Gerald Wilson, 96

RIP local jazz legend Gerald Wilson, pictured here on trumpet with Irving Ashby (guitar), George "Red" Callender (holding his hands over his ears), Lee Young Sr (drums), and Phil Moore (piano). (Order # 00052121, Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

RIP local jazz legend Gerald Wilson, pictured here on trumpet with Irving Ashby (guitar), George “Red” Callender (holding his hands over his ears), Lee Young Sr (drums), and Phil Moore (piano). (Order # 00052121, Security Pacific National Bank Collection) photo via LAPL Photo Collection

MY INTRODUCTION to musician Gerald Wilson was on the radio.

Not on disc, but as DJ. He was on the jazz station KBCA, later KKGO, the frequency my family’s car and household console stereo was always tuned to while I was growing up. I loved his voice, the “between platter patter.” bigband

Later I learned more about Wilson and his contributions to jazz in Los Angeles in particular. As well as his work as an arranger and bandleader that spanned eight decades, he also taught classes in jazz history and appreciation at college campuses across the city. But what many Angelenoes might remember him most for — if not by name — but a piece of music that has been part of the backdrop/soundtrack of L.A. for as long as I can remember — Viva Tirado — a piece he dedicated to dedicated to bullfighter Jose Ramon Tirado, part of his own long-time interest in Latin culture and its shades of influence.

He’s another one who I thought would go on forever.

Thank you, Gerald Wilson for sorting out and reflecting the true sound of Los Angeles in all of its influences, nuances and moods.

Obits here from Los Angeles Times and New York Times


On The New Yorker “Satirizing” Sonny

More on the New Yorker/Rollins “satire” flap via Nicholas Payton

Nicholas Payton


Charlie Parker died to play this music. Bud Powell died to play this music. After suffering through the worst holocaust in human history, these brilliant Black artists gave the world a gift. This gift was so potent that not only did it help them leverage some modicum of autonomy, but helped other oppressed peoples of the world find themselves. It even freed the souls of those who uprooted them from their homeland of Africa and enslaved them for centuries in a land not theirs. It is through Black music that White America began the process of healing itself.

I didn’t think back in May of 2005 when I was generously quoted in Stanley Crouch’s piece entitled, “The Colossus,” which extolled the virtues of Master Rollins, that I would have to sit up here today and call out the same publication for attempting to besmirch his character. I hesitate to write…

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Horace Silver, 85

When I wrote them,” he said in a 2003 interview for the website All About Jazz, “I would say to myself that I hope these at least withstand the test of time. I hope they don’t sound old in 10 years or something.”

— Hoarce Silver on the longevity of his music via the New York Times.

full NYT obit here

One more time for Horace

Second Set

I LAST saw Jimmy Scott in person at the Jazz Bakery. It had to be about ten years ago. It wasn’t the first time, but many of us who had staked out a place in line and a good seat in the auditorium were worried, though we might not have voiced it, that it might be the last.

When the lights dimmed, Scott came out in his standard shiny lounge jacket, but also this time in what hadn’t before been a customary feature — an electric wheelchair. He hit is mark on the stage; the band counted down and and we were once again plunged into Scott’s own well-trodden vocal territory of love, longing, heartache and loss.

He might have appeared frail but his voice was anything but and his elegant hands swam before his face shaping and underscoring the lyrics story.

I had interviewed Scott a few years before this evening, as he sat propped up on a nest of pillows on his bed at the Culver Hotel reminiscing about his improbable career full of soaring highs, seemingly irrecoverable lows, dead-ends and sharp switchbacks — a career that in many ways was much like the haunting, other-worldly contours of his singular voice. He was still angry about some bad deals and shyster business practices and outcomes that had laced his career, but overall was grateful that he was still pulling audiences in, still on the road, still juggling offers and options.

That afternoon he told me: “This activity of ‘show business’ has practically been my life. Then,” he shrugs, “there are disgusting parts to think about. But, I’m glad too. Because you realize that … there might not be a second chance to recoup anything concerning your career. But fortunately, for me, that’s the joy. Being able to continue the work and still love it. It’s not a showoff thing for me. It’s a life that I have had to live.”

Scott died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88.

My full L.A. Times piece here.

My favorite Jimmy Scott.

(top image: Jimmy Scott from the documentary “Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew”)

some jazz appreciation

OF THE many Thelonious Monk quotes that get tossed around (and there are a plenty many), my favorite is his answer to the much-asked question “Where is Jazz going?”

Monk’s retort was quick and sharp: “Where’s jazz going? I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.”

I was reminded of this the other night at Walt Disney Concert Hall as a friend and I settled in into a nice aerie of seats above the stage for a concert featuring pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio and tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman fronting his quartet. Tables turned, I for once was the very happy “plus-one” this evening. redman

I had spent so much of my early jazz-listening days running around hoping I could hear the last of the masters play in person. I got to see many — Elvin Jones, Stan Getz, Max Roach. But there were so many I had missed, some by just a hair. It always hit hard when a name would float up in an obituary, another one down, another one gone. It was like chasing ghosts.

What I heard in Wednesday night’s show was sure evidence of the past and a promise for the future. Music 2012 Brad Mehldau Where Do You Start Two master musicians in the prime of their playing years showing not telling and, in the process, eloquently answering that question. Mehldau’s set was a study in flowing introspection — standards, originals and a props-nod to lesser-known players of the bebop/post-bop era (Case-in-point: You bet I went home and pulled out some Elmo Hope). Redman’s quartet came out swinging — literally: A solid, mood- shifting groove. The quartet went on to lay out a collage of tunes that were pulled both from the American Songbook (a crack-your-heart-wide-open interpretation of “Stardust” for one) and originals — late in the set Redman stared down one his own compositions “GJ”, which he introduced with this admission. “Well, I wrote it, now I’ve got to stick with it.”

And sewn within that tossed off remark, yet another promise.

Here’s that nod to Elmo Hope that sent me digging:

Jazz Appreciation month is off to a very good start …