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Debbie Burke

Jazz Author

Welcome to A Jazzy Blog!

The latest on my upcoming novel GLISSANDO – A story of love, lust & jazz

Book cover final25

NEWS FEED

6.11.17 ~ Press release on “Glissando” picked up by the Journal of the Pocono Plateau. Link to follow!

6.2.17 ~ Just returned from Book Expo America. Fantastic and exciting! Talked about “Glissando” and made so many contacts. Good work, #BEA!

5.29.17 ~ Barner Books (New Paltz, NY) interested in review copy. Great college-town bookstore!

5.24.17~ Final prep for BEA, packing, checking out booths I’ll visit. EXPO here I come!

5.20.17 ~ Press pickup in Brooklyn Eagle! https://goo.gl/Ps3Cwz

5.15.17 ~ NY Post book reviewer agreed to review “GLISSANDO.” Amazing!

5.9.17~ Press pickup in Pocono Business Journal at https://goo.gl/3Be6SK

5.3.17~ First communique from my new editor Carol McCrow! Can’t wait to work with her.

4.28.17~ Connected with ALA offices to see about a library rep at Book Expo America. Will visit that booth!

4.18.17 ~ Participated in ESU Entrepreneurship Panel, talked about being an author of a “spicy book” & book publishing

4.13.17 ~ Presentation on book publishing and “Glissando” to East Stroudsburg University students

4.4.17 ~ Radio interview on Stony Brook’s WUSB!

4.2.17 ~ Downloaded floor plan for BEA (Book Expo America). Time to plan 3 days of strategic floor-walking!

3.31.17 ~Pre-pub review by Cheryl Melnick/Bangor Teachers’ Book Club: “Smoothly written, intriguing saga.”

3.28.17 ~New headshots coming soon from William Cohea Photography

3.23.17 ~Bookmarks have arrived for BEA! Very satisfied with how they turned out.

3.17.17 ~ Ordered custom-print bookmarks for BEA (Book Expo America); chose butter-yellow background surrounding Glissando book cover

3.14.17 ~ A month and a day away from presenting at the Author’s Expo at the Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA, held on April 15

3.12.17 ~ Getting organized for Book Expo America/NYC May 31 – June 2

3.10.17 ~ The cover is revealed! Publication date set for July 2018.

All about everything jazz!

Bitten by the jazz bug? I was too, at the age of 15, when I heard John Coltrane’s “Once in a While” on New York City’s old WQXR Radio.

Now all I seem to want to do is write about jazz!

Great Q&A, jazzy insights, musical musings and what it’s like to be a published jazz author, all here. Please click FOLLOW at the bottom of the page to get the latest updates!

Also: check out my blog posts on the famed Jamey Aebersold’s music education website, jazzbooks.com It’s amazing to be able to write for Mr. Aebersold and his top-notch staff.

 Now listed on MusicClout–   the web’s premier music industry marketing resource!xqiigBdp_400x400

Feel free to comment here and I hope this brings you a really jazz day!

(Header photo “Portrait of Baby Dodds” by jazz documentarian William Gottlieb/Library of Congress)
All contents (c) Debbie Burke 2017
Featured post

Playing Between the Half-Tones: Incredibly Innovative Musicianship from Enrico Granafei

Enrico Granafei

For lovers of jazz and the harmonica in particular, Enrico Granafei might be an incarnation of the master Toots Thielemans, but to the next couple of levels. The owner of Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ, Enrico has taught himself to play what sounds like three instruments at once: an astounding, hands-free chromatic harmonica with a guitar that is a blend of regular guitar and bass. Oh, and sing, as well. Hard enough to master any of these on their own, Enrico has explored every corner of musical possibility and made his instruments sing out in joy. Sometimes, headliners at his club ask him to come onstage and join in “On Green Dolphin Street” or some such chestnut. Lucky is he who’s surrounded himself with friends and music.

When did you learn harmonica?

