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JazzTimes April 2019

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[jt] notes

Of the many trenchant quotes in this issue of JazzTimes, one in particular from bassist Jaribu Shahid sticks out for me. You can find it in Shaun Brady’s story on the Art Ensemble of Chicago, a group Shahid has been playing with since its original bass player, Malachi Favors, passed in 2004. “How long does it take to decide something is traditional?” he asks. “We’re talking about the 50th year, and jazz isn’t much more than 100 years old entirely.” Shahid is referring to the Art Ensemble, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019—or at least its 50th anniversary of being called the Art Ensemble of Chicago (that name was adopted, interestingly enough, while the band was residing in Paris, but you’ll have to read the story for more on that).…

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young but yearly growing

The 15th annual Winter Jazzfest in New York opened on Friday, Jan. 4 at Le Poisson Rouge with “Thing Called Life: Prince Reimagined,” a concert by the festival’s artist-in-residence Meshell Ndegeocello. It was a risky move, for it recalled the bad old days when the Kool Jazz Festival toured the nation with such headliners as Gladys Knight, War, and Roberta Flack—fine artists but not true jazz acts. Much like George Gershwin and Frank Sinatra, Prince and Ndegeocello aren’t true jazz acts either, but they have real connections to our music—both as absorbers and influencers—and this kickoff show successfully opened a window on the back-and-forth borrowing between the two spheres. Ndegeocello was a smart choice to illustrate this dynamic. The Washington-raised, Brooklyn-based R&B singer is a virtuoso bassist and an open-minded arranger…

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the eclectic mr. klein

Four-time Grammy winner Larry Klein was only in his mid-teens when he had his first epiphany as an aspiring jazz bassist, thanks to the 1968 album Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. No doubt, other budding young musicians at the time were similarly inspired by the near-telepathic musical conversations between Evans, rising bass ace Eddie Gómez, and fresh-faced drum dynamo Jack DeJohnette. But Southern California native Klein is surely the only one who, while still underage, was introduced by his bass teacher to Gómez—and subsequently hung out with the Evans trio several times a year at the 21-and-up Playboy Club in Los Angeles. “Somehow my teacher worked it out with Eddie and I went to pretty much every show the trio played there,” remembers Klein, now one of the most…

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sweet miracle of life

Michael Wolff survived a harrowing health scare. The experience led him to seek the creation of beauty. The jazz pianist/composer says that in 2013 he was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma that was treatable but not curable. “At that point, they weren’t even going to treat me,” he remembers, “because I wasn’t sick, I just had a few little symptoms. The doctors told me, ‘We’re going to wait until you get sick. We don’t treat this ahead of time. It doesn’t pay.’” We’re sitting in a bistro in New York’s Greenwich Village, and Wolff, 66, is recounting his terrifying ordeal. He tells me his health began to deteriorate about nine months to a year later. “They started to treat me with chemotherapy,” he says. “And on paper it looked like I…

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into the luminous

Born to a Kansas City musical family, upright bassist Joe Martin often sees his music career through a familial lens. His third and latest album, Étoilée, was named for his young daughter. “Étoilée was also my [Parisian-born] wife’s grandmother’s name,” Martin explains. “The word literally means starry or luminous. I have more of a personal, abstract take on it. I felt the connection of my immediate family—my children, but also my family roots, my parents and my grandparents—it all connects in a way.” Martin also acknowledges the family represented on his latest Sunnyside release: Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Kevin Hays, piano; and Nasheet Waits, drums. “I have musical and personal relationships with these guys dating back many years,” he says. “Sometimes it’s about combinations of elements. Mark is very good at getting…

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a passage to indie

Like many teens who came of age in the 1990s, Adam Hopkins fell under the spell of indie rock bands like Pavement, the Dismemberment Plan, and Nirvana. Before long he picked up the bass guitar and started a band called Mr. Belvedere with his brother. Getting gigs in his hometown of Baltimore became easy when their drummer convinced his mother to let him open up an all-ages venue called the Small Intestine. “It was a pretty fertile development period where we were writing music and playing,” Hopkins says. By his senior year, Hopkins had begun playing upright bass in his high-school jazz band. That’s when he heard Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life, featuring Jaco Pastorius. From there he immersed himself deeper in jazz, which felt far removed from the music he’d…