Tag: jazz vs pop

George Benson has no plans to hang up guitar

georgeBensonToday a new interview with the great George Benson from Jim Gilchrist in this past Sunday’s Scotsman. The interview covers his thoughts on the playing and recording of his huge hit This Masquerade, influences like Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, and his early decision not to join Miles Davis’ band. From the interview, here he is on his love for Nat King Cole:

 “When I was young, Nat King Cole was the quintessential African-American singer in the United States. Everybody loved Nat. He had great variety in his music – romanticism, great musicianship – and I said to myself that if I ever became anybody in the music business, I wanted to be like that.”

Benson has sometimes been described as Nat King Cole with a guitar, a label which he says flatters him, while stressing that he in no way compares himself to Cole, who died in 1965: “I think he inspired anything good that has happened to me, but he was a very special individual and his gifts were exclusive to him.”

Click here to read George Benson has no plans to hang up guitar

Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

steveSmithSteve Smith is best known as the drummer for the rock band Journey, but the Berklee educated Smith has played and recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Buddy DeFranco, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Larry Coryell. In this new interview with R.J. DeLuke and AllAboutJazz, Smith discusses everything from his early days in Boston, to touring the world with a rock and roll band to recent recording projects. On having to learn how to play rock songs with Journey after having played virtually nothing but fusion and straight ahead jazz until that point:

“I didn’t really know how to play rock songs. I had to discipline myself to play drums in a very compositional way. Which means I needed a particular beat for the verse and then another beat for the chorus and something else for the bridge, then some fills to pull it all together. That was a very different way of conceiving of playing the drums. Before, I was playing time feels behind people. Not necessarily a repetitive beat. Supporting soloists. I hadn’t worked with a vocalist really. Someone might sing a pop tune when I was playing a Top 40 gig in Boston, but I wouldn’t consider them great singers. Steve Perry was a great singer. That was an education. Part of what was interesting about it was it was so new and I had never done it before. It was a great experience for me.”

Click here to read Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

mikeSternMike Stern is truly one of the great guitarists of our age, equally comfortable in straight ahead jazz, fusion, and rock and roll—he has been in the news most recently for his collaborations with rock guitar hero Eric Johnson. Here is a typically honest 2013 interview in which he discusses much, including his time with Miles:

You mentioned Miles Davis. That must have actually been a difficult period for you in a way in that he was unwell and struggling. And that rock-fusion at the time was not well received by jazz critics. Do you look back on that period fondly?

Definitely. I loved it. People will say what they say, and Miles would always say people will catch on 10 years later with what he was doing. And that was kind of what happened. I wanted to play more bebop and he wanted me to rock. He liked the fact I was playing lines, but he wanted the volume.

I thought we could split the difference maybe and he would say ‘No, no. Let’s rock.’ And he’d always say, ‘Play me some Hendrix’. What he meant was, ‘Play your stuff, but with that attitude’. So I was playing a lot of lines and there was rock in there because I come from that.

It was great experience playing with him, he played so much from the heart. People say what they say but they’ve all turned around and people are discovering it now. He was always ahead of the time. And that always invites criticism. But he always told me, ‘Don’t worry about [criticism]’. So it was a great experience and the only thing is . . . Well, I finally did it sober. (laughs).

I was really messed up in those days and for some of it I was pretty trashed. But, for all that, some of it still came out good. Miles had a way of getting stuff out of people. Then I went back with him and the band was a bit different with keyboard players. That first group was really open with just guitar.

Then Sco [Scofield] played with us for a while. Me and Sco played together in that band, then I left and Sco did it for a while, then Miles added keyboards and I went back with that band when Sco left. It was still a great vibe but it was a little more structured, which is cool. But I liked the first band which was really open and fun. All of it was great because I got to play with him and Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker. It was amazing.

Click here to read Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

—Peter Blasevick

Jimmy Smith Documentary (Jazz Organ) – 1965

Here is a great 90 minute long West German documentary film made about Jimmy Smith and his trio. As you can imagine, there are great performances, but also tons of backstage footage and discussions. One interesting exchange happens backstage when Smith and his interviewer discuss if the Beatles are clever musicians or just a gimmick as Smith notes. Great stuff.

—Peter Blasevick

Burt Bacharach On Piano Jazz

burtBacharachBurt Bacharach has written more than 600 songs and more than 70 Top 40 hits. In 1957, Bacharach met fellow songwriter Hal David, and the two began a collaboration that would result in some of the most memorable songs of their day, many of which have an adventurous and jazz-inspired sense of harmony and rhythm, cleverly disguised as simple pop songs!

In this NPR Piano Jazz session from 2005, Bacharach discusses his early years, his collaborations, and performs some of his most famous numbers, such as “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Close to You.” 

SET LIST

  • “Alfie” (Bacharach, David)
  • “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (Bacharach, David)
  • “This Guy’s In Love With You” (Bacharach, David)
  • “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” (Bacharach, David)
  • “What The World Needs Now Is Love” (Bacharach, David)
  • “Portrait Of Burt Bacharach” (McPartland)
  • “The Windows Of The World” (Bacharach, David)
  • “Close To You” (Bacharach, David)

Click here to listen to Burt Bacharach On Piano Jazz

—Peter Blasevick

Two 1979 Ahmad Jamal Interviews with Les Tompkins

AhmadJamalHere are two interviews by Les Tomkins with the great pianist Ahmad Jamal, both interviews conducted in 1979. Jamal talks a lot about commercial success, or the lack thereof for jazz musicians. Interesting stuff. He also discusses his time with Chess and different musical projects of his. From the interview:

Every day we hear Wolfgang Mozart’s great works, but no one knows where the man was buried; his funeral was attended by a gravedigger and a dog. So why shouldn’t it be that a musician enjoys something during his life? Why does it have to be a Mozart thing all the time? It’s ridiculous. Mozart was commercial, huh? Or I should say: he wasn’t thought to be commercial enough at the time, but now he’s commercial. But the things he was writing then are the same things you hear now. The success is no good to him now.

In the case of Franz Liszt, of course, he was a very great technician, and he also enjoyed the financial reward for it at the time. It’s unfortunate when it doesn’t happen like that to every hard–working musician. In the case of George he’s not only artistically sound, but he’s receiving the fruits of his labour. It’s important that there should be some recognition of talent during that talent’s lifetime.

Unfortunately, there is this thinking, that once you start making any kind of money, your artistry becomes somehow devalued. You have to be on your last legs, in all sorts of dues–paying situations, before they’ll say: “Well, there goes a great musician.” This is preposterous.

Click here to read Two 1979 Ahmad Jamal Interviews with Les Tompkins Part One; Part Two

—Peter Blasevick

Quincy Jones: ‘I told Michael Jackson he was weird’

quincyJonesHere is a fun interview with the great Quincy Jones from Paul Lester at The Guardian. Jones discusses everything from Frank Sinatra to his early days to his biggest influences. He also opines on legalizing drugs, Nazis on cocaine, and recording Thriller. Great stuff. From the interview:

Frank Sinatra called you Q. What did you call him?
Francis, or FS.

Were you nervous of him?
Nervous? Not even close, man! I was living in France, studying with Nadia Boulanger [tutor to Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland]. And I come in one day, they say, “Grace Kelly called, Mr Sinatra wants you to bring your house band” – I had the best house band in the world. So we played with Frank, and he said five words to me: “Good job, kid. Koo-koo.” I never saw anything like him on a stage. He was like a magician, from another planet. He had it down. The most magical thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Frank was bipolar, and one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have. I have his ring on, with his family crest, from Sicily. I’ve never taken it off.

Click here to read Quincy Jones: ‘I told Michael Jackson he was weird’

—Peter Blasevick

Cannonball Adderley on American Bandstand in 1967

Cannonball Adderley would have been 86 years old today. I’ve always been a big fan, not only of his great music, but of his positive outlook in every interview of his I’ve read. Here is a short clip of him interviewed by Dick Clark after playing “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” on American Bandstand in 1967:

—Peter Blasevick

Al Di Meola: Telling it like it is

It’s Al Di Meola‘s 60th birthday today! In this 2003 interview, the jazz/fusion/classical/overall guitar virtuoso pulls no punches about his band, his composing, and his disgust with the state of the music business. From the interview conducted by Anil Prasad for Innerviews:

alDimeolaDo you have an overall philosophy as a band leader?  

Musicians must understand rhythm and syncopation in order to do this kind of music. It’s not really a philosophy, but just an understanding of the rhythmic concept I have and it sometimes needs to be drilled a lot. I think we’re getting close to it. The concept is playing off the quarter note. It’s also understanding that when you play syncopations off the quarter note that no matter how complex it may seem, the quarter note never ever sways one hair unless it’s intentionally meant to.  Generally, if we’re all playing together and one guy is feeling the quarter note in another place, it’s really apparent to me. It may not be for the listener, although I think the listener will feel something is awkward subconsciously. Understanding how to play off the quarter note without the quarter note ever moving is something that’s rare for musicians to really get. It’s not something you can really learn. You’re born with it. It’s in you and I have to get it out of them. But sometimes it’s not in them. Then you’ve got a problem.

Click here to read Al Di Meola: Telling it like it is 

—Peter Blasevick

An Audience With… Jeff Beck

jeffBeckToday is the great Jeff Beck‘s 69th birthday. The legendary guitarist made his name in the 60s playing with the Yardbirds, but cemented himself as one of the all-time greats when he released a string of rock-jazz-blues fusion albums in the 1970s. In this 2010 interview with Uncut, Beck answers questions submitted by fans and peers alike. Great stuff! From the Q&A session with John Lewis:

JL: Dear Jeff, if I knew how you play the guitar, I’d steal everything you do, but I don’t. Can you help me?
John McLaughlin

JB: Oh man, stop there. I can die happy. Johnny McLaughlin has given us so many different facets of the guitar. And introduced thousands of us to world music, by blending Indian music with jazz and classical. I’d say he was the best guitarist alive. When the band I had with Rod Stewart broke up, I was left wondering what to do. While the charts were full of stuff like “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”, I became aware of this underground music scene. And what hit me right between the eyes was John’s playing on Miles Davis’s A Tribute To Jack Johnson. That changed everything. After that, a new chapter of rock music was formed, with his blistering performances with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and everything else. And John’s been at it ever since. He’s a hard one to keep up with!

Click here to read An Audience With… Jeff Beck

—Peter Blasevick