Rather late in life. I was in my late twenties. I had a previous history as a classical guitarist, and had played and concertized in Italy and Germany where I lived for a couple of years. When I heard Toots Thielemans on a Bill Evans record called “Affinity,” it was particularly influential. 

Is harmonica a hard instrument to master? What about the chromatic harmonica?

The main difficulty was due to the fact there was no “tradition” like other instruments have; very few players around the world, zero books.  In Italy, where I grew up, there was only one rather well-known player but I didn’t get to meet him until I was already proficient in harmonica.

The chromatic harmonica is obviously much more complex and therefore difficult. Many people play the diatonic (blues harp) because you only deal with one scale.

It’s inevitable to ask, so: did you ever meet Toots Thielemans or perform with him?

I met him several times. The first time was in Italy during a festival and then in the States when he eventually became my teacher. He was my sole inspiration.

How many harmonicas do you own?

Several, but I only use one at a time. They wear out fast, so you have to buy new ones or have the others fixed, which can be expensive in the long run.

Do you have one instrument you use more than the others?

After using mainly three-octave Hohner harmonicas for decades, now I use Easttop instruments. They’re made in China and they’re excellent. Never fooled around too much with four octaves. I find the lower octave a little too muddy for my taste.

What is the major difference between instruments?

Aside from the obvious difference between diatonic and chromatic, I imagine the type of material used to build a harmonica makes a difference. There is a huge debate about the comb (where the reed plates are mounted) being made of wood, plastic or metal, but to me it does not make a difference.

Why do you think harmonica is suited to jazz?

Jazz lends itself to any instrument. It’s not so much the instrument as the way you use it and the material you play. There are excellent musicians who play jazz on bagpipes or French horn or bassoon.  

With other instruments, you can employ vibrato through fingers on a string, breath control, or squeezing on a reed. How is this accomplished on harmonica?

Vibrato on the harmonica is accomplished in mainly two different ways. One is by cupping the instrument with your hands and moving one of them rapidly like you would do with a trumpet mute (plunger); the other is done with your throat. That’s the one I use. It’s more subtle and less corny.

Who are your favorite jazz artists and composers?

Toots Thielemans, obviously; Gil Evans, Bill Evans and Miles Davis.

When and why did you move to the US?

I came in 1984. Music was the only reason.

A brief history of Trumpets Jazz Club (in Montclair, NJ), and when did you take ownership?

Trumpets opened in the mid-eighties. It was one of the places where I’d perform. At some point it closed down and my wife Kristine decided to re-open it in 1999. It was not my idea.

Have you owned other clubs?

Nope, it was never one of my ambitions, I must say!

What is it like to divide your time between performing and running the club; and which is easier?

Running a club is very hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The only rewarding thing is the sincere gratitude shown by the community, especially musicians, for supporting live music. 

Do you still tour or perform internationally?

I do, and I want to do it more.

What are some of the challenges to getting people in the door?

It’s important to weed out people who don’t care about the music. If we have to suffer, we might as well do it with the right people. I’ve had people write bad reviews ranting and raving about the coffee that was lukewarm. The music? Huh? Hello!!!! What do you think those people on stage are doing? The lukewarm coffee is the only thing you noticed?

What kind of talent do you look for?

This is the best area of the world for music. Finding great musicians is not a problem; there are more good musicians than gigs available. If anything, I feel sorry for the continuous struggle that musicians have to go through.

Anyway, they send us their material and in most cases it’s excellent. I always like to give priority to local musicians. They have a local following, which is very important in this difficult activity.

What country was the most fun to perform in?

Music is a universal language. It’s appreciated everywhere. It’s not so much the country as the people.

Compare the jazz scene in the northeast U.S. to other places you’ve performed in, like Italy, France and Finland.

There is no place like the northeast U.S. for jazz. That’s where this music was born and where all the greatest musicians want to come. A wonderfully thriving scene.

How long do you know Brazilian trumpet player Claudio Roditi? Do you enjoy playing together?

I met him at The Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz festival about 30 years ago. I saw him again in Italy at the Umbria Jazz Festival. He was playing with Paquito d’Rivera who used to have me sit in with the band. I love his playing and I love playing with him also because he always challenges me. 

