Whenever there is a sold out jazz performance, you know you are in right place and here at The Redcat tonight, we are all truly blessed as we wait here in silence for the presence of the great Charlie Haden. The re-interpretation of the Liberation Jazz Orchestra, original music fueled by politics and passion and arranged with such graceful distinction brings back days of old as the sign of the times reins again!
Charlie and his orchestra, students from Cal Arts, take the stage as we stand and salute with generous applause. Charlie has always been a part of and engaged in the freedom of the music, freedom in the form of the music but also, freedom in reference to the souls of people and their rights as human beings. Weather it’s the Spanish War, the Vietnam Way, Apartheid or American relations with Central America, the music represents views, as Beyonce would say, “To the left, to the left”! Freedom, equality and the extraordinary intensity of rhythm and brass will all come together to express the sentiments of power that belongs to the people!
The stage is filled with Cal Arts students and as they tune for sound, we wait in the nostalgic anticipation for the Carla Bley arrangements that moved us so and made us feel closer to the struggle. Charlie has been doing the jazz studies at Cal Arts since 1982 and his humor has not vanished but is tactfully present, as we get ready for the music explosion. He says that in 2013 that there are so many young people who still come out to play this music. He stresses the importance to make this world a better place and music is the one common denominator that spans the lines of color, race, religion, creed which slips past rhyme and resonates directly with reason.
He wants you to look at all of the beauty around and concentrate on that. He grew up in a racist place and has always paid attention to the wills and ills of society. As a child Charlie had polio an in recent years his post polio syndrome reappeared. We don’t know why things happen as they do but Charlie appreciates the miracle of life, music and his family even more. His wife is in the front row helping and supporting her husband and she steps up to do the introductions. Out of respect for the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and his legacy, they performed “Dream Keeper”, the title track of the album dedicated to the strife and struggles of South Africa as well as El Salvador.
Carla Bley has done all of the arrangements. Charlie’s wife introduces the entire set and we sit in silence as Charlie speaks about all of the pain suffering and wrongdoings in the world.
America the Beautiful, what does that really mean and has this country ever lived up to that. The musicians go from solemn dirge and drop right down into the crust of rich density.Young cats, old souls, the sound is more than compelling, it really shows that this next generation has something really special in store for us.
“Not in Our Name” – President Bush had just attacked someone and Charlie saw these banners hanging off of these balconies and he thought that the slogan would be a fitting title for the album. When you listen to the band play, there are times when you feel the richness and others when the music is too clean, but all in all there is heart and compassion. These students did not live the experience and probably only reference these times in history through books and the stories of the elders. You feel their attempt at recreation through the music as they all keep a sharp eye on their teacher and masterful bandleader, a life and a lifetime of a man who paid attention to the world in all of its not so glorious times. There is honor love and respect amongst every human here tonight witnessing the music and reflecting on the life of brother Haden, who took his stand and offered a musical opposition to social injustices and inequalities.
Carla Bley has been a friend since 1957 was the cigarette girl at Birdland back in the day and she also agreed with Charlie’s politics, which made their collaboration a successful passionate endeavor. Charlie told bartender jokes about ducks, grapes and nails. His delivery and agility have changed drastically over the years as he looks at his wife for the punch line, but the spirit, love and humor are so special, especially at this very moment on this stage, making us just adore him much, much more.
The band is very careful in its respect for and approach of the music, more technique and timing than liberation however, they are here with Charlie and in the game, so important with the focus on over marginalization of the music in the industry these days. These experiences will challenge their minds and hopefully teach them to reach deep inside and beyond the norm for truth in the music and in themselves. Honesty is a key ingredient in spectrum of intelligent, creative sonic vibrancy.
Charlie remembers back to one year at the New Orleans Jazz Festival where Lawrence Marable is onstage listening to his bass solo and shouts, “tell your story Charlie” and shouts, “shut up”. Charlie certainly has many stories to tell and the smile on his face knows that there isn’t enough time to tell them all.
These are song medleys that mix in American classics with original structured Improvisations.
The most spectacular moment of the evening happened when a few of the musicians ask Charlie if he was going to pick up the bass lying at his feet and the rest of the musicians cheered on! For most of the evening, Charlie had conducted the orchestra but now, we were going to hear him play!
They stood up the bass for Charlie and he talked about this tune he played with Bill Evans. It reminds him of friend and fellow bass player Scott Lafaro. They were very close. He said he was going to stop playing music because people did not really understand what they were doing. Charlie said “We have to continue to show the people the beauty”.
