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Archive for December, 2008


Tuesday, December 30th, 2008



Freddie Hubbard


freddiehubbard1.jpg Courtesy photo

Freddie Hubbard’s 70th birthday last April at Anthology, San Diego
(Read the back-story at Will Blog for Food)


“At one point, in the late 1980’s especially, Freddie Hubbard did look a lot  like the young Louis Armstrong. ‘Is that reincarnation, or what?’ he once asked the KJAZ radio audience during a live broadcast interview from the Monterey Jazz Festival. Hubbard never struck me as having a self-esteem problem. A superb player, he had every right to feel good about his music. With his peerless chops, his brilliant sense of time, his fiery execution — urgent on up-tunes, passionate on ballads — he sometimes seemed to be holding back tears.  While he envied trumpeter Lee Morgan’s emotional sway on their instrument, Freddie Hubbard never forgot that he was a fierce technician, one of jazz’ baddest. The beauty he planted in listeners’ hearts can never be uprooted. Now it’s our turn to cry.” — Al Young


Go to the Associated Press original

Great jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard dies at 70

December 30, 2008


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose style influenced a generation of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died Monday, a month after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.

Hubbard died at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his manager, fellow trumpeter David Weiss of the New Jazz Composers Octet. Hubbard had been in the hospital since having a heart attack in November.

A towering figure in jazz circles, Hubbard played on hundreds of recordings in a career dating to 1958, the year he arrived in New York from his hometown Indianapolis, where he had studied at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music and with the Indianapolis Symphony.

Soon he had hooked up with such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and Coltrane.

Hubbard played on more than 300 recordings, including his own albums and those of scores of other artists. He won his Grammy in 1972 for best jazz performance by a group for the album First Light.

As a young musician, Hubbard was revered for a fiery, blazing style that allowed him to hit notes higher and faster than just about anyone else with a horn. As age and infirmity began to slow that style, he switched to a softer, melodic style and played a flugelhorn.

© 2008 John Rogers | Associated Press

Associated Press writers John Rogers and Charles J. Gans develop this story further at Salon.Com



A Freddie Hubbard Discography

Open Sesame (Blue Note 1960)
Goin’ Up (Blue Note 1960)
Hub Cap (Blue Note 1961)
with Willie Wilson Minor Mishap (Blue Note/Black Lion 1961)
Ready For Freddie (Blue Note 1961)
The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard (Impulse! 1962)
Hub-Tones (Blue Note 1962)
Here To Stay (Blue Note 1962)
The Body And Soul Of Freddie Hubbard (Impulse! 1963)
Breaking Point (Blue Note 1964)
Blue Spirits (Blue Note 1965)
The Night Of The Cookers – Live At Club La Marchal, Vol. 1 (Blue Note 1965)
The Night Of The Cookers – Live At Club La Marchal, Vol. 2 (Blue Note 1965)
Backlash (Atlantic 1967)
High Pressure Blues (Atlantic 1968)
The Black Angel (Atlantic 1969)
The Hub Of Hubbard (MPS 1970)
Red Clay (CTI 1970)
Straight Life (CTI 1970)
Sing Me A Song (Atlantic 1971)
First Light (CTI 1972)
Sky Dive (CTI 1973)
In Concert, Vol. 1 (CTI 1973)
In Concert, Vol. 2 (CTI 1973)
Keep Your Soul Together (CTI 1974)
Polar AC (CTI 1974)
High Energy (Columbia 1974)
Liquid Love (Columbia 1975)
Gleam (Sony 1975)
Windjammer (Columbia 1976)
Bundle Of Joy (Columbia 1977)
Super Blue (Columbia 1978)
Here To Stay 1961/1962 recordings (Blue Note 1979)
The Love Connection (Columbia 1979)
Skagly (Columbia 1980)
Live At The North Sea Jazz Festival (Pablo 1980)
Mistral (Liberty 1980)
Outpost (Enja 1981)
Splash (Fantasy 1981)
Rollin’ (MPS 1981)
Keystone Bop: Sunday Night (Prestige 1982)
Born To Be Blue (Pablo 1982)
with Oscar Peterson Face To Face (Pablo 1982)
Back To Birdland (Real Time 1983)
Sweet Return (Atlantic 1983)
with Woody Shaw Double Take (Blue Note 1985)
with Shaw The Eternal Triangle (Note 1987)
with Benny Golson Stardust (Denon 1987)
Life Flight (Blue Note 1987)
with Art Blakey Feel The Wind (Timeless 1988)
Times “Are Changin” (Blue Note 1989)
Topsy: Standard Book (Triloka 1990)
Bolivia (Music Masters 1991)
Live At Fat Tuesday’s (Music Masters 1992)
Live At The Warsaw Jazz Festival (Jazzmen 1992)
MMTC (Music Masters 1995)
Blues For Miles 1992 recording (Evidence 1996)
Above And Beyond 1982 recording (Metropolitan 1999)
New Colors (Hip Bop 2001)
with Jimmy Heath Jam Gems: Live At The Left Bank 1965 recording (Label M 2001)