How often do you join the performers on stage at your club?

I do only when they ask me. Most people know that I’m a musician but some just know me and see me as a club owner.

Future plans for the club?

Selling it when the right time comes.

New CD’s on the horizon?

Working on a new CD right now. There is a tune called Claudinho, dedicated to Claudio, and he plays on it.

What did you like most about creating and recording the CD “Alone and Together”?

The fact that I played with some of the greatest musicians in the world, like Billy Hart, Wallace Roney, Vic Juris and Dave Stryker.

Do you compose and arrange?

Yes I do, I write a lot and I love it, it’s a totally different thing. You can be a great composer without necessarily being a great performer or you can be a great performer who does not write his own music. If you do both, so much the better!

Who’s coming to Trumpets this year (2017)?

We are having Bob DeVos, Vinx (he used to work with Sting), The Lionel Hampton Big Band, Kenny Davis, and Dave Stryker, just to name a few…

Any other special promotions?

Theoretically, the music should promote itself, but it’s still difficult for people to understand that they have to pay a music charge because that’s how we pay the musicians. This is the main reason it’s so hard to have a jazz club. The audience is excellent, but we need more “aficionados.”

Other comments?

I would like to point out that I also play solo in a very unusual setting with the hands-free chromatic harmonica, invented by Vern Smith, and DB guitar at the same time. The DB guitar is a combination of guitar and bass, and was built by Nico Di Battista, an Italian guitarist. This gives the possibility to sound like three people at the same time, something no one has ever done before.

The technique involved is very complex and I had to learn on my own because it’s completely new and nobody could teach me.

I believe that what I am doing with two instruments (that sounds like three), and singing, is extremely revolutionary. Not to brag, but I have been very fortunate to have reviews by highly respected musicians. For example, Bucky Pizzarelli has said, “For many years I have appreciated Enrico both as a classical guitarist and a jazz harmonica player, but what he does playing the two instruments at the same time is absolutely amazing.”

Another review: “How do you manage to play the harmonica, accompany yourself on the guitar at the same time and do incredible singing on top of it?” — Horace Ott, Record Producer, Arranger, Conductor, Composer, Pianist (YMCA; Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood) 

And one more: “You would think you are dreaming! With an incredible virtuosity Enrico Granafei plays harmonica (a model conceived by Vern Smith) and classical guitar simultaneously allowing himself the luxury of singing occasionally (tasty scatting on You’d be So Nice To Come Home To). Here is an overly talented musician whose musicality and richness of inspiration are truly out of the ordinary. An accomplished guitarist with elegant phrasing and impeccable technique, Enrico Granafei absolutely deserves the admiration of his fellow musicians like Stanley Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli and Gene Bertoncini. He’s also a harmonica virtuoso whose creativity reminds us of the famous Toots Thielemans of whom he was a student. On this CD, he offers real personal renditions of American and Brazilian standards, among which I’d like to mention Out of Nowhere where his guitar accompaniment (chords and bass lines) is amazing both in terms of technique and inspiration, and also Wave where he sublimates the melody. Absolutely astonishing all the way.” — Claude Oberg (Jazz Magazine)

© Debbie Burke 2017

Photo courtesy of the subject

A Novelist’s Journey – Episode 10: Seven Take-Aways from Book Expo America

BookExpo gif

It’s here and gone, the annual Book Expo America at the Javits Center in NYC.

This was my first, and I will definitely be back.

