Archive for May, 2006
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Miles Dewey Davis III was
born on this date in 1926 (80 years ago today). He was a Trumpet player
– Composer – Bandleader…one of the most innovative, influential, and
respected figures in the history of American Music.
Alton, Illinois, Davis was a leading figure in the bebop style of jazz
and in combining styles of jazz and rock music. Davis began music
lessons after receiving a trumpet on his 13th birthday from his father.
Two years later he joined the musicians' union and began playing with a
local band on weekends. About this time he met trumpeter Clark Terry,
who helped and encouraged him. In 1944, after graduating from high
school, he went to New York City to study classical music at the
Julliard School of Music. While there, he also began playing with alto
saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and other
pioneers of the new jazz style known as Bebop.
1945, at the age of 19, he began playing in a combo led by Parker.
Earning a contract with Capitol Records, the band went into the studio
in January 1949 for the first of three sessions that had a profound
influence on the development of the cool jazz style on the West Coast.
In February 1957, Capitol finally issued the tracks together on an LP
called Birth of the Cool. Davis, meanwhile, had moved on to co-leading
a band with pianist Tadd Dameron in 1949, but the trumpeter's progress
was impeded by an addiction to heroin that plagued him in the early
His performances and recordings became more haphazard,
but in January 1951 he began a long series of recordings for the
Prestige label that became his main recording outlet for the next
several years. He managed to kick his habit by the middle of the
decade, and he made a strong impression playing “Round Midnight” at the
Newport Jazz Festival in July 1955, a performance that led major label
Columbia Records to sign him. The prestigious contract allowed him to
put together a permanent band, and he organized a quintet featuring
saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers,
and drummer Philly Joe Jones that began recording his Columbia debut,
Round About Midnight, in October.
he had a remaining five albums on his Prestige contract, and over the
next year he was forced to alternate his Columbia sessions with
sessions for Prestige to fulfill this previous commitment. The latter
resulted in the Prestige albums The New Miles Davis Quintet, Cookin',
Workin', Relaxin', and Steamin', making Davis' first quintet one of his
better-documented outfits. In 1957, Davis teamed with arranger Gil
Evans for his second Columbia LP, Miles Ahead. Playing flugelhorn,
released in 1958, the album was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of
Fame, intended to honor recordings made before the Grammy Awards were
instituted in 1959. In December that year, Davis returned to Paris,
where he added saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to his group, creating
the Miles Davis Sextet, which recorded the album Milestones in 1958.
July, Davis again collaborated with Gil Evans and an orchestra on an
album of music from Porgy and Bess. Back in the sextet, Davis began to
experiment, basing his improvisations on scales rather than chord
changes. This led to his next band recording, Kind of Blue, in 1959, an
album that became a landmark in modern jazz and the most popular disc
of Davis' career, eventually selling over two million copies, a
phenomenal success for a jazz record (in fact, about 5,000 copies of
this masterpiece are sold in every week around the world). In sessions
held in November of that year and March 1960, Davis again followed his
pattern of alternating band releases and collaborations with Gil Evans,
recording Sketches of Spain, containing traditional Spanish music and
original compositions in that style. By the time He returned to the
studio to make his next band album in March 1961, Coltrane was guest on
a couple of tracks of the album, called Someday My Prince Will Come.
The Davis quintet’s next recording preceded the two-LP set Miles Davis
in Person (Friday & Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, San
the spring of 1963, Seven Steps to Heaven was recorded with an entirely
new lineup. The sessions included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony
Williams. It was another pop chart entry that earned Grammy nominations
for both Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Soloist or Small Group
and Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Large Group. By 1964, the
final member of the classic Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s was in
place with the addition of saxophonist Wayne Shorter to the team of
Davis, Carter, Hancock, and Williams. While continuing to play
standards in concert, this unit embarked on a series of albums of
original compositions, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and
Filles de Kilimanjaro.
Hancock, along with pianist Joe Zawinul and guitarist John McLaughlin,
participated on Davis' next album, In a Silent Way, 1969. With his next
album, Bitches Brew, Davis turned more overtly to a jazz-rock style. He
followed it with Miles Davis at Fillmore East, Jack Johnson, Live-Evil,
On the Corner, and In Concert all in 1971. Starting in October 1972,
when he broke his ankles in a car accident, Davis became less active in
the early 1970s, and in 1975 he gave up recording entirely due to
illness, undergoing surgery for hip replacement later in the year. Five
years passed before he returned to action by recording The Man With the
Horn in 1980 and going back to touring in 1981. By now, he was an elder
statesman of Jazz.
Those who supported his eclectic approach
had incorporated jazz, and his innovations into the music, at least. He
was also a celebrity whose appeal extended far beyond the basic jazz
audience. In 1990 Davis performed a leading role as a jazz musician in
the Australian motion picture Dingo 1991. His album Doo-Bop 1999,
released the year after his death, was one of the first to fuse jazz
with the hip-hop and rap music styles.
buried at Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx, New York (right across the
road from Duke Ellington – not far from Illinois Jacquet & Jackie
McLean). His influence in American Music History is unparalleled – may
he rest in Peace.
Miles…enjoy the Beauty & Passion of this creative genius. Read
about his life/music (numerous books are available).
though you may be Kind of Blue..Summertime is just a few days away. The
Flamingo Sketches of life permeate the Solar spectrum, as we leave
temporary Footprints…So Near So Far !
“Live with the Jazzcat“
Hello all, this is LeRoy Downs and each week I will broadcast a live 15 minute segment every Tuesday at 5:15 PM PST on KRMLradio.com and 1410 AM KRML radio in beautiful Carmel California.
Hamada ,who is a director at KRML Jazz and Blues station, has taken me
on to do a weekly segment that I am sure your are going to enjoy! He
has one hour show Monday thru Friday called
“For Locals Only“.
On each Tuesday of the month @ 5:15 for about 15 to 20 minutes, Gary will turn it over to me for a segment of
“Live with The Jazzcat“
Each week there will be an interview of someone special and wonderful in this beautiful art form we call jazz.
I will see you there!
Click here for all archived Interviews
Much surrounds the name Taylor Eigsti. I heard the name but did not know the music. We met after a performance of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble and the Joshua Redman Trio at USC’s Bovard auditorium. Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, who had been playing with Joshua introduced us and gave many accolades to this young cat who they said was putting it down nice! Now when two stellar performers give propositions to the new kid on the block, this is to be taken seriously.
Suddenly everywhere I look, I see and hear people speak of Taylor Eigsti. So, as you can imagine I was pretty hyped for this performance at the Catalina Bar and Grill here in Los Angeles. I generally don’t believe the hype but, it was evident from the first notes played, this cat is in the game.
Big wheels and marketing machines get behind so many young players that have the looks, talent and marketing charisma to make them turn. They pump the public with over inflated ideas creating the smoke. Well, Taylor plays with such a fire, that when you look across the city skies, there is no doubt that the smoke is black and the house is coming down!
It is a Monday night here at Catalina’s. Usually not a popular night for music in general, but tonight, the seats are filled not only with music lovers, but with those who play, promote and write about the music as well. John Clayton, Harish Raghavan., Jerry Ough, Concord Records, Bo Liebowitz, Mary Anne Topper and even Scott Willis from 88.1 KKJZ came out to see the new born king! Whenever you see Mary Anne Topper in the house, that usually means that there is an air of success surrounding some young jazz talent in the mix. I have not been wrong yet.
Taylor took “Giant Steps” and won the race. The next heat was, “Caravan” and team Eighsti once again concluded victoriously! The emotion and mystery of “Darn That Dream” leaves you vacillating between a world of reality and one where hedonism is on and in full abundance! “Woke up This Morning” is the theme song for the popular HBO television show, “The Sopranos”. The element of funk is added to the mix taking what is familiar and abstracting it into alternate communications. Each one of these players has such a vast array of notes to choose from at any given moment that you can bet with 100% accuracy the outcome of your listening experience.
The textures are rich and layered. Taylor switches from piano to synthesizer to add even more flavor to an already splendid dish. He duos with guitar player Julian Lage and each performer relishes in each others sweet notes. Dark chords, lightning rhythm, thunderous bass and drums reign with beats and certainly provide the occasion to dance for the freedom in the jazz!
Fun and joy are also a part of this experience. These guys enjoy playing with each other because their union allows them to find out more about themselves in the music. Even though big wheels keep on turnin’, you will find that Taylor and his band are some of the coolest, most humble, respectful and appreciative musicians on the planet. Doors, eyes, ears and wallets will continue to open.
“Lucky to be Me” is the title of the disc but, there is no luck behind the talent of Taylor Eigsti and his band, only hard work, dedication, reward and much success.
LeRoy Downs will be live on the air
with the rich resonation of humility, soul and spirit
Coming Tuesday May 23, 2006 at 5:15 Pm PST on
Click picture to listen live online!
“Monterey Bay's Jazz and Blues station in Carmel California”
His music takes
you to that place inside yourself and speaks calmly to your conscious
intoxicating it with romanticism, love and the richest color blue!
live on KRMLradio.com or on
1410AM KRML radio in Carmel California
Click on picture above to listen to the interview
We all love specialties. Whenever anyone has taken the time
to pick the right gift for you or when you shop for groceries, you make sure
that the fruit and vegetables are perfect to suit you and that the ingredients
for your cake are only of the finest quality. If Oprah says read this book then
what do you do? You read that book! I think that when Herbie Hancock, Wayne
Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron and Ron Carter go shopping for sound,
there is no question that they only come home with the best! Well, these
gentlemen were presented with a wide assortment students and hand picked the
very best. On drums, Zack Harmon, on bass Joe Sanders, on piano Roman Collin,
on vibes Chris Dingman, on tenor saxophone Walter Smith III, on trumpet Ambrose
Akinmusire and on alto, Tim Green. These are the players that comprise the 2006
Thelonious Monk Institute of Performance Jazz Ensemble.
Daniel Seeff is the West Coast director of the Monk Institute and he does an excellent job at making the organization run flawlessly. He is a cat that has always had his pulse on the new generation of the music and always hips me to the new players to watch out for. These are the formative years for many of these musicians. The Monk Institute is like a springboard of success into the deep waters creative future straight ahead enlightenment.
When I used to work overnight at 88.1 fm KLON, I recall
playing much music from a label called Criss Cross Jazz. This performance in
some way reminds me of the label because they take the best of young talent and
produce some killin’ music letting all of the cats display their wares. These
players not only write their own compositions but, approach the standards like
creative music mechanics. With a fine tuned engine, they cognitively
disassemble and reconstruct it in ingenious ways to make it run smoother, more
efficient and emission free!
This is the last performance here at the USC Jazz Festival
and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble is kicking some
first act ass! Quite frequently people speak of the future of the music. Well,
under the tutelage and hand picked by
the Lords of the Jazz Universe, these young cats will etch their own groove in
the “Sphere” of the music.
“College kids” I heard someone say. In a sense, yes but,
these brilliant shinning lights have literally already traveled the world
performing and their presentation, delivery and sound is indeed quite compelling.
Their pitch “Speaks no evil” and their ‘Inventions and Dimensions” start
“Takin’ Off “as they take no “Prisoners” on the “Maiden Voyage” to “Empyrean
Isles”. “My Point of View” is that if you listen closely, you will hear the
influence of the masters as they “Speak Like a Child” but play like men! The receptive audience feels, agrees and rewards them
Jazz musicians are cooler than a bad word. Their style,
poise, flare and confident demeanor almost ensure that the music is going to be
extraordinary. Even though these young players are all around 25 or 26, these
essential characteristics of a jazz musician are in tact and their power is
obviously felt in the music.
Walter Smith III introduces all of the players in the band
before they play their last tune. He makes the audience laugh with his
references to the visual similarities between him and Joshua Redman. But, just
like Herbie, Wayne, Blakey, McCoy, Trane and a host of others were our heroes
of the past, new heroes have emerged. Cats like Joshua, Christian, Roy, Nicholas, Branford
and the like have done and are doing their thing. Now, there is a new breed
that is about to be unleashed on the world. You never know who is watching,
listening, learning and who will be the next to be inspired to be the
superstars of their generation! The re-birth of jazz music will last forever.
Photos by Acel Troutman and Richard Jackson
Well, it was not quite Round Midnight technically but, if there is a piano and Dave Chapelle is in the house, it might as well be. See Dave, being the funny, humble, cool cat that he is loves him some Monk! He may love the soul, the funk and the hardcore rap but, the well diversified gentleman can get down on some JAdoubleZ as well
I was at the Westin LAX hotel, where I am every Wednsday evening from 6pm to 10, as Master of Ceremonies for the jazz performances produced by Merle Kriebich.and In-House Music. As I arrived, I discovered that there were film cameras set up in the VIP section of the lobby. Knowing that the volume of the jazz and the taping may conflict, I went over to avoid any problems before they happened. There was a small camera crew there and a woman host for BET interviewing Dave Chapelle. I spoke with one of the cameramen, who I just happen to go to college with, and he told me they were just about to take a break.
During that break Dave, just as cool as can be, just strolled around the lobby and spoke with everyone who came up to him. He did not have a crew, he did not have a posse, not a million crazy women following, no executive types on cell phones and wireless headsets, no publicist, just Dave. You have to admire that someone of his stature can chill and be just as normal as the rest of us.
The trio set was just about to end and I saw Dave checking out the band. I had the microphone in my hand and I said to him, “If you want to Rock the Crowd, the mic is all yours”. He thought about it but, decided not to turn the place on its heels with laughter.
As the band finished its last tune and I closed them out, Dave did migrate over to the piano. He sat down and started playing around with Thelonious Monk's “Round Midnight”. I said to the audience, “Does anyone here want to see Dave Chapelle play Monk?” They all cheered and Dave proceeded to work it out. The bass player and drummer from the band got back on their instruments to provide the foundation. Now, Monk's music is no easy walk in the park and Dave is not an accomplished musician but, he can get through a few verses like a pro!
I saw Dave Chapelles House party (the Movie for those of you who don't know) and in it, one of the cats said that Dave has dedicated his life to learning that song. I am all for any brotha who loves some Monk! So, if you see Dave Chapelle and there is a piano around, ask him to get down for you. He is a really nice down to earth cat I am sure that he would not mind!