"Think before you speak." It's something we teach to our children early on, a most basic lesson for living in a society. "Learn before you play" can be thought of as the jazz equivalent. It takes lots of study of musical history, of all that came before—good or bad, significant or obscure—
to develop one's own musical voice and learn how to incorporate that voice with others for maximum benefit to all. It's a lesson, sadly, that the current occupant of the White House clearly never learned. There was nothing of value before him so why learn history?; nothing significant happening of which he is not directly in control so why educate himself about the outside world? His existence is a perversion of René Descartes: "I think...therefore I am right."
That is why he will be nothing more than an unfortunate orange speedbump in history while the contributions of our three main features, part of our "Vocals Issue" (with a special CD review section front loaded with a variety of vocal projects—pages 16-19) will long outlast him. Why? Because all three are students and their work is informed, with respect for those who preceded them and lessons for those to follow. Whether it be singer/pianist Bob Dorough (On The Cover), canonized in the crucible of bebop, pianist Johnny O'Neal (Interview), alumnus of the University of Art Blakey, or vocalist Jen Shyu (Artist Feature), world traveler, those who pursue this music do so not for the glorification of their massive ego but to contribute to the world as they have benefitted from the contribitions of those who laid the foundation.
On the Cover: BOB DOROUGH
By Marilyn Lester; photo by Jack Vartoogian
In 1923, Louis Armstrong made his first recording, Duke Ellington arrived in New York City, a new-fangled invention called television was given a patent and Robert Dorough was born in Cherry Hill, Arkansas. In the 90-plus years since, polymath and Renaissance man Dorough—known mostly as a bop and cool jazz pianist, singer and composer—absorbed enough musical experience to become an embodiment of the history of jazz. Dorough is at Smoke Oct. 5th with Roseanna Vitro and Café Noctambulo at Pangea Oct. 23rd as part of the Southport Records 40th Anniversary Celebration.
Interview: JOHNNY O'NEAL
By Alex Henderson; photo by Roberto Cifarelli
Singer/pianist Johnny O'Neal showed considerable promise when he was based in New York City from 1981-86, working with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz giants. But O'Neal fell into relative obscurity after returning to his native Detroit in 1986 and recorded infrequently. Since his return to NYC in 2010, however, O'Neal has had a career resurgence as a fixture at Manhattan venues like Smoke, whose Smoke Sessions Records will release O'Neal's new album In the Moment on Oct. 6th, four days before he turns 61. During a recent interview, O'Neal discussed the album and highlights of his long career. O'Neal celebrates his new release at Smoke Oct. 27th-29th.
Artist Feature: JEN SHYU
By Suzanne Lorge; photo by Witjak Widhi Cahya
As something of a de facto cultural anthropologist and an accomplished polyglot (Shyu is a Fulbright scholar whose studies have brought her to East Timor, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Cuba and Brazil), Shyu moves fluidly in and out of different cultural and artistic contexts. She uses languages as if they were instruments. Her staging is at once theatrical and ceremonial, an invocation of the sacred. Shyu is at The Stone at The New School Oct. 27th presenting Song of Silver Geese and Oct. 28th presenting Nine Doors.
Encore: RUTH PRICE
By Andrew Vélez
At 86 Ruth Price is one of the best jazz singers too many haven't heard enough. Back in 1986, jazz critic Leonard Feather praised her as "an ideal blend of jazz vocalist and cabaret singer." He described her as "compact, black-haired, bright-eyed and with a rare taste for arcane melody and literate lyrics." Now more than 30 years later, Ruth Price remains a key figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene, albeit more as a longtime producer than a singer.
Lest We Forget: BETTY ROCHÉ
By Ori Dagan
Historians have been quick to point out that Betty Roché's relative obscurity owes much to unfortunate timing; ironic, given that musically, her timing was consistently dead on. The singer's rhythmically assured horn-like style was characterized by confidence, creativity and a genuine feeling for the blues.
Record Label Spotlight: SOUTHPORT
By Alex Henderson
Bradley Parker-Sparrow has been celebrating two anniversaries in 2017. It was 40 years ago that the pianist, composer, producer and engineer founded Southport Records as well as his recording studio, Sparrow Sound Design, in his native Chicago. And having released more than 145 albums along the way, Southport has shown itself to be one of the most durable independent labels when it comes to recording jazz in the Windy City. The Southport Records 40th Anniversary Celebration is at Café Noctambulo at Pangea Oct. 23rd.
Special Feature: 50 YEARS OF "WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD"
By Andrey Henkin
Louis Armstrong had #1 singles 32 years apart with "All of Me" (1932) and "Hello Dolly" (1964). But it is a song that never made it higher than #136 in the States (but did peak at #1 in the UK) that has become synonymous with the Armstrong name and aesthetic: "What a Wonderful World". The 50 Years of "What a Wonderful World" exhibition runs through Oct. 16th at the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Giacomo Gates -- What TIme is It? Savant (Blue Note)
Benny Benack -- One of a Kind BB3 Productions (Smoke)
Mark Murphy -- Wild and Free (Live at the Keystone Korner) HighNote
Jimmy Scott -- I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping and Dreaming Eden River
Allegra Levy -- Cities Between Us SteepleChase
Nat King Cole -- Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series 43 (Zurich 1950) TCB
Andreas Schaerer -- The Big Wig ACT
Blazing Flame Quintet -- The Set List Shuffle Leo
Von Gräsern und Wolken -- Eponymous Valve
Rebecca Kilgore/Bernd Lhotzky -- This and That Arbors
Mike Reed -- Flesh & Bone 482 Music
Ella Fitzgerald -- Ella 100 (100 Songs For A Centennial) Verve
Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp -- Vessel in Orbit AUM Fidelity (First Street Garden)
Ivo Perelman -- The Art of the Improv Trio, Volume 2 Leo
Shai Maestro -- The Stone Skipper In Vivo (Mezzow; Cornelia Street Underground; Jazz Gallery)
Adam Rudolph -- Morphic Resonances (Meta/M.O.D. Technologies (Jazz Gallery)
Nick Mazzarella/Tomeka Reid -- Signaling Nessa (The Stone; Lenfest Center for the Arts; El Taller LatinoAmericano)
Dave Kikoski -- Kayemode Criss Cross (Mezzrow; Smoke)
Michael Zilber -- Originals for the Originals Origin
Alan Ferber -- Jigsaw Sunnyside (The Jazz Gallery)
The Delegation -- Evergreen (Canceled World) ESP-Disk (Spectrum)
Vadim Neselovskyi -- Get Up and Go Blujazz (Skirball Center; Blue Note)
Chris Speed -- Platinum on Tap Intakt (Skirball Center)
Ikue Mori -- Obelisk Tzadik (Skirball Center)
Tyshawn Sorey -- Verisimilitude Pi (Skirball Center)
Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Medeski/John Scofield -- Hudson Motéma (Rose Theater)
Harris Eisenstadt -- On Parade in Parede Clean Feed (Skirball Center)