Tips and Takeaways:

  1. It’s no time to be shy. Talk, meet, shake hands and do a lot of listening. Smiling too. My very first booth visit was to the London Review of Books. Never been across the pond and I never held a paper copy of this fine publication; in fact my book is NOT anywhere near ready to be reviewed, but I dove in and intro’d myself. We had a great discussion! I’ve read this is one of the very top media outlets for book reviews. The guy was so nice (here I am, expecting a British accent, but he was from Massachusetts). TIP: Be yourself, ask a few key questions, be brief, be gracious, take their business card, move along.
  2. Have a plan, of some sort. Otherwise you’ll stress out. I didn’t use the floor plan or the alpha listing. My method was just to split the two days into aisle numbers. Up and down each aisle, passing the booths that I didn’t to visit. You do have competition, in that sometimes there will be so much traffic around the people you want to speak to that you have to wait your turn. TIP: Be patient, hang in there. If it’s a potentially important connection, it’s worth the wait. Again, be friendly and succinct.
  3. Talk about your book and be prepared for the conversation to take a detour. Go with it. It’s not all about self-promotion, but coming across as a mensch; easy to talk to, friendly, funny, interesting. I laughed with people about the near-impossibility of covering such a humongous venue, about New York cabbies, about the searing heat and interesting smells of the city.
  4. Practical matters:
  • Drink lots of water
  • Hit the bathroom often (wash your face and brush your teeth every time; it keeps you sharp and confident)
  • Keep snacks in your bag, especially breath mints
  • Keep your phone charged for photos
  • Carry lots of pens
  • Carry a small memo pad for notes-to-self
  • Plan at least one sit-down session per day to get off your feet and get smart. I sat in on a panel of five up-and-coming authors, what inspired them and how they constructed their stories. Even when the subject matter didn’t particularly float my boat, their passion and excitement were infectious, and I became interested in their books anyway!
  • Eat light (you can have a big dinner when it’s over)
  • Try not to gather too many books early on (they get heavy quickly)
  • Duck into the free photo booth and make a gif, you’ll be happy you did (share it on social media)
  1. Follow up. For God’s sake, follow up! All those business cards, postcards and bookmarks you slipped into your canvas bag (take the freebies) represent Book Expo folks who took the time to speak to you. Even if they don’t/won’t figure into your writing career (and how can you be so sure…?), shoot an email saying hi and it was so nice to meet cha.
  2. Related to #5, find these contacts on social media and, as long as there’s nothing objectionable, follow them on Twitter, FB, Instagram and their blogs. You will probably get a follow back.
  3. Keep the spirit alive. It’s another year out ’til the next Expo, but in the meantime you have lots of work to do, including buying a new pair of pretty Sketchers (unpaid endorser here) to walk next year’s event.

Searing Trumpet from the Professor

Michael Hackett Quintet

A quintet with many gigs in famous places has brought Michael Hackett [second from left] to where he is today: teaching jazz at the college level – where there’s proof that jazz has a reinvigorated audience with students – and looking forward to digging in again and laying down some tracks. Michael’s trumpet sings and soars and you know he’s got something great coming just around the corner.  

When did you start playing trumpet?

I started playing at age 9.

Your musical idols?

First, and still, Doc Severinsen! Then Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, and Woody Shaw.

Music growing up or in the family?

My father was a high school band director and trumpet player, and my mother was a classically trained singer with the Chicago Lyric Opera in the 1950’s. My siblings were all musical and went on to at least begin degrees in music in college. My sister Janet and I are still professional musicians. She is active as a classical singer in Oregon. My brother still sings and plays guitar, although growing up he was a trumpet player as well.

How long have you been teaching music?

My first real experience teaching music was after leaving college in 1991. I taught privately in music stores in the Washington, DC vicinity, then was hired to teach at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in DC. I began my current position at UNC Charlotte [NC] in the fall of 2011.

Talk about the jazz scene at UNC and in Charlotte.

Charlotte, surprisingly, does not have a jazz club of its own. We have two concert series, but these frequently feature out-of-town guest artists for themed (tribute) events. I rehearse and perform regularly with the Piedmont/Triad Jazz Orchestra based in Greensboro. UNC Charlotte has one large jazz ensemble and two jazz combos.

The PTJO is a very high-level group, with great soloists in every section. It also features original arrangements and occasionally original compositions of band members, with the only purchased/stock charts being those of Basie, Ellington and Quincy Jones. It is the central performance outlet for me at the moment.

When you compose, what themes inspire you?

