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Esperanza Spalding’s “Black Gold”

I have written, previously, about the beautiful and supremely talented Esperanza Spalding. She is, unquestionably, the brightest light  among the younger practitioners of Jazz. — Bassist, composer, arranger, singer, this young lady is a quadruple threat of the highest order.–

She is out with a new tune, Black  Gold, in collaboration with another young singer, Algebra Blesset. The song speaks of the importance of young black people being cognizant and proud of their history and heritage. The video for the song (see below) does a wonderful job of emphasizing how African history, particularly its Cultural history, is almost completely ignored in American and European schools. Check it out:

That’s Esperanza on the right, with her hair characteristically brushed out to the max. This girl is as lovely as she is talented and that is saying quite a lot.

Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm. That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist.

Her next album, Radio Music Society, is due out in March, 2012.

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SoundCloud is a Very Cool Site

If you like music, and you enjoy sampling cutting-edge tracks by new talent, you need to check out a great new site called SoundCloud. Regular readers may have noticed that I posted some tracks in an earlier message using the high-quality SoundCloud audio player.  The player is a very versatile utility, letting you upload a track, edit, scrunch, tweak and manipulate it all over the place. Then playback and store the new creation.

SoundCloud is also a vast community of music creators and fans which offers quick-and-easy, down-and-dirty facility for uploading and sharing sound tracks. In just a few days of poking around, I have found some interesting tracks. Here is one posted  by a young man who calls himself T-Cash. He presents it as “inspired by an old church song.” T-Cash has stepped-up the beat and pushed that melody through the electronic instrument window to create a “Funky Piano/Tech/Power-guitar” track that I think is really good. Give a listen to The Golden City RC-2:

Take a look at the Sidebar (over to the right) and you will see a button/link inviting you, or anyone you know, to send me a soundtrack via my personal “drop box” at SoundCloud. I will listen, give the sender/composer/arranger/whoever some feedback and will consider posting the best tracks on this site. Hopefully, some hard-working new talent will get a modicum of exposure. We ain’t the big-time but, heck, we are pushing toward 40,000 hits and we just came online in January of 2009. It took quite a while to get the hang of it and develop enough decent content to invite scrutiny so, actually, we have only really been “out there” about six months.

Here is what you are looking for on the Sidebar:


Send me your track

Jazz Clarinetist Walt Levinsky

You may not know him, but you have heard him.

Walt Levinsky (b. April 18, 1929 / d. Dec. 14, 1999) was a terrifically talented musician whose genius escaped the glare and hubbub of the “fame machine” by his own choice. A standout talent on the clarinet, alto saxophone &  flute, Walt was dubbed “the most talented musician that ever came to this school,” by the Woodwind instructor at the Music Conservatory where he trained in Anville, PA. [wikipedia]

Even before becoming a full-time professional, Walt started right near the top, with the Les Elgart Orchestra. His first full-time position was replacing the  noted Buddy De Franco in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He left Dorsey to enlist in the U.S. Air Force during The Korean War and played with the renowned Airmen of Note.

Walt with Airmen of Note

Walt settled in the New York City area in 1954, upon mustering out of the  Air Force. In 1956, Benny Goodman added Walt to his orchestra for a set of appearances at The Waldorf Astoria. Walt was the lead saxophone player but was also tapped by Goodman as his backup player on clarinet solos. If Benny couldn’t play, he trusted Walt to deliver the “Goodman sound.”  Walt toured, briefly, with Benny Goodman‘s orchestra but he hated all the flying. Strange for an Air Force guy, huh?

Eschewing the life “on-the-road,” Walt began a life-long involvement as a session musician on the highest of high-end recordings. He worked with pretty much all of the best: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, often contributing arrangements in addition to his playing.

Walt was always in demand by the best in the industry for recordings and major appearances.  He is credited over-and-over on recordings by the best of the reed-men like Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. From his work with Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, Walt became a fixture on recordings in the Bossa Nova and Samba styles. A master of his instrument as well as all styles of music, he played on a number of Cal Tjader‘s tracks and ventured into Acid and Fusion Jazz.

Levinsky joined the NBC staff orchestra and in 1962 became a member of Skitch Henderson‘s Tonight Show Band. Enjoying the regular work so close to home, with talented musicians, Walt stayed with the band when Doc Severinson took over as leader, and appears on most of Severinson’s recordings. In the 60s, Walt left NBC join MBA Music, a producer of theme show music and commercial jingles. This gave him an opportunity to really utilitze his composing and arranging talents. Among his many compositions for television is the theme music for The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

Perhaps the highest professional accolade any clarinetist could ever earn came to Walt Levinsky in 1962. Artie Shaw, the noted perfectionist, was recreating his all-star 1938 Orchestra and needed someone to be Artie Shaw. Artie went straight to Walt Levinsky and there are some who say that Walt played Artie better than Artie did.

Although Walt played in some 5,000 recording sessions, he only produced one album as the headliner: Walt Levinsky and his Great American Swing Band (featuring Lynn Roberts). On the Kenzo Records label, it is a terrific CD and it really swings. The production values are top-notch and the band he has assembled is just terrific. Here are two tracks from the CD, which do not sound nearly as good on Youtube as they do on the original source material:

#1 – Let’s Dance + Bugle Call Rag

#2 – Wang Wang Blues

cc -Some rights

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