There has to be a connection between tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (On The Cover) being born so close to Valentine's Day and his legendary way with ballads. Fun fact: February is also the month he recorded "Groovin' High" and "Blue 'n' Boogie" as part of Dizzy Gillespie's Sextet of 1945. Pianist George Cables, who worked with Gordon regularly in the late '70s, will fête his former boss as leader of the Dexter Gordon Legacy Ensemble with four nights at Dizzy's Club. Kenny Washington (Interview) was born on what is now World Digestive Health Day (May 29th) and his rock-solid drumming certainly makes the many projects of which he is part go down nice and smooth. He co-leads "New Drum Battle" with fellow drummer Joe Farnsworth at Smoke. And Russ Lossing (Artist Feature) celebrates his own February birthday with a week of curatorship at The Stone, featuring the pianist in projects ranging from his latest solo release Eclipse to various duos, trios and quartets.
We hope our other features will warm you up in what is the city's coldest month: saxophonists Alan Braufman (Encore) and Art Pepper (Lest We Forget), Denmark's Barefoot (Label Spotlight) and festivals from two Winter Jazzfests—Köln, Germany and right here at home. And it is our sad honor to present an In Memoriam spread on legendary pianist Paul Bley.
On the Cover: DEXTER GORDON
By Alex Henderson; photos by Francis Wolff/Courtesy of Mosaic Records
Dexter Gordon went down in jazz history as one of its most influential tenor saxophonists. Some giants came before him but most tenor saxophonists who emerged after the mid '40s were influenced by him in some way, from Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane to Jimmy Heath, Gene Ammons, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin. Although 26 years have passed since Gordon's death at 67 on Apr. 25th, 1990, his influence hasn't waned: one hears echoes in everyone from Joe Lovano to Eric Alexander to Joshua Redman. And in 2016, Gordon's contributions are being remembered with a variety of activities from the Dexter Gordon Society (DGS) and New York City-based Dexter Gordon Legacy Ensemble (DGLE). The Dexter Gordon Legacy Ensemble is at Dizzy's Club Feb. 25th-28th.
Interview: KENNY WASHINGTON
By Anders Griffen; photo by Johan Broberg
Kenny Washington is a representative of the legacy of bebop and hardbop. Appearing on over 250 albums, he is one of the greatest straightahead drummers of the last 40 years. Washington has accompanied many of the masters, including Lee Konitz, Johnny Griffin, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Benny Carter and too many other greats to name. He is especially well known for supporting trios led by pianists such as Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Mike LeDonne, George Cables, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Charlap and many more. A native New Yorker, Washington studied with Rudy Collins and attended the LaGuardia High School for Music and Art. He is also an avid listener and historian, bringing his knowledge to a new generation as a private instructor and educator at Juilliard and SUNY-Purchase College. Washington is at Smoke Feb. 19th as part of The New Drum Battle.
Artist Feature: RUSS LOSSING
By John Pietaro; photo by Antonio Porcar
When asked about his rather singular musical approach, Russ Lossing doesn't speak in terms of origins or influences but rather about finding himself within the sea of inspiration. "I have a very broad background: classical piano, 20th century music, free improvisation and the full jazz canon. Plus I spent some years playing rock and funk gigs on the road, so I carry it all with me when I sit down to play." Among contemporary jazz pianists, during a time in which so-called 'legit' pedigrees are increasingly common, Lossing's darting fingers, sparkling technique, wide-spaced chords and angular harmonic conception maintain a unique voice, one born of a special blend. It's all in the risk-taking. Lossing curates and appears at The Stone Feb. 23rd-28th.
Encore: ALAN BRAUFMAN
By Clifford Allen
From an historical perspective, it's inevitable that some of our most intriguing windows into far corners of the creative world are ever-so-slightly cracked, and to some, may appear nondescript and hidden. Take, for example, the music of alto saxophonist and flutist Alan Braufman, who recorded one LP as a leader in 1974 (with bassist Cecil McBee, drummer David Lee Jr. and multi-instrumentalists Cooper-Moore [Gene Ashton] and Ralph Williams) for India Navigation and a smattering of rare sideman dates, as well as a couple of nearly invisible CDs under the name "Alan Michael" in the '90s. A thick-toned and technically robust player, who would have fit in well alongside such well-regarded alto firebrands as Jackie McLean and Gary Bartz in the '70s, Braufman has remained certifiably obscure despite his connection to a number of disparate players and now-vaunted communities.
Lest We Forget: ART PEPPER
By Matthew Kassel
Alto saxophonist Art Pepper thought very highly of his own playing. In 1977, he told New York Times music critic John S. Wilson that he considered himself the best jazz saxophonist in the world, squaring out that holy trinity of Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. "I've felt that way all my life," he boasted. "I've never doubted it." He may have been right: Pepper was highly influential in his day. A featured soloist in Stan Kenton's orchestra, he finished second only to Parker in a 1952 DownBeat readers poll and was a handsome, stylish arbiter of West Coast cool. (He rarely made New York appearances and spent his life in California.) But it's hard to find much evidence of his impact in today's jazz circles. An Art Pepper Tribute is at The West End Lounge Feb. 21st, featuring Dmitry Baevsky and Mike DiRubbo.
Record Label Spotlight: BAREFOOT
By Ken Waxman
Cinema had The Magnificent Seven, gunfighters who banded together to protect beleaguered villagers. Jazz has its own Magnificent Seven, another group of freelancers, this time musicians banded together to protect and promote an equally beleaguered entity: improvised music. This seven-person collective is the guiding force behind Copenhagen's Barefoot records. After a decade of existence and more than 50 releases, the label will celebrate its 10th anniversary in May with a birthday bash in the Danish capital.
In Memoriam: PAUL BLEY (1932-2016)
Remebrances of the pianist from Barry Altschul, Satoko Fujii, Milford Graves, Frank Kimbrough, Ron McClure, Roy McCurdy, Charles McPherson, Evan Parker, Mario Pavone, Gary Peacock, Barre Phillips, Sonny Rollins, John Surman and Steve Swallow.