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Where Gifted Musicians Grow

Danilo Perez with BGJI students – Photo by Dave Green

Where do gifted musicians go to become student leaders of a world community and affect positive social change?

by
Doug Hall

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston, founded by Grammy-award winning jazz pianist, composer, professor and educator Danilo Pérez, through a curriculum that includes world-music exploration from roots up, to arrangements and performances of original composition, to internships and projects in remote under-represented communities around the globe, students develop into ambassadors for humanity. This is not an ethereal concept or group meditation on a “better world” but a hands-on curriculum that directs these young extra-ordinary musicians to park the “self” for a greater good. Pérez speaks to this part and emphasis in the program, “ When somebody has a gift, I believe he/she has a responsibility…you must have the desire to be a role model in society – and step away from your instrument.” BGJI offers a unique alternative approach to a discipline that has often focused more on developing self-achievement and acceptance based primarily on talent. Pérez keeps his mission and integrity close to the selection process, “you have to have the desire to experience the process of human development…fame is a four letter word.”

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Danilo Perez at piano – Photo by Kelly Davidson

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Jazz ‘At Home’ On The Hudson – Jazz in the Valley

Credit Juliette Hemingway, Jazz in the Valley, Artist in Residence 

Jazz “at home” on the Hudson
Jazz in the Valley
Wayras Park, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
August Summer of 2016

Imagine a weekend picnic with family and friends, with the setting of a sprawling lawn at an historic state park, with the backdrop of a famous New England river, filled with the flow of sailboats and sea breeze with seagulls overhead, while you listened to the sounds of live jazz coming off the stage from top talent nationally and internationally – both established jazz legends and emerging cutting-edge musicianship – Where would you be?

There’s a community of jazz listeners that finds its way to the banks of the Hudson River every summer, for the past 5 years running – a celebration of sound, culture and gathering that goes back 16 years thanks to dedicated community leaders. Jazz in the Valley returned to eager listeners again this year to offer new and seasoned talent, diversity with a wide range of this unique, experimental and – above all – expressive art form of music.

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Photo Credit Rudy Lu Photos

In one afternoon, at the edge of the fast moving Hudson River, under a big white tent, you find a gathering of tones in color and sound; people mingling, talking, moving and strolling, clapping their hands together to the communal beat – becoming a neighborhood on this late summer Sunday. Small is beautiful.

The audience was treated to two stages of music – The Main Stage tent and the smaller cozier Mike Torsone Memorial Stage. All acts received the attention and applause of an educated and appreciative cultural-mix of jazz listeners. The intimate relationship between musician and audience in this small seating outdoor venue transcended any barrier to getting “the vibe” or direction the instrument or artist was taking you. When the temperature of the solo or rhythm rose-up or mellowed down, you could feel the difference – nothing was lost.

Featured artists included:

The Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio, performing at the Annual Jazz in the Valley Festival, in Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, NY, on Sunday, August 21, 2016. Photo by Jim Peppler. Copyright Jim Peppler 2016 all rights reserved.

  Photo Credit Jim Peppler 2016

Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio

Randy Weston, awarded recognition as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (01’), has been a restless and tireless jazz interpreter throughout a career that followed African and Caribbean rhythm and roots with a piano style that ranges from bebop to boogie-woogie. At 90, on this stage, still actively improvising and stretching-out his stellar accompanying musicians: Alex Blake – an extraordinary virtuoso on stand-up bass – strumming, slapping, tapping and climbing over the neck of his instrument while Neil Clarke, international Congo and all hand-drum percussionist showed-off his reputation with remarkable dexterity and complicated rhythm beats. Weston then brought it all back to the piano for some stride piano runs and Monk-like chord statements. Wow – they were in the moment.

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Jazz By 5

 The group’s name doesn’t begin to describe the mix of historic, legendary jazz musicians and session players setting-off steaming solo work that afternoon as they moved through a cut or two by Miles Davis from “Kind of Blue” and other stepped-up versions of complicated standards. The line up: Randy Brecker, on trumpet, with a resume that spans all contemporary bebop to avant-garde circles – with recordings that include Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren to Frank Zappa, and of course his own funky signature horn sound of the Brecker Brothers Band. Enter George Cables, whose dense piano construction and bebop sound hails from work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the legendary Dexter Gordon quartet, also a favorite of Art Pepper’s later recording period. Javon Jackson, accomplished saxophonist influenced by Joe Henderson, graduate of Berklee, and another alumni of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers,

formed his own quartet and continues to star as a featured player with jazz recording labels Criss Cross & Blue Note. Eddie Gomez, 2-time Grammy Award winning jazz bassist who has brilliantly accentuated so many performers and recordings as the standard sessions bassist on the liner notes of hundreds of jazz albums, including Miles Davis, the Bill Evans Trio, Chick Corea and et al. Finally rounding-out the “Jazz By 5” group is Jimmy Cobb, actually having performed on the historic largest selling jazz album, “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. There was no letting down your guard amongst a “friendly” competition on this stage.