It may sound corny, but personal experiences; family, first and foremost. Also life events, things that move me. And I like to just sit at the piano and hear what comes to me. Sometimes you keep it, sometimes it never grows fruit, but I just let the ideas flow.

Do you still play together in your quintet?

We’re no longer playing together due to the distances involved; the other musicians live in Bloomington, IN and NYC, and I’m in Charlotte now. We did a few performances to promote the CD, but by the time it was recorded I was already in Charlotte, so regular gigs were out of the question. Prior to moving to Charlotte, the group played quite a bit in clubs in Bloomington, South Bend and Indianapolis, at clubs like Trios in South Bend and The Jazz Kitchen in Indy.

The musicians are all, except one, faculty members in the jazz department at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington. Jason Tiemann, the drummer, has since moved to NYC where he regularly plays with people like Harold Mabern, Eric Alexander, David Hazeltine, etc. He’s moved up!

How engaged are college students in jazz?

My students are hungry for jazz and some have become quite invested in it. There is a great interest among many college music students to pursue jazz, perhaps even more than before. This is somewhat ironic as the recording opportunities and playing opportunities continue to shrink.

My hope is that these interested, capable young folks will help regenerate a larger interest in society for jazz-based music. I’m not holding my breath, as the ‘market share’ of jazz continues to shrink, and pop music continues to get further and further from anything jazz-based.

What is the most interesting trend in jazz today?

I think definitely the influx of youth and their willingness to try anything. New electronic sounds, production methods, fusion of other cultures, you name it. Lots of experimenting is being done out there, and that’s a good thing.

Why do you think jazz gets so little play- think about our day-to-day experiences, like in a mall or on TV commercials?

Because, for the most part (excepting Sinatra, Tony Bennett, et. al.) you have to think. It’s not mindless music. People want to consume music without having to invest any intellect or thought.

Some folks – Chris Botti comes to mind – are able to infuse their music with intelligence and still have it be simple enough that people who don’t want to think don’t have to. But the intelligence is still there in Botti’s music, and he uses heavyweight jazz musicians in his band à la Miles. It’s still music with integrity. Most of the stuff on late night shows is angst-driven musical drivel with guitars, drums and a backbeat. Those things are not of themselves empty, but music based solely upon those features, to me, is.

What is the mix of originals vs. covers when you perform?

Depends on the gig. At a jazz fest, I will try to play more of my original music. In a club, we might not have the opportunity to rehearse, so we play more standards.

Where do you go in your head when you play?

To my quiet place. I want sound to fill my head and to be able to react instantly to what’s going on around me. This requires an absence of competing thoughts. Sometimes, a bizarre quote will just pop out and crack me up, but it’s in the moment and not preconceived in any way.

What’s your favorite track on “New Point of View” and why?

Hmm, difficult question. Probably “Everything I Need.” I like the long form, where it goes harmonically. And it represents my feelings of love for my family. In the end, they are Everything I Need. If you listen to the melody, you can even hear the words as a sort of silent lyric.

What does the name of the CD refer to?

The name “New Point of View” along with the cover photo of downtown Charlotte represented a new chapter in my life, starting my career at UNC Charlotte as a college professor, as opposed to the freelance musician that I had been previously.

Upcoming CDs?

Nothing planned yet. I need to write some new music and get some gigs!

Where have you played and do you have a tour schedule?

I’m old and I’ve “been everywhere, man!” I’ve played The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, The Rainbow Room, Blues Alley, Birdland and The Village Vanguard, just to name a few. The quintet doesn’t tour and we haven’t tried to because of our teaching schedules and the distances involved. I’m just looking forward to what might come next. 

Any award nominations?

No, but New Point of View was on the jazz charts for about four weeks when it was released in 2013. That’s been a while now. Time for a new one! 

Other comments?

I’m very interested in getting more active again playing and writing. At some point, the grind of teaching and everything else that goes into being a college professor gets overwhelming and can take the creativity out of your day. Some balance this better than others, but it is a real challenge.

