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JazzTimes December 2018

Get JazzTimes digital magazine subscription today for in-depth coverage of the jazz scene. In addition to insightful profiles on jazz stars new and established, every issue contains reviews of the latest CDs, books and performances. This award-winning publication features lively writing, stunning photography and sophisticated design. Often controversial, always entertaining, JazzTimes is a favorite of musicians and fans alike.

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access_time2 Min.
tales of the unexpected

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The picture on this page is indeed of Ornette Coleman playing alto saxophone while sitting on a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Arthur Elgort took that photograph 30 years ago. (You can see more of his images of jazz musicians in the feature on pg. 42.) When I asked him about it recently, this is what he had to say: “I got along with Ornette, and people say, ‘That’s a miracle,’ because he could be difficult. He came to my studio [on Crosby Street in Manhattan] for a Rolling Stone shoot, I think. He had his son”—Denardo, also his drummer and manager—“with him the whole time and he’d ask his son, ‘Can I do this?’ and he’d say, ‘Yes, you can, it’s okay.’ So I had…

access_time5 Min.
frankly nelson

The genesis of My Way, Willie Nelson’s terrific new 11-track salute to Frank Sinatra, can be traced to Las Vegas circa 1978 when, so the story goes, impresario Steve Wynn introduced Sinatra to Stardust, Nelson’s landmark collection of standards. Wynn told Nelson and, according to Nelson’s longtime Nashville producer Buddy Cannon, “that’s how the connection began.” Nelson and Sinatra didn’t actually meet until 1984, sharing the bill at Sin City’s Golden Nugget. Remarkably, Sinatra was the opening act. “I thought, ‘That ain’t right,’” says Nelson, “but he was a great guy who didn’t mind opening or closing.” That same year, they united for a pair of TV spots supporting the NASA-linked Space Foundation. In one, a tuxedoed Sinatra playfully derides Nelson’s comparative informality. Pointing to his bandana, Sinatra sneers, “What do…

access_time4 Min.
above standard

It’s been just over a decade since Sachal Vasandani emerged as one of the most compelling singer/songwriters in postmillennial jazz. To date, his own compositions have always figured prominently in his recordings. Now, for the exquisite Shadow Train, his fifth release as a leader, he focuses exclusively on jazz and pop standards; the album’s 10 tracks extend from Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer to Bill Evans and the Gibb brothers. Key to the project’s sublimity is all-star accompaniment from pianist Taylor Eigsti (featured on Vasandani’s previous disc, the all-originals-but-one Slow Motion Miracles), bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Eric Harland, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, and guitarist Nir Felder. JazzTimes: What was your vision for the album? Sachal Vasandani: I wanted to celebrate community. There is a community aspect to this record that came about organically.…

access_time5 Min.
shaking up the past

On Sept. 30 at the New York Hot Jazz Festival, Michael Mwenso & the Shakes presented The Joint Is Jumpin’, a Fats Waller revue the group debuted in London last year. Wearing a black catsuit, Mwenso emceed, conducted, danced, and sang songs like Waller’s “Thief in the Night,” which he delivered with soulful inflection. Sometimes he engaged in chorale-like harmonizing with Vuyo Sotashe, who subverted the lyrics of “The Reefer Song (If You’re a Viper)” with his angelic tenor. Ruben Fox and Julian Lee uncorked booting tenor sax solos, while on “Handful of Keys” and “London Suite,” Mathis Picard juxtaposed Wallerian stride with Sun Ra-meets-Messiaen colors on a ramshackle upright and Roland Juno synth. Code-switching through a broad lexicon of social music with maximum commitment, minimal irony, and an attitude of…

access_time5 Min.
earning bill withers' songs

The singer José James’ self-assured eighth album, Lean on Me, a soulful tribute to Bill Withers released on the Blue Note label in late September, seems like a sure bet for a Grammy nomination, if not a win. It’s just a question of the category: jazz, R&B, pop … who knows? Like Withers himself, the album is beyond definition. Withers turns 80 next year, and James, 40, considers it his mission to make people remember the man who became an overnight success, had one hit song after another during the ’70s, and then gave it all up. On a rainy Saturday in August, James sat down backstage at the Newport Jazz Festival to talk about Withers and the challenges and rewards of getting the soon-to-be octogenarian’s music right. JazzTimes: Do you…

access_time3 Min.
back from the brink

There’s a moment at the beginning of “The Power Of,” the second track on drummer Sanah Kadoura’s debut album, Hawk Eyes, when the hip-hop-inflected beat begins to warp. About nine seconds in, her steady 16th-note hi-hat pattern slows down for just a hair, each stroke a bit more labored, and then speeds up again. It’s easy to miss—a subtle, four-second blip that brings to mind the stuttering grooves of J Dilla, now imitated by many jazz drummers. But in Kadoura’s case, the allusion wasn’t intentional. “There were times in the recording studio where my arms went numb,” Kadoura, 29, recalled matter-of-factly in an interview at her Yorkville apartment, where she lives with her cat, Malachi. That’s because, early last year, Kadoura suffered a traumatic head injury with unexpected side effects. Coming home…