Archive for March, 2008

Lyn Horton: Ratliff on a Roller-Coaster Ride

March 12th 2008

By Lyn Horton

Reading Ben Ratliff’s 200-page book, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, is close to being on a roller-coaster ride. The subject matter of John Coltrane alone has absorbed the energy of countless students. Yet Ratliff makes an effort to enter the mystery of how Coltrane generated his music. But, the author’s consciousness takes a vacation.

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Mike Zwerin: New Releases

March 12th 2008

By Mike Zwerin

Many people complain that jazz ain’t what it used to be, and it always gives me pleasure to disprove it.

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Larry Blumenfeld: Ritual Matters

March 10th 2008

Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs Stand
Spectacular, Tall, and Proud

Doing their part to keep New Orleans culture alive

by Larry Blumenfeld

“It’s amazing how much joy and hope these beads and feathers bring.”

The Sunday before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Donald Harrison Jr., Big Chief of the Congo Nation, son of Big Chief Donald Sr., lay on the living-room floor of his mother’s house in the Ninth Ward, cutting leopard-print fur in a pattern as he spoke. Nearby, a sofa and chair were covered with beads and rhinestones, along with ostrich and turkey feathers that had been dyed a golden yellow. Harrison was preparing to “mask,” to enact the city’s least-understood tradition, and these days, perhaps, its most essential: Mardi Gras Indian culture. These rituals, which date to at least the mid-1800s, are an African-American homage to the Native Americans who once sheltered runaway slaves and to the spirit of resistance.

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Larry Blumenfeld: To America, and Blue Note

March 5th 2008

By Larry Blumenfeld

If any music label’s identity is staked to that of American jazz, it is Blue Note Records. Beginning with its launch in 1939, and especially since the 1950s, Blue Note has chronicled jazz’s progression, while becoming an intrinsic element of the American musical landscape. The musical ferment of New York City from 1950-70 among a close-knit cadre of jazz players can be fairly well-depicted by a succession of the distinctive album covers designed by Reid Miles, often featuring iconic black-and-white photographs taken by Francis Wolff. The two men behind Blue Note’s formation, Alfred Lion and Wolff, were immigrants from Germany, a detail especially worth noting in light of the fact that, so far this year, the Blue Note banner has been waved most emphatically by two musicians born and raised outside the United States: pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, from Havana, Cuba; and guitarist Lionel Loueke, from Benin, Africa. Continue Reading »

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Lyn Horton: Tackling the Deepest Parts of Being

March 3rd 2008

By Lyn Horton

What does the jazz writer know about the creative experience? That is the first question that the writer must ask himself when attempting to write about music that is fashioned spontaneously, intuitively, from the heart, from the gut, from the spirit, from living…the struggles, the hardships, the joys and the love.
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