Photo courtesy of the artist

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

An Array of Horns, Smoothly

Audley Reid

Somehow, smiling while keeping his embouchure as he plays sax, Audley Reid is a sight to behold and a feast for the ears. The groove and funk spilling from his horn catches the audience in an acoustic vise.

He’s performed internationally including in his native Jamaica. A strong figure in the Chicago smooth jazz scene, he can easily slide from smooth to Caribbean to R&B or from Christian to straight-ahead. His CD titled “A Plays E” was ranked #3 by Smooth Jazz and More Internet radio.

Have you always been a musician?  

Yes, even though I worked in corporate America for over 26 years, with my first 10 years in banking and then the last 16 years in telecommunications.

What are some of the hot trends in the music business in the Midwest?

We have some fantastic young musicians out here doing some very creative things in the music world over the last few years. We’ve seen more Neo-Soul come on the spot with a funky groove and a vibe. Some musicians are exploring, taking current R&B hits and turning them into a smooth jazz type of flavor because that’s what the audience understands. It helps to grow their fan base.

Straight-ahead is making a nice comeback and holding that audience group. I hope we see more clubs opening across the country to support live musicians.

Is it hard to get gigs?

Gigs are always open depending on your price point. You will either take it or let someone else have it.

If you are an independent artist it’s a huge challenge to break into new markets.

Which of the saxes do you prefer and why?

I enjoy playing all the saxophones. I get very few calls for bari, but it’s a great horn.

Clarinet was my first instrument. I first started playing alto sax in high school and that has become my primary instrument. I picked up the tenor which has a different feel and sound, so after many years of playing the alto I had to get used to finding my voice on tenor.

Then I started to play more on all of the horns, including lead soprano, and just getting a feel for the overall flow of them and what songs feel better on each instrument.

I have over the years started to play a few more instruments: English horn, bassoon and oboe.

How would you describe the quality of your sound?

I’ve always loved David Sanborn’s playing and his sound. One of the first songs of David’s that I learned was “The Dream” which requires great control of the overtones and melody.

I just try to be me. One of the greatest things that you can do as a musician is to listen to other great performers who play your instrument and learn from them. Maintain your own sound in the music business whether you sing or play an instrument.

How do you develop breath control to master the sax?

When you’re first learning how to play the horn, long tones are very important. The goal is to increase you wind capacity, but also to listen to the tonal quality of the note you are playing. Circular breathing allows you to take in and blow out air simultaneously. Kenny G comes to mind since he can hold a note for what seems like forever.

Is smooth jazz as big in Jamaica as in the US?

No, not by any means.

I see that you play many genres within jazz. Why is smooth your jazz of choice?

The past couple of years I have been getting more calls for smooth jazz. I play a lot of straight-ahead and R&B. Flexibility to play different genres of music is serving me well. I want to be able to go on that stage and give it the best I can give it regardless of what type of music I’m playing.

Do you compose and arrange?

It’s not a strength but I’m always working on it. I like to arrange horn parts for various ensembles.

Are you surprised at the popularity of smooth jazz?

No. Internet radio has been a life-saver for the smooth jazz market. Fans can tune in and hear the very best. Promoters and artists continue to seek new opportunities such as more smooth jazz cruises and festivals.

Do you feel smooth is related to R&B?

No doubt. The ability to perform an R&B song with a smooth jazz spin has shown to be a winning combination. If you don’t adjust to your core market base you are doomed. The relationship goes all the way back to gospel roots, blues, jazz and R&B; there are far less than six degrees of separation and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Where have you toured?

I have played all over the place internationally and domestically. If you’re going to be a full-time musician you have to be open to looking at expanding your market. If you get those opportunities to travel abroad, definitely go if the business end works for you. What a great experience to see how other cultures live and get a chance to learn about their music!

Talk about your band members.

My base unit is a quartet. I add more musicians based on various situations.

Will Howard – Bass player, songwriter, arranger, producer. Tremendous amount of skills laying down a solid groove and keeping the pocket. 

