountered Chet as early as 1955, when he first toured Europe, thankfully, any ongoing association rarely got beyond exchanging brief pleasantries. It was no secret that Chet was a loner and that the daily pursuit of local drug dealers governed his existence. In no way was I remotely interested in exploring that side of his lifestyle.

However, while drugs had almost physically destroyed him to the point where his skull appeared to have stretched his skin to a fine membrane, I did not feel that artistically Chet Baker was a spent force.

The Old Guard may have growled, but in doing so Miles had greatly expanded his audience worldwide. Realising the upside of such a new direction, we both suggested songs. Chet felt that Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’ was an obvious choice. “That song ideally suits my vocal range – I won’t have to stretch that much.”

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #138 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Portico Quartet CD 'Isla'.

Pat Metheny - One Man Band

He is one of the greatest contemporary jazz guitar players, who can fill large concert halls in almost any large city around the world. But Pat Metheny this month embarks on an ambitious project which, rather than resting on his laurels, breaks new ground for him and his fans.Working with a group of inventors Metheny has harnessed the power of a mechanical device called an Orchestrion which allows him to trigger a range of instruments, almost like a small orchestra, which he has written for and controls in his own solo show. Ahead of his debut UK show with the new concept and as his new album Orchestrion is released Stephen Graham talks to Pat about the inspirations behind the project in this step into the unknown

The last time Pat Metheny produced a solo album back in 2003 it was a relatively straightforward affair. Titled One Quiet Night it was just the guitarist in the quietness of his home studio playing a mostly soft set on the seldom-heard baritone guitar. But, instead of standing still, Metheny has gone instead for one of the most demanding projects of his career.

“This is the biggest challenge,” he says feistily, “based on faith at the beginning if it was even going to work. I just can’t help it. What am I going to do, play ‘Bright Size Life’ for the rest of my life? Part of the job description is to keep things moving and keep asking questions.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Portico Quartet CD 'Isla'.

Polar Bear - Eyes Wide Open

Polar Bear is one of the most influential UK jazz bands of recent years, inspiring a new generation of young musicians who have come up in their wake. This month they release their latest album Peepers on a new label, with a subtle more guitar-flavoured shift in direction. Selwyn Harris catches up with Polar Bear’s leader Sebastian Rochford

Sometimes Seb Rochford must wake up staring at his drums. Set up next to a laptop in front of his bed at one end of a spacious ground floor studio flat where he lives in north east London is his practice kit. It’s a black, electronic, rather than acoustic, one. He tells me how he never uses a non-acoustic drum set live but is thinking about taking this one out when he next plays with the human beatboxer extraordinaire Shlomo (with whom Rochford’s Polar Bear has recently collaborated) so he can better match his beats up sonic-wise to Shlomo’s.

Rochford’s world isn’t like that of your typical jazz musician. It involves an intense engagement with and unconscious absorption of the subcultural mélange of music going on around him. This is what he puts into Polar Bear. Hence what comes out is that rare thing: contemporary jazz that isn’t insulated from its surroundings, but one that has its finger firmly on the pulse.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Portico Quartet CD 'Isla'.

Nils Petter Molvaer - The Chill Zone

Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer one of the first European jazz musicians to successfully harness jazz with dance music in the 1990s and in the process managed to take jazz to an audience it had never reached: the club generation. This month he embarks on a major UK tour for the first time as he supports the release of new album Hamada. Stuart Nicholson catches up with him in Berlin ahead of his UK visit.

Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer has redeye. He’s about to play the Fritzclub in what was the former east Berlin and then he’s on an early morning flight to Budapest, the last leg of a 22-date European tour that’s taken in 10 countries. It has been an exhausting schedule. “We’ve covered a lot of ground. Much as I like playing it’s too long,” he says gazing into the middle distance, and then turning with a smile adding, “It’s so long I can’t remember how I travelled from home to the airport. Did I take the car? Did I travel by train? I don’t remember!”

Tired he may be, but Molvaer is a true road warrior. One of a handful of European jazz musicians able to tour through Europe twice and three times a year with an entourage that includes band members, a road manager and his own sound and lighting engineers, he readily acknowledges that “It’s a privilege.” Ever since his 1997 album Khmer (ECM) became a bestseller notching-up six-figure sales, he has steadily built an audience for his music by taking it to the people. It’s a strategy that has served him well in today’s music scene.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Portico Quartet CD 'Isla'.

John Coltrane - Leap Of Faith

Less than a month after Kind of Blue was recorded in 1959, and largely unremarked upon in the glare of publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary of that momentous album, John Coltrane first entered the studio to make what in many ways was that mighty album’s equal: Giant Steps. As substantial as the other albums of that annus mirabilis, Mingus Ah Um, The Shape of Jazz to Come and Time Out were, Giant Steps on the one hand contains some of Coltrane’s best known compositions but equally importantly laid down the harmonic changes that Coltrane had been developing throughout the early part of his career. Ahead of the anniversary of its release 50 years ago Stuart Nicholson tells the full story of one of the greatest albums in jazz history while Peter Wettre unearths some lesser known facts about the album and Jon Newey charts the history of the album’s release down the years.

In October 1958, a strap-line on the cover of Downbeat magazine announced that John Coltrane was “a happy young man.” It came following a period where he confessed he had been “dejected and dissatisfied” with his playing, but now he was looking forward to the future with optimism. Things, he felt, were finally coming together after what the magazine described as a “frustrating past.” The interview, conducted by Ira Gitler in the Park Central Hotelin New York, discreetly avoided Coltrane’s recent recovery from drug addiction which had inflicted a heavy toll on his ability play.

Now he seemed transformed, as his performances on a broadcast from Café Bohemia in New York with the Miles Davis Quintet in May that year or on Jazz at the Plaza: The Miles Davis Sextet from 9 September, attest. His solos, bursting with notes, dubbed “sheets of sound” by Gitler, threatened to overwhelm his audience. The French critic Francois Postif, who saw him perform several times after his recovery, predicted that his influence on his generation would be, “As great as that of Charlie Parker.” He also reported that pianist Bud Powell was so impressed by the stepchange in his ability as a soloist that he was in the audience four nights in a row. Coltrane was on the up.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #136 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Partisans CD 'By Proxy'.

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