Saturday, August 11, 2007

Week in Review; Sunday links, Vol. 2

I meant to do this last Sunday too, so I've saved up some older things. I was very encouraged this weeks to see Darcy's repost (as reported in the New York Post) on The NY Times' TimesSelect pay disservice soon becoming a thing of the past.

This past week I saw some excellent live shows and had a few new cultural experiences which I thought I would relate through links. I saw Aretha Franklin on Monday night. Dan DeLuca of the Philadelphia Inquirer has that review. I had a crappy seat (I was standing) but I can attest to the almost completely African American crowd. It was awe-inspiring that so many people would come out to a concert on a Tuesday night. I have to say that the way she ended her performance was very anti-climactic with umpteen reappearances on stage for bows as the emcee indefatigably pronounced "the queen of soul...the empress of music...Miss Aretha Franklin," over and over and over. I should note that my buddy Jason Marshall, who I played in different saxophone sections with in high school was called in for the gig (I don't believe it was his first with Aretha; he operates in those circles). The "impressively tight band" which DeLuca references played a fitting musical interlude when Ms. Franklin took her unexpected 10-minute mid-show break with Philly native Benny Golson's "Killer Joe." The tenor and alto saxophone solos on the big band interlude were very impressive. No names were mentioned, of course.

And on Tuesday night I saw violinist Jenny Scheinman with Jim Black, Todd Sickafoose and David Tronzo (who was sitting in for a sick and thus sidelined Nels Cline who had to cancel last minute). They played to a packed International House filled with all ages and musical impetuses. You had your guitar headz expecting Cline (who was given top billing along side Scheinman in all the marketing outreach (mostly email-based). You had your drum headz to see Jim Black, a legend of the now (sort of) defunct "downtown" scene (much of that music has moved to Brooklyn these days, including Scheinman's weekly Tuesday night gigs at Barbès). You even had a few folkie chicks and fellas in birkenstocks who knew that Sickafoose (and Scheinman herself) have been known to play with that righteous babe named Ani (though they may have been true Scheinman fans, I suppose). David Adler has the scoop on this show. It was very enjoyable.

Maria Schneider has another new large ensemble recording through artistShare (note how I didn't say "on artistShare." It's not a label, people. It's a business model), which is generating some nice attention. ArtistShare has been a major boon to Ms. Schneider's career. I am deciding which participant offer I want to enroll in or if I just want to buy the CD with the deluxe booklet (that is, if any are still available).

Also, I've been reading some magazines that I've always wondered about but never seriously read before. The current issue of Harper's has a brilliant memoir about the shared cultural experience among middle and upper class boys and girls - sleep-away camp in America. The article was written by New York-based author Rich Cohen as a well as a fascinating essay about a contemporary Turkish literary icon named Orham Pamuk.

NY Times scribe Nate Chinen journeyed down to the Crescent City to speakwith trumpeter Terence Blanchard in his native environment about rebuilding, his new album on Blue Note and the relocation of the Monk Institute from The University of Southern California to Loyola University in New Orleans.

The first full day of the Newport Jazz Festival under new management goes off without a hitch. George Wein is on hand to approve and make the new beer and wine lines run smoother.

This week in the Voice, Francis Davis has a virtual discography of trombonist, musical omnivore Roswell Rudd as well as a round-about review of his newest CD El Espirito Jibaro (which I have on my stack and have been meaning to get to for a review).

Though I never read him when I lived and went to school in Pittsburgh, Tribune Review jazz and cultural reporter Bob Karlovits does a hell of a lot of writing about jazz on an almost daily basis for the paper. This feature is about a good deed he had a hand in, in the name of Art Blakey.

Mwanji has an interesting exploration of his perceived associations between content of an album and its packaging.

Everybody in the jazz world has been talking about Keith Jarrett's latest episode stepping over the line with his mouth. Though JazzTimes reported that the Festival and the city of Perugia, Italy had officially banned Jarrett from ever performing again, industry sources close to the festival are saying that Jarrett and his manager have kissed and made up with the mayor of Perugia and all is well again. I personally wish it weren't. Keith is a brilliant musician, but he needs to take a lesson in reality and have some accountability for his outlandish actions. I think we all "reserve the right" to think he's an imbecile. A musician told me this week he remembers Keith once refusing to start his performance at Umbria or another outdoor festival because it was 68˚F and he will only play outdoors if it is 70˚F or warmer. Who brings a thermometer on stage? However, the Guardian and Idolator disagree.

Finally, I have recently been taken recently by how ubiquitous Beyoncé Knowles is these days in almost every medium I can think of. Even though she's on a major concert tour around the US right now, it is amazing how many different products she can be seen endorsing from make-up to soft drinks to her own line of clothing. It is also amazing how many column inches she is occupying in both dailies and alt weeklies, let alone the blogosphere. There was a very interesting piece in last Sunday's Boston Globe about this phenomenon as it relates to Ms. Knowles. I do like some of her music and I have to say that she is very attractive. She, her PR people and her personal trainer have done a very good job transforming her into a mainstream sex symbol. And she just keeps on truckin. She doesn't seem to tire from the road or the endless stream of live engagements, awards ceremonies or society functions. And all this without any major scandals that I know of. But I don't really pay much attention to gossip of that nature.

Enjoy these links and maybe comment with some of your own.

RIP Mario Rivera

I am not an expert of contemporary Latin music or Latin jazz, even. But I do know enough to recognize that Mario Rivera was a ubiquitous and integral presence on both those scenes.

You may have missed it, but Rivera appeared in all white playing some killin' tenor sax with Tito Puente's little big band with Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Valentin and others in one of the musical vignettes in the ground-breaking documentary film on Latin jazz, by Spanish director Fernando Trueba, Calle 54.

I could try to eulogize Rivera myself, (whom I had the privilege of seeing live on more than one occasion with bands led by Carlos 'Patato' Valdez, the Tito Puente Orchestra and other bands), but I won't try since drummer/percussionist, composer, big band leader and noted educator Bobby Sanabria has already done so in a much more eloquent and expert fashion than I could ever have.

I received this note via the Jazz Programmers List (a jazz radio listserv for radio programmers, promoters and musicians available for subscription at


Today is indeed a day of sadness. El Comandante, Mario Rivera, passed away this morning at St. Vincents Hospital in NYC ending his long battle with cancer.

One can not begin to speak of Mario in terms of his career in just a posting. A virtual series of volumes has to be written. Like so many musicians who are Latino and have been an integral part of the jazz world and the world of their own native culture, their contributions have been long overlooked by those who write the history of both genres.

If you looked up the term multi-instrumentalist in a dictionary, Mario's face would immediately come to mind. Forever the inquisitive practicer, he could playover 20 instruments at a very high level. His"tertulias" at his apartment as Ben Lapidus can attestwere virtual centers of activity for his lengthy practice sessions and if there were other players around there would certainly be a jam session in progress.

He could play all of the family of saxophones on a virtuosic level as a soloist and section player and was one of the very few saxophonists who was also a master of the flute in the Cuban charanga style. But he was most known for his mastery of the tenor saxophone.

According to Scott Yanow's book, Afro-Cuban Jazz, he was born July 22, 1939 in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic. After he arrived in NYC in 1961, he worked with Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. His most significant musical associations through the years include Tito Rodriguez (1963-65), The Machito Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Tipica 73, The George Coleman Octet, Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra, Slide Hampton's Jazz Masters, the Afro Blue Band, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chico O'Farll's Orchestra and especially Tito Puente's Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble with whom he worked for on and off for decades. In addition Mario occasionally lead the Salsa Refugees, a respite from his work in the Latin field, where he could explore his voice as a jazz soloist.

He was a true musical soldier. By that I mean he was the ultimate sideman. He was there to facilitate and enhance whatever musical situation he was called upon to do. Whether it was a movie soundtrack, jingle date, small combo to big band date or just a guataca jam session, Mario's versatility and most of all, presence, were always welcomed.

Although having appeared on virtually hundreds of recording, perhaps, thousands, Mario to my knowledge recorded only one disc as a leader named after his sobriquet, El Comandante. It has fine examples of combinations of the native rhythm of his homeland, merengue from the Dominican Republic and jazz improvisation. Indeed it can be considered not only a tribute to his homeland and his mastery of jazz harmony but
an homage also to one of his inspirations and yet another unsung hero, fellow Dominican saxophone master, Tavito Vasquez.

I got to know Mario well when I was part of the United Nations Big Band. Like his inventive playing, Mario had a uniquely creative sense of humor, which many here who had the pleasure of working with him can attest to. Nadie se escapaba (no one escaped) and one looked forward to Mario's zingers, because like his playing, they were the epitome of timing and creativity.

Because there are several members of this list serve who had an even more personal and musical relationship with him, I look forward to reading their recollections of Don Mario. He will be missed, but of course never, ever forgotten. Especially when I hear a tambora and guira, a good saxophone mambo, or Giant Steps being played in all the keys. :)

Rest In Peace nuestro Comandante.

Mucho ibiano y aché,
Bobby Sanabria

You can learn more and discuss Mario's life and contributions to the music at JazzCorner's Speakeasy.