SelfBlack – Keyboards/Organ. Stellar, Grammy-nominated keyboard player, writer-producer, also a very multi-talented musician playing several different instruments.

Derek Henderson – Drummer. We simply call him the fat timekeeper. Songwriter, producer, engineering and sound work.

We have been doing what we do for over ten years.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing you perform?

That they will come back again and again. We try to perform music the audience can relate to and every now and then we’ll sneak in a musician’s song. It’s very important that your music connects with your audience and that they have a connection with you and the band. 

Awards?

I was nominated for the Chicago Music Awards but unfortunately I did not win.

 

Some people discredit smooth jazz as not “serious” jazz. How would you respond to that?

As I stated earlier, music continues to evolve. Some you will like and others you can do without. That is life. My dad was a huge Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons fan. Whenever I sent him an invite to a straight-ahead gig he was right there front and center. He would decline to make the invite to my smooth jazz and R&B gigs.

I get it and understand the divide between those two worlds. You can’t forget that some classical folks feel the same about jazz.

The smooth jazz world today is just an adaptation of the music that’s out there today. You can judge by the festivals going around the country they have a great audience participation.  People can call it whatever they want but as long as musicians who are doing this type of music are able to make a living and produce music that people want to hear, they’ll be fine.

Talk about some of your own favorite songs, and which are the most special to you?

My CD’s are “Reid Seeds” and “A Plays E.” All of the songs have meaning and are heartfelt. I really enjoy playing my songs “On The Upside,” “Chill Session” and “So They Say” from “A Plays E.”

What’s your goal for 2017?

To continue playing and creating great music. Looking forward to doing a couple of tour dates with Aziza Miller, who is a fantastic keyboard player, writer and arranger. I hope to have my CD completed this year for presentation in 2018.

Other comments?

Please “Like” the Audley Reid Band page on Facebook and join my email list at www.audleyreid.com.

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

Photo courtesy of the artist

“Jazz Forum” Reinvents in Tarrytown

Mark Morganelli -by Bob Plotkin -  striding flugel colorized.jpg

The first Jazz Forum opened its doors in New York City in June 1979. It moved from Cooper Square to lower Broadway, closing its doors for good in April 1983. Alas, according to owner Mark Morganelli, the club closed for financial reasons.

The club has now reinvented itself and moved up in the world: literally, north of its original locale, as it had its grand opening in Tarrytown, NY in June, 2017. Morganelli, a performer in his own right (a solid trumpet and flugelhorn musician), knows music from the inside out. He brings knowledge, experience and killer chops to the new venue.

The excitement over the Jazz Forum is made even keener by its first headliner, Roy Hargrove.

What was unique about the first Jazz Forum?

Musicians and the audience felt welcomed and at home there – a great combination!

Why did you choose Tarrytown for the new location?

I’d presented 150 concerts in 22 years (1992-2013) at Tarrytown Music Hall, and staged many free outdoor summer concerts over two+ decades here.

Can you share a few key insights into how to build a good jazz club?

Getting others, especially those new to the music, to become excited and want to check it out. Seeking and achieving community buy-in to the concept.

What are some unexpected surprises (good or bad) of owning a jazz club?

Major bureaucracy with all the hoops we’ve had to jump through, for over two years, of construction and approvals. Not recommended for the faint-hearted!

How did you snag Roy Hargrove?

I first met Roy nearly 30 years ago when he’d just arrived in NYC from Texas – and played in a band at Birdland (NYC) when I was the music coordinator. I’ve presented him several other times over the years.

You have Brazilian jazz coming soon too. Do you like to keep a diverse lineup?

I love Brazilian music, hence the Sunday series concept. I do plan to present other Latin and world music, in addition to jazz.

Your cover charges seem quite reasonable. Does this help get people in the door?

We certainly hope so. We present 34 free summer concerts in Westchester and plan to hold the music charge for the club to relatively low amounts.

How do you keep the populace engaged in jazz?

We will offer monthly Saturday afternoon workshops, seminars and master classes for students of all ