Tag: Ted Panken

Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

hankJonesHank Jones would have been 97 years old the other day, and if he were still with us, I’m sure he’d be the same funny, polite, gentleman he always was…and he’d still be one of the very baddest musicians on the planet.

Here is a fantastic pair of interviews with the great pianist, both from Ted Panken’s great blog. He posted these a couple years ago also in honor of Jones’ birthday, one from a 2007 Jazziz piece, and the other a transcription from a 1994 WKCR interview. Both interviews are just great, and cover so much. Hank covers a number of personal topics in the 2007 interview in particular. From the piece:

And I wonder if I was true, let’s say, to my race. There were times when I wanted to join the civil rights movement and march, but I would have lost my job. I had a wife and stepdaughter, and I had to support them. With my temperament, something could have happened to me, because things were going on that I might not have been able to accept. Although my instincts were to do the proper thing, I repressed them.

Click here to read Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

—Peter Blasevick

For Dr. Billy Taylor’s 93rd Birthday Anniversary (1921-2010), An Uncut Blindfold Test from 2005

billyTaylorYesterday would have been Dr. Billy Taylor‘s 93rd birthday. Ted Panken posted an uncut blindfold test he did with the great pianist and educator for Downbeat in 2005. Some really great insights. From the interview, here is Taylor discussing fellow pianist Dave McKenna:

He used to live in the Poconos, and did a lot of stuff for Concord Records… Dave McKenna. I love his playing. He does this better than anybody I know. Those are some interesting lines he’s playing, man. They’re fascinating. Now, that’s a left hand! One of the things I pride myself in is what I do with the left hand, because it’s what I grew up with and I like to use it. But I love the way he used it, because that’s very personal. I remember years ago, when I first met Dave, I did a radio piece on him, and I was pointing out the fact that this was the most unique left hand I’d heard since Fats Waller. It was so personal and the way he did it was so effective as a contemporary way of doing basslines.

Click here to read For Dr. Billy Taylor’s 93rd Birthday Anniversary (1921-2010), An Uncut Blindfold Test from 2005

—Peter Blasevick

For Ron Carter’s 77th Birthday, a DownBeat Feature From Two Years Ago

ronCarterBass maestro Ron Carter turned 77 yesterday. Ted Panken posted a feature piece that DownBeat assigned me to write two years ago in response to his entry into the DB Hall of Fame. Some interesting insights about Carter’s early days and his career. From the interview:

“Jazz was always in the air at school, but it wasn’t my primary listening,” Carter said. “I had other responsibilities—the concert band, the marching band, the orchestra [Carter played cello exclusively from ages 10-17], my chores at home, and maintaining a straight-A average. We were playing huge orchestrations of Strauss and Beethoven and Brahms, and the Bach Cantatas with all these voices moving in and out.”  Midway through Carter’s senior year, it became clear to him that more employment would accrue if he learned to play the bass, a decision reinforced when he heard “Blue Haze,” a blues in F on which Miles Davis’ solo unfolds over a suave Percy Heath bassline and Art Blakey’s elemental beat on the hi-hat, ride cymbal, and bass drum. “I was fascinated to hear them making their choices sound superb with the bare essentials,” Carter said. “These three people were generating as much musical logic in six to eight choruses as a 25-minute symphony with 102 players.”

Click here to read For Ron Carter’s 77th Birthday, a DownBeat Feature From Two Years Ago

—Peter Blasevick

For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

johnnyGriffinYesterday was the 86th birthday anniversary of Johnny Griffin (1928-2008), the magnificent tenor saxophonist from Chicago.Here is the complete transcript of an interview with him on WKCR conducted by Ted Panken while Griffin while he was in residence at the Village Vanguard in 1990. From the interview:

There’s a funny story about your first gig. You had thought that you were hired to play alto saxophone, and were quickly disabused of that notion.

Right. Well, I was playing alto like a tenor anyway, you know. What happened was, I had graduated on a Thursday, and Hamp started that week at the Regal Theater in Chicago on that Friday. The late Jay Peters, the tenor saxophonist who had been hired to play in the band a few months earlier, had to go into the military service. Then Hamp remembered me because he had come by my high school, and had a jam session in the school assembly or something—so he asked for me. They found me on Sunday, and I went down and played a few tunes with the band with my alto. On the following Friday they went to the RKO Theatre in Toledo, Ohio.