Charenee Wade

 Singer, composer, arranger and educator, Charenee Wade has wide reach in the jazz arena also garnishing awards and accolades for her vocal talent. As the opening act on the Main Stage tent that afternoon, you could begin to appreciate her range and rich tone with the warm-up, ever smiling and spirited, she effortlessly reached the high and low scale with a soulful voice. Her performance was mainly dedicated to the influences of the no-nonsense politically urban street poet and pre-rap musician Gil-Scot Heron and collaborator and soul-mate pianist Brian Jackson (her related release is entitled, “Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson”). Coupled with her was the extraordinary powerful leading sax solo performances by Lakecia Benjamin, who owned the stage at times with blistering range and searing riffs on the saxophone matched with intensity and mood by Stefan Harris on vibes. Wade left the audience wanting more and in particular – more of Lakecia Benjamin – who practically received a separate ovation.

Craig Harris, playing Trombone, at the Annual Jazz in the Valley Festival, in Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, NY, on Sunday, August 21, 2016. Photo by Jim Peppler. Copyright Jim Peppler 2016 all rights reserved.

Photo Credit Jim Peppler 2016

 Craig Harris & Tailgaters Tails

A major force in avant-garde jazz directions, Craig Harris has used his reputation with Sun Ra and trombone to forge his own frontiers. Taking the stage at Jazz in the Valley that afternoon, with trombone in hand and exceptional ensemble musicians, including versatile talents on vocals (Carla Cook), keyboards (Adam Klipple) bass (Calvin Jones), and Drums (Tony Lewis) – it was clear that an energy and statement was to be made. With an eclectic inter-play between Harris and vocalist, with soloing contributions from piano, bass and drums, orchestral shades of a larger band were accomplished with these few musicians. Mr. Harris introduced pieces that were part of a larger compositional group but nonetheless potent with a 5-piece band. A jazz overture of experimental sounds, scat singing and melody found its audience along with the trombone mastery of Craig Harris.

Stephanie Hancock, singing at the Annual Jazz in the Valley Festival, in Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, NY, on Sunday, August 21, 2016. Photo by Jim Peppler. Copyright Jim Peppler 2016 all rights reserved.

       Photo Credit Jim Peppler 2016 

Many additional offerings showcasing the richness and diversity of Jazz were on the Mike Torsone Memorial Stage – which featured Chicago blues influence and James Cotton Blues Band member Slam Allen, also in the New York Blues Hall of Fame, and the local-born Duchess Community College Jazz Ensemble got to show off their “chops” – just in high school but showing incredible promise – under the solid direction of Dr. Christopher Brellochs at DDC, and Stephanie Hancock, an experimenter of styles (latest release “This Happy Madness” 2011 ) – seek-out her web site for the latest tracks & projects which find elements of Jazz, Reggae, World Music, R&B – and more. Finally – Matt Jordan, Trumpeter – at nine years old playing classical scores under bandleader father – exceptional sessions player with credits that include Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Billy Taylor, John Faddis and Dionne Warwick.

Live jazz, particularly at these smaller venues, reflect back the remarkable array of talent – up-close – not necessarily found on the air-waves or current CD releases, but nonetheless the quality of musicianship and style and interpretation (or re-interpretation of standards) – found its way under the Main Stage tent and Mike Torso Memorial stage that afternoon at Jazz in the Valley. Again, small is beautiful.

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The best part of what we do is meeting inspiring people like writer Doug Hall. His contributions are a blessing and bright light to Fresh Independence.
Meet Doug…
My lifelong passion for writing and literature (which are wed to each other) continues to stay active, with art and cultural freelance writing assignments for on-line entertainment web sites. Home has been New England, Rocky Mountains, and London and lots of places travelled through books and points of view. (publishing in lazysundaymag.com and bubbobar.com )
“Creativity is a continual surprise.” 
― Ray Bradbury

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The Launch of a New Jazz Label: A Conversation with Legendary Carl Griffin

What’s it like to launch a new jazz recording label?
A conversation with
Legendary three-time Grammy award winning record producer Carl Griffin
By
Doug Hall