The Best Of Freddie Hubbard 1970-73 recordings (Columbia 1990)
Ballads 1960-64 recordings (Blue Note 1997)


freddie-hubbard-keystone-1981.jpg Kathy Sloane

neato-blue-play I Remember Clifford

With Art Blakey and the All Star Jazz Messengers, 1984. (Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Walter Davis Jr, Buster Williams) Hub works up to and holds a spectacular high note at the end. It’s a must-see and a must-hear.

Discography ©



Saturday, December 27th, 2008



Eartha Kitt



black-gown-earth.jpg    early-eartha.jpg   Courtesy photos

Early Eartha Kitt | Two popular publicity photos from the 1950s



Eartha Kitt as cover girl for the Norwegian magazine Dameblad, 1957           



Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in the late 1960s


“We 13-year-olds at Hutchins Intermediate in Detroit didn’t really know what to make of Eartha Kitt, billed as a chanteuse, when she broke on the scene in the early 1950s with hit records like ‘Ç’est Si Bon,’ ‘I Want to Be Evil,’ or ‘Santa Baby.’ But we could imitate and sing right along with her, French and all, clueless nonetheless. We read all the gossip about how she was dating actor-director Orson Welles and running around Europe with him. We didn’t know what that meant, either. We knew Eartha must’ve been hip or cool since she was making headlines and hits. She could sing in French and Turkish, and she’d danced with Katherine Dunham. Clearly she was someone you followed. Years later I would come to love the story she tells in one of her memoirs about the London opening of New Faces of 1952, the Broadway review in which she steals the show with ‘Monotonous,’ songwriters Ronnie Graham and Arthur Siegel’s sensuous tribute to world-weariness. One of the lines goes: ‘T.S. Eliot writes books for me, / Sherman Billingsley cooks for me.’ In one of her memoirs Kitt discloses that Mr. Eliot himself (author of The Wasteland and The Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) turned up backstage after the show to present her with flowers. Still, for eleven years Eartha Kitt was blacklisted, as it were, for patriotic remarks she made to Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson at a White House dinner to which she’d been invited as an honored guest. I loved Ms. Kitt for her moral courage to speak the truth about the American war in Vietnam. ‘The thing that hurts, that became anger,’ she later told Essence magazine, ‘was when I realized that if you tell the truth — in a country that says you’re entitled to tell the truth — you get your face slapped and you get put out of work.’ Like most American originals — Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Buster Keaton, Mae West, Billie Holiday, Oprah, Madonna — Eartha Kitt was self-invented.  She came to attention in the heart of the McCarthy era, and died Christmas day on the crest of another wave of official repression. For decades Eartha Kitt brightened our dark, brutal, and increasingly loveless world with spirited movement, dance and song.”
— Al Young


Eartha Kitt: Singer and actress with a difficult reputation who was described as “the most exciting woman on earth” — Independent (UK)

Eartha Kitt, 1927-2008: The Original Material Girl  — Time.Com

Eartha Kitt, an appreciation — Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times





 Ç’est Si Bon (1962)

I Want to Be Evil (1962)





Thursday, December 25th, 2008



Go directly to Charles Limb and Allen Braun’s paper as it appeared in the journal Nature (18 December 2008)


Jazz Improvisation

and Brain Changes


piano-keys.jpg   brain.jpg


Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation

MRI Beebop

The inside of an MRI scanner may not have the ambience of a jazz club, but Charles Limb and Allen Braun of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, think it brings out the process of improvisation in unprecedented detail.They watched six professional jazz pianists first playing a scale on a specially created keyboard, and then improvising using only the notes from that scale. In a second experiment, the musicians followed a given melody exactly and then made up new trills and transitions around it. A pre-recorded quartet occasionally provided accompaniment.

When the musicians improvised, their brains showed greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortical area — a region associated with self-expression. Lateral prefrontal areas, which are linked to self-monitoring, became less active. These changes (pictured as warm and cool colours, respectively) may occur in all types of spontaneous creativity, Limb and Braun say.

  B.B. Hanan


Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation

” … Creativity is a quintessential feature of human behavior, but the neural substrates that give rise to it remain largely unidentified. Spontaneous artistic creativity is often considered one of the most mysterious forms of creative behavior, frequently described as occurring in an altered state of mind beyond conscious awareness or control while its neurophysiological basis remains obscure. Here we use functional neuroimaging methods to examine musical improvisation as a prototypical form of spontaneous creative behavior, with the assumption that the process is neither mysterious nor obscure, but is instead predicated on novel combinations of ordinary mental processes … ”
— Charles J. Limb, Allen R. Braun, from the introduction



brain-map.jpg   shooting_star1.gif

Brain map

 © 2008 Nature


In Memoriam | KENN COX

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Kenn Cox, pianist-composer


Kenn Cox at the Detroit Jazz Festival, 2007
C. Andrew Hovan

kenny-cox.jpg Courtesy photo

Kenn back when we knew him as “Kenny” Cox


Kenn Cox at piano, bassist Edwin Livingston, and poet Al Young in concert at California Institute of Arts, 2006. As a distinguished visiting jazz faculty member, Kenn taught summers at CalArts.
© Harris Hartsfield


“Not only was Kenn sensitive to poetry, he was sensitive to everything that went on all around him. To hear his takes on such subtle realities you had to listen to what he played and composed. It was my honor and pleasure to work and collaborate with him in his last years. I’ll never forget the his on-stage pianistic response to a poem passage I voiced one night. The audience, feeling Kenn’s power and the truth of his joy, broke into applause. Thankfully, the sound of that moment got recorded. At a well-attended poetry & jazz performance he shared with me and poet Geoffrey Jacques at Wayne State University in Detroit 2007, I watched him conquer a bad piano. ‘Oh, no, you don’t!’ he shouted at the wayward instrument. Comtemplative, earthy, playful and always alive — Kenn Cox’s spirit spread itself continuously. I suspect he cared about the world, his family and friends more than he cared for himself. He loved music in general; jazz in particular. At every opportunity, onstage or off, he readily expressed this love. Going all the way back to the soulful days and nights of his early albums on Blue Note, I knew Kenny Cox, for all his exploration and derring-do, would be a lifelong presence and friend. He listened and watched, thought and reflected, then played backwith passion and concern his precious findings.” — Al Young


Read the Detroit Free Press original

kenn-cox-mandi-wright-freep-2002.jpg © Mandi Wright  |  Detroit Free Press

Jazz Pianist Loyal to City

By Mark Stryker, Free Press music writer
December 23, 2008

Whenever you heard pianist and composer Kenn Cox perform, you not only got a dose of brilliant musicianship but were likely to get a lecture too. Fiercely proud of his heritage as a jazz musician and the contributions of his hometown of Detroit, Cox often would take a moment between songs to ruminate on the glory of a particular composer or musician or the vagaries of the jazz life.

“A lot of people have died for this music,” he said one night a few years ago at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. “That’s how much this music means to us.”

Cox, an icon of the Detroit jazz scene whose reputation as a musicians’ musician made him a cult favorite among jazz insiders everywhere, died of lung cancer Friday at his Detroit home. He was 68.

Though Cox spent most of his career in Detroit, he was known nationally for the two LPs he and his group of young Detroit firebrands recorded for Blue Note in 1968 and ’69, “Introducing Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet” and “Multidirection.” These were progressive albums, rooted in the abstract post-bop of the Miles Davis Quintet. They capture Cox’s fleet right hand, his gift for adventurous improvisation and sophisticated rhythmic interplay and a compositional aesthetic defined by zigzag melodies, strong bass lines and zephyr-like harmony.


INAUGURAL POETICS: Elizabeth Alexander

Monday, December 22nd, 2008


alexander-home-edit.jpg Courtesy photo

Elizabeth Alexander

Poet and Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander will deliver the official poem at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in Washington, DC, January 20, 2009. Since Robert Frost, who was John F. Kennedy’s inaugural poet, Alexander is only the fifth poet to be so honored.

spkr-icon.jpg Listen to Elizabeth Alexander’s conversation with Curtis Fox,  producer of The Poetry Foundation and NPR’s Poetry Off the Shelf. Among other topics, she mentions poets whom she herself might have picked to do the honor.


“Elizabeth Alexander may turn out to be the perfect inaugural poet. In spite of the stance she often takes in her poems, she is very much the ceremonial poet who artfully uses everyday speech and vernacular diction to conceal a vision of the world that is far more complex than the buy-and-sell viewpoint we’ll get from corporations and the mass media they control. At their best, Elizabeth’s poems are thoughtfully composed and usually brief. In my view, it is poetry itself, which has always belonged to the people, that will save us from the tyranny of received language; false language that business and politicians and governments use to deceive, cajole or just plain fool us over and over and over again. Without true poets, who do not swallow the poisonous shorthand of official-speak, a nation dies.” — Al Young



poetry-off-the-shelf.jpg Visit with a click



Yale poet prepares for inauguration

John Trimpane’s Philadelphia Inquirer article

Blues by Elizabeth Alexander

More poetry from Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander’s Home Page