No one said anything to me about I was going to replace a tenor saxophone player, because Maurice Simon or one of his brothers was playing saxophone in the band then. I had no idea what was to transpire, until I was walking on stage in Toledo, and Gladys Hampton stopped me. She used to call me Junior. She said, “Junior, where you going with that alto?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, you’re playing tenor in this band.” “What?” So I immediately caught a train back to Chicago. It was hard to come by a saxophone in those days, as the war was still going on, and they were making bullets and guns instead of musical instruments with the metal. I found an old saxophone and rejoined the band two days later.

Click here to read For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

For Bill Frisell’s 63rd Birthday, A DownBeat Article, An Uncut Blindfold Test, and A Few Other Pieces

billFrisellIn honor of guitar legend Bill Frisell‘s 63rd birthday (March 18), Ted Panken posted his “directors’ cut” (about 1500 words longer) of a DownBeat cover piece he wrote about Bill and his long-standing trio partners Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, during a week in Perugia for the 2008 Umbria Summer Jazz Festival, the uncut proceedings of a Blindfold Test Frisell took with Panken around 2000 or 2001, in his extraordinarily cramped room at the former Earle Hotel on the corner of Waverly Place & MacDougal, on the northwest corner of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Here he discusses John McLaughlin:

“He always blows my brains out.  There was one moment when I went to a Shakti concert, and I almost quit playing the guitar.  I just thought, “Man, this is hopeless.”  But it was a good moment because it made me figure out that I had to figure out something else to do other than that.  I’ll never be able to… But he’s so much more… He’s known for being, you know, fast, but he’s a soulful… And rhythmically and harmonically, so…it’s some far-out stuff he’s doing.  I can’t figure out why people don’t… He’s right in there in that line of… There’s Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery and Jim and whoever all other guys, and he’s one of those main guys for me.”

Click here to read For Bill Frisell’s 63rd Birthday, A DownBeat Article, An Uncut Blindfold Test, and A Few Other Pieces

—Peter Blasevick

For Mike Stern’s 61st Birthday, a 2003 Downbeat Feature

Mike Stern is 61 years old? Yikes.

mikeSternToday a 2003 piece on Stern that Ted Panken wrote for Downbeat. Also included is a link to a 2009 interview Panken did with Stern for Jazz.com From the Downbeat piece, the great guitarist discusses Miles:

“One thing about Miles that always impressed me is that he always played music he wanted to play,” Stern says. “While I was with Miles, he was offered a fortune to play with Ron Carter and Tony Williams in Japan. But he was just interested in what he was doing, and didn  want to be swayed. At the same time, he always had this balance of wanting to reach people. That’s in all his music. Somebody who doesn’t  really know jazz can still get Miles Davis. And balance is always important to me, however I come up with it.”

Click here to read For Mike Stern’s 61st Birthday, a 2003 Downbeat Feature

It’s Barry Harris’ 84th Birthday!

barryHarrisPianist and educator Barry Harris is a true jazz treasure. To celebrate his 84th birthday (ok, two days late), a link to a few interviews posted by Ted Panken for a Downbeat article, one from 1999 and two from 2000. Here is Harris talking about Charlie Parker:

TP:    Any anecdote about when you played with Charlie Parker.

HARRIS:  He was beautiful to us.  I think the best experience that I always tell people is he was playing with strings one time at the Forest Club, which was a roller rink.  It was a dance at this time, and we stood in front, and the strings started, and the most spoiling thing of all was that when he started playing chills just went all through, starting on your toes, and went on through your body, man.  It was everything imaginable.  Orgasms, everything to us.  It’s really a spoiler, because I don’t like to go listen to people because I’m expecting somebody to make me feel like that.

TP:    Did Bird have a huge sound in person?

HARRIS:  Oh yeah.  I remember one time when he was at the Crystal, he was at the back of the room when Lee Konitz had come in and was sitting in with him.  (?)Emperor Nero(?) was playing alto, too.   Bird was over to the side, in the back by the kitchen or something, and Bird just started playing from there.  He had a great big sound.  Gene Ammons used to do that, too.  He’d stand in the back of the Club Valley… Frank Foster, Leo Osbold(?), Billy Mitchell maybe were at the mike playing.  He was up… There was some kind of thing that went up at the top, he started playing — he had a great big sound.  He always let me sit in with him.  When I was very young, he used to make Junior Mance get up and let me sit in with him.  I always loved to see him come to town, because he was one cat really I could sit in with.

Click here to read It’s Barry Harris’ 84th Birthday!

Two WKCR Interviews and a DownBeat Blindfold Test with Chico Hamilton

chicoHamiltonThe great drummer and bandleader Chico Hamilton passed away last week at the age of 92. As he so often does, Ted Panken pulled a number of interviews from his archive in order to post a wonderful tribute on his blog. The two cover virtually every topic you can think of in these pieces, including this about tap-dancers!:

TP:    Did you ever play with any tap dancers?

CH:    Did I ever play with any tap dancers!  Quite a few, as a matter of fact.  There was a tremendous dance team by the name of the Berry Brothers, there was a tremendous team named the Nicholas Brothers.  I kept time for them.  I think I played with Baby Lawrence at one time or another.  When you were in the big bands, that’s what you did.   You played for all those dancers.  Most bands when they were on the road, they were with a show.  There was a complete show.  They would have dancers and singers and things like that.  So you had to learn to play for dancers, which is an art within itself.  But laying down taps on one of my records… The last album I did, Dancing To A Different Drummer, I simulate a tap dancer dancing.  I do a brush solo, which is the same kind of thing, same kind of groove.

Click here to read Two WKCR Interviews and a DownBeat Blindfold Test with Chico Hamilton

—Peter Blasevick

For Alvin Batiste’s 81st Birth Anniversary, A WKCR Interview From 1987

308825587_332a9a1922_oHere is a great interview with master clarinetist and educator Alvin Batiste conducted by Ted Panken for WKCR radio in 1987. Batiste discusses New Orleans and his formative years in great detail as well as other jazz greats such as the Marsalis family and Ornette Coleman. From the interview:

Q: Tell me about how you first entered into music.  Was it always a part of your life?

AB: Well, I can remember very vividly one Easter Sunday, I think I was about five years old, and my mother had gotten me one of these little white suits that kids at that time were wearing in Louisiana, whether you were Catholic or Protestant.  And a parade passed by my house.  I was living in a section of town called Holly Grove.  And parades didn’t pass that often, so I followed the parade, and I was with the parade all day — if you can imagine a five-year-old kid.  They fed me… And they had canals during that time that took care of the sewage and stuff, and so when the water would go in the canal there would be an algae.  And I slipped down and messed up my little pants.  But I got back home at about nine o’clock and got a good one!  But I think that’s when I was bit.

Click here to read For Alvin Batiste’s 81st Birth Anniversary, A WKCR Interview From 1987

R.I.P. Cedar Walton, January 17, 1934-August 19, 2013

cedarWaltonSad news that the great Cedar Walton has died. Ted Panken posts great interviews and tributes on his  Today Is The Question blog, and this one is no different. Included are notes to Roots, a well-funded late ’90s reworking of some of his older “hits” with an all star band, and a Downbeat Blindfold Test, both I believe from the 1990s. From the Roots notes:

“I began doodling at 6 or 7, mainly because there was a piano in the house.  My mother played from sheet music, and she taught students at our home on a regular basis.  Though she always wanted to be a pianist, she decided to teach school instead of pursuing a serious career.  She and my father were great Jazz fans, and they used to point out to me some of their favorites, who included Duke Ellington, Nat Cole, Cab Calloway, all the stars of the day.  We’d hear location broadcasts from various key dance halls around the country by Duke Ellington and Earl Hines — I even heard Art Blakey from Birdland on radio.  In the ’40s there was a weekly show called Piano Playhouse that featured a Classical guy and a studio guy, who would have a Classical and a Jazz guest artist.  People like Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Erroll Garner would be guests, always playing solo, never using accompaniment, and that greatly inspired me.”

Click here to read R.I.P. Cedar Walton, January 17, 1934-August 19, 2013