In the Brave New World of digital music, streaming radio stations and instant access, Carl Griffin has some tried and true lessons in a music recording industry in which he has signed and produced new talent for years. A resume that includes 15 years as Senior VP of A&R Records and the promotion & marketing of GRP Records, a standard-setting quality output of contemporary jazz music and artists who remain household names today (Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Joe Sample, The Crusaders, The Rippingtons and more). Enter ALFi Records, where Mr. Griffin is now Senior VP, teamed with founder Albare (Albert Dadon) virtuoso jazz guitarist, songwriter, producer and music promoter from Australia. Together they’ve launched their new jazz label, like “taking a plunge in a pool where you know the water is cool” Albare reflects, “Eventually you just jump in.”

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John Fogerty Memoir – Fortunate Son

John Fogerty’s memoir “ Fortunate Son”
By
Doug Hall

“The sound of it! Like a bolt to the brain.” …. A recollection of the first time he heard a song and it stuck – at 5 years old – still clear for the songwriter on his 70th birthday. And still clear to me or any other fan is the memory of the first time we heard that hungry bellow, “Cause Your Miiiine !!” or surging chant “Heey-AH To-night!!” or other “utterances” unique to this man’s voice. He is the maker of his own distinct anthology, a country rock-in’, mystical, deep-rooted Americana sound that takes us right there in “Proud Mary” “Green River” “Born on the Bayou” “Up Around the Bend” or “Bad Moon Rising.” We can thank the timelessness of John Fogerty, and hear his vocals shake us and the songwriting put us into the backwoods, running scared or foreboding a night or chasing a riverboat dream. With all these places he takes us, Fogerty becomes a true chronicler of his own creation – of the swampy, dark, reckoning and challenge of human fortitude and then reversing the tempo in the very next tune to an upbeat – foot-stompin’, country-flavored rock and blues cut, with intro guitar riffs and vocal twang and grammar (“Chooglin”, “Bye-You”, Boy-Nin”) – all a part of his indelible sound and signature.

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Finally, in his own words, Fogerty has written a telling memoir, “Fortunate Son.” Taking us on this journey, we hear about the songsmith’s world, built with these ballads and lyrics so familiar to several generations going forward. As importantly, he lets us inside his studio and shares the creative process that led to so many remarkable albums with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival (notably 3 of which, Bayou Country, Green River and Willie and the Poor Boys, outsold the Beatles in 1969 with 5 hit singles). Later, after the tumultuous break-up of his band in 1972, and fighting un-ending legal battles for ownership of his own songs and frivolous lawsuits against the integrity of his compositions, he would then spiral down a very dark hole. Fighting a wall of writer’s block induced by anger and frustration with loss of ownership of his own material from CCR, Fogerty, by his own candid admission, would nearly self-destruct.

Only by following an intuition and pilgrimage, back to the sounds, smell and feel of the Mississippi south and its blues roots, did he eventually struggle with his own soul and find his creative vein again. Searching out the origins of black blues musicians he so respected, even visiting the gravesite of Robert Johnson, Fogerty found a new will. These struggles with his own internal demons and legal circumstances, and fight to maintain his high musical standards finally produced a Grammy award-winning album in 1998, Blue Moon Swamp, after 5 years of exhaustive studio work.

He also found love again in the midst of his near miss with recovery. Julie Fogerty became his confident, supporter, counselor and best friend – and they started a new family together. There are wonderful moments in this memoir, recounting their special bond and love for one another. Through a long process of pain and eventual success in his post CCR period, she helped him find his way back and enjoy a re-birth of his professional musical life.

a john fogerty & wife julie

These are the bookends of a career, that hold in between them an amazing story of a school band to chart topping success, and the fall afterwards of betrayal and debt, and final redemption of a kind that rings true to one of Fogerty’s own heartbreak and deliverance songs. The story is a road travelled, long with no easy exits or turnarounds. A foreboding American tale also about the recording industry, the musician and his art, all told with absolute frankness and detail revealing the true nature and backbone of a remarkable songwriter and performer.

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The best part of what we do is meeting inspiring people like writer Doug Hall. His contributions are a blessing and bright light to Fresh Independence.
Meet Doug…
My lifelong passion for writing and literature (which are wed to each other) continues to stay active, with art and cultural freelance writing assignments for on-line entertainment web sites. Home has been New England, Rocky Mountains, and London and lots of places travelled through books and points of view. (publishing in lazysundaymag.com and bubbobar.com )
“Creativity is a continual surprise.” 
― Ray Bradbury

Continue reading ...