Inside a recording session

Singer Denise Brigham recently released her major album, Hotel Lafayette. A collection of standards from the Great American Songbook, the album is excellent. Brigham’s deeply smokey voice gives a new twist to classic standards like At Last, Fly Me to the Moon and In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. I particularly enjoyed the second track, The Cincinnati Kid, the title song from the Steve McQueen movie about a young, hotshot, poker player in New Orleans, out to challenge “the Man” played by Edward G. Robinson. The theme song in the movie was performed by [ta-dum] Ray Charles. Normally I am not in favor of newer singers taking on an iconic performance. But Denise does a great job of making the song her own, and it is a treat to hear this gritty tune updated.

The album is available from cdbaby.com which we always recommend as a great source of music, especially new talent.

Recorded  at Tone Zone Studio of the Chicago Recording Company, Hotel Lafayette features terrific production values, and you can get an insider’s look at how the producer, singer, musicians and sound engineers collaborated to create this very enjoyable album. Carey Deadman, a highly acclaimed record producer, arranger and musician produced all the tracks. the video of the recording session, broken into three parts, shows instrumental tracks being laid down, Deadman’s coaching of Brigham on the mood and feel of a song and other aspects of a modern, mutli-tracked recording session. There are informative text overlays to explain what is happening and how pieces are eventually integrated into the final cut. Listen for the electronic metronome.

Take a look at how recorded music really happens:

cc -Some rights

WAR on PBS

Cover of "All Day Music"
Cover of All Day Music

No, this is not announcing another documentary about World War II or Vietnam. This is in reference to the musical group WAR, and one of my local PBS stations ran a one-and-a-half hour concert last. They will be repeating it tomorrow (Thursday, June 4). They are in fund-raising mode and are using several music concerts during evening broadcast hours throughout the week to draw their  target donors. Monday night they ran the most excellent David Foster: The Hitman concert. Catch that one , if you get a chance.

The group that performed was fronted by one of the founding members of WAR, keyboardist Lonnie Jordan. Several other members of the original group perform under the name The Low Rider Band. WAR is most often identified as a rock band or, more specifically, a purveyor of 70’s Funk. Those familiar with some of their major hits like The Cisco Kid, Low Rider, The World Is a Ghetto and Why Can’t We Be Friends? would probably see the validity in that.

The stations in your area might not be running these programs this week, but keep your eye out for their pledge drive week. It has to be coming up soon. Hopefully, you have not already missed the Spring/Summer drive. Another program my local stations have run is Chris Botti: Live at the Boston Pops. It is a great show with terrific guest stars including Sting, Katharine McPhee. The Chris Botti show also introduced me to a new talent, Sy Smith.

Doesn't she look like she can really sing?

Doesn't she look like she can really sing?

So, why am I, the jazzmonger, plugging a concert by these guys? Listen to them do All Day Music and Slippin’ Into Darkness and tell me that’s not jazz. And this question of “What can we talk about in reference to jazz?” puts in mind of an interesting discussion I have been participating in over on Kevin Kniestedt‘s “Groove Notes” blog, which you can find at:  jazz24.wordpress.com.

Kevin is a gentleman and a scholar, and the dj hosting The Grooveyard on station KPLU. He also hosts an online jazz streamcast. Kevin knows his stuff. He recently posted about being “taken to task” by a listener of his radio show. The sin was having played the title track from Steely Dan‘s Aja album. Here is how Kevin stated the problem:

It was this most recent complaint that came across as far more angry than your average letter. In fact, the note made it quite clear that after hearing a particular song, the individual was “through” listening to my program.

The song in question was the title track to the Steely Dan album Aja. The complaint, in short, was that Steely Dan didn’t play jazz, and that Aja wasn’t jazz and didn’t sound like jazz, even if Steely Dan was a jazz band by nature.

And he concludes with this

So did I lose this one? Did I cross the line with Aja? Should I have just responded with “Jazz is free, it has no boundaries”? Should I have said “I’m the DJ, I’ll play what I want”?

Maybe I did the best thing I could do, and just not write back.

I responded, as did several others, that Jazz by its very nature is free-form and should be inclusive. plus, I added, why do we have to wall ourselves off from all other good pieces of music in order to be a jazz fan? Seems nuts to me. Go here:

http://jazz24.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/where-is-the-fine-line-in-jazz/

to check out the whole discussion, AND put your two cents in.

cc -Some rights

Jazz Exhibit at Smithsonian Institution in D.C.

One of our readers, dcfan, volunteers at the Smithsonian and alerted us to an exhibit that will be open through June 28, 2009. Housed in the Albert H. Small Documents Galllery, 2nd Floor East, in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibit features Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Here is what the Smithsonian says about the exhibit:

Two of the greatest jazz composers were Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967). The exhibition examines two of their most ubiquitous pieces, “Caravan” (1936) composed by Ellington and Juan Tizol and “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941) composed by Strayhorn, through documents from the Museum’s Archives Center and related audio and video recordings. The exhibition draws from the Museum’s large and internationally renowned Ellington collection…

The Ellington collection features photographs, sound recordings and oral histories. “The Smith” also has an interesting collection of musical instruments ranging from a 1700’s Harpsichord to one of Dizzy’s custom  “Silver-flair” trumpets. Take my advice, folks, when you visit our nation’s capital, allow a couple of days for “The Smith.” The exhibits and collections are wide-ranging, informative and , in some cases, quite surprising.

Can’t make the trip? Check out the web presentation at:  Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn – Jazz Composers

Thanks dcfan, for the heads-up!

Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn

Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn

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