As the bass was stood up and placed in Charlie’s arms he gazed as he took it close and caressed its body. It was a familiar dance with an old lover who gave us the impression that it had been some time since they had seen each other. As they embraced and took position before the beauty of the music began, with his back to the audience, Charlie turned around and said, “Fuck Polio”.
We cheered with applause and as the “Blue and Green” chords of the piano gently struck the strings there was silence and the two lovers started to dance. The resonation of that solo penetrated everyone to their core. The pianist started to come back in but Charlie signaled to lay out as he continued the deeply felt beautiful vibrations that ascended a spirit much more than mere music. There was an entire life cerebrally swirling in those improvisations and we were there for the story, we were intoxicated by it, inebriated. A solo that said so much in such a short span of time. A reminder of us all to say what is in our hearts during this short span that we exist here, make the dash count!
As he closed, Charlie spoke of his good friend Jim Hall who had just passed away. “Can’t understand why life takes beautiful people away. Beautiful people give of themselves.” He pauses and starts to reminisce of the playfulness of his dog Jackson. You can tell that there is so much that he wants to say and these brief moments that we spend together don’t allow us to get it all out. If there was any message or theme for the evening, the key word would be, “Beauty” and to spread as much of it as you can while we can.
LeRoy Downs – P.S. click on my picture and watch a video of a poem I wrote for Charlie!!!
The World Stage Kwanzaa Music Festival
December 26 – December 30, 2013
The World Stage Performance Gallery
4344 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90008
The World Stage Kwanzaa Music Festival is a celebration of culture, an engagement of community, and an opportunity to raise funds to continue the operation of The World Stage Performance Gallery. The World Stage calls on its friends, patrons and supporters to contribute resources to the success of the festival.
The World Stage Kwanzaa Music Festival originated with an observation that Leimert Park is largely uneventful in the evenings during the period of Kwanzaa (Click here for more information about Kwanzaa), and music lovers, though available, have few artistic options during this period. In 2012 Dwight Trible held a successful concert at The World Stage during this period. This success and the opportunity to raise funds for The World Stage germinated The World Stage Kwanzaa Music Festival.
The original “brainstorm” for the Kwanzaa Music Festival (KMF) envisioned a festival that raised awareness for The World Stage, raised funding for The World Stage, and offered engaging artistry for the consumption of music lovers and supporters of The World Stage. Activities are envisioned not only inside The World Stage, but outside as well. The festival plans to engage merchants of the arts as well as food vendors to participate in the festival. In order to raise awareness regarding the needs and benefits of The World Stage, the festival seeks to attract far more supporters and patrons than can fit inside The World Stage. This will be done largely through social media in which all the artists are being asked to engage.
The World Stage plans to ask supporting artists to provide 1 set of music without cost to The Stage. At $15 per admission The World Stage has the opportunity to bring in up to $6,000; enough to cover rent for close to 5 months.
The World Stage Kwanzaa Music Festival will include entertainment in the street outside The World Stage prior to the music sets inside The World Stage. Councilman Herb Wesson’s office has already approved use of the street areas including the alley way between The World Stage building and the cleaners on the corner of 43rd and Degnan. Festival organizers have secured the participation of some art vendors and will seek food trucks to provide support during the festival. Organizers have also reached out the building owner to request the spaces next to TWS be made available as overflow or reception areas during the event.
Click Picture to hear an interview with Chico Hamilton and LeRoy Downs
“Live with the Jazzcat“
Rest in Peace “Cheeks” our dear brother and friend Chico Hamilton
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.
Gary 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.
The roots, the blues, the earth, the soil, the motherland, the music and the history all are one. Whether you realize it or not, these elements are in the strands of your DNA and as you search deep into the double helix, you will discover the answers become quite clear. The question of rhythm, soul and the vibrations that resonate, automatically firing the synapses of movement, feelings and some deep sense of understanding comes from an intrinsic path that connects you to your ancestors.
As the earth rotates through time and new generations of jazz music continues to intrigue, the origin remains constant and the hues of blues from dues become more relevantly profound in the discovery of the one; that one referring to oneself as we grow and ponder why jazz music and the blues have such as significant meaning in our lives.
Randy Weston has asked the question, what is music, where do I come from and were my ancestors like me? One way to learn is through various books that talk about the motherland, the other is to actually go, live amongst the people, hear the drum beat on its soil of origin and physically, psychologically and intrinsically connect the notes that make up your symphony. In the quest for truth, answers and self-preservation of musical integrity, Randy returns from Mecca with knowledge that he disseminates through the ivory and onyx. “The ancestors were in touch with themselves and the universe; the music is the voice of the Creators”.
Click Picture of Randy above to listen to him talk about the music and Mother Africa
The statements are clear and concise with plenty of silence and space to support his-story. Randy has spent a lifetime moving forward yet going back to touch and feel the roots of the flowers, the trees and the branches of knowledge. Wisdom lies in the past and it takes those with inquisitive minds to search and find what’s behind door number 1.
Behind it is a mirror. You find yourself staring at a road and a journey that leads to your own enlightenment. Discovery is what music is all about, 360 degrees of vibrations that resonate within. When you go back to the root, there is the familiar fragrance and the more we learn, the more we become whole and the greater the wisdom to share with others.
Randy loves the elephant and the rhythm that it walks with, Mother Africa, the land and the place where all of these great species emanate from. The Blues, either you do or you don’t, either you will or you won’t, but the sonic translation has you feeling that the music is a part of you. As you go back to touch upon the root of the blues, you encompass the spirit, religion, humanity and the mirror.
Ruth Price and the Jazz Bakery once again responsible for making sure Los Angeles continues to be inundated with great performances by the giants in the world of Jazz. Tonight the music takes its time to speak as blues often do. If you did not hear it, it will be repeated. “Music is mysterious, and it is part of Mother Nature which does not stand still, it’s always changing”. That is why after all these years; Randy is still so excited to play it.
“Hi Fly”, a composition where the familiar melody has us dancing in the memory of our minds eye. A motion and emotion picture, that finds us young, smiling as we glide on the yesteryears of love! Coleman Hawkins was on of Randy’s favorites and he loves the sound of the Texas tenor! Billy Harper and Randy got together back in the late 70’s and did a duo performance together. Randy nostalgically remembers how wonderful that was and this has been their first opportunity since then to come together and explore the Blues once again. They perform, “The Healers”, “Blues to Africa”, “Hi-Fly”, “Body and Soul” and “Berkshire Blues”. They each perform solo compositions; on by Billy Harper entitled, “The Art of the Tenor Saxophone” and Randy does, “Little Niles”. Saturated in the Blues, there is a calling, a yearning and the space allows you to hear the music and not just listen.
The blues is a conversation, sometimes with someone else, sometimes with yourself but, the joy always supersedes the pain! These two gentlemen have a way of speaking that makes it sound like it is you who is telling the story and whose emotions are the pallet by which the sound splashes the canvas.
Randy and Billy end the night with “Blue Voices”, a piece based on conversations with the Ghanaian people. The usual suspects come together to fill the audience with love out of respect for a Great Master of the Music, Mr. Randy Weston and Mr. Billy Harper!
This Saturday November 23rd
New York’s Subculture
45 Bleecker Street, Downstairs
New York, NY 10012
Vibraphonist Chris Dingman rounds up a casts of creative improvisors to present new original music, “The Subliminal and the Sublime” Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the new creative works of Chris Dingman THIS Weekend in NYC!!!
Loren Stillman on saxophone, Fabian Almazan on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Justin Brown on drums and special guest Ryan Ferreira on guitar!
This evening’s performance marks the NYC premiere of Dingman’s latest composition suite, “The Subliminal and the Sublime,” the highly anticipated follow-up to his critically acclaimed Waking Dreams.
Commissioned by Chamber Music America, “The Subliminal and the Sublime” is a suite of transcendent beauty, with gorgeous layers of sound and thrilling twists and turns. Featuring a top-notch band of musical visionaries, this is an evening of music not to be missed.
Click Charles for interview
LeRoy Downs speaks with the Great Master
on Sounds and Colors!
November 15th @ 8pm
Click above for Tickets
Sounds and Colors Arts Report
click picture below
Charles Lloyd Bill Frisell
Don’t Miss Master of the Music Charles Lloyd featuring Bill Frisell
Click Picture of Charles Below for the full interview
This event is an invite only event but, there will be a special showing Open to the public on Saturday November 9th from 12-2pm! Don’t miss it!
LeRoy Downs joins Eddie Becton on “The Jazz Journey” 88.9 FM KXLU out of Loyola Marymount University on Sunday November 10th at 7pm!!!
LeRoy Downs is the Jazz Curator for the Steven James Buchanan Jazz Collection which is held at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, one of the leading collections of African American art, media and literature in Los Angeles and the United States.
I will be on the air with the Eddie and the board member of the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum Dexter Blackman. We will be featuring music from the collection and Dexter will be discussing some of the upcoming programs and events happening at the Library.
Sure to be a fantastic show! Steven Buchanan kept an immaculate library of over 5000 Albums and 6000 CD’s and only select the premium choices when he purchased music all through his lifetime. I will do my best to select some rare cuts!
Look forward to seeing you then!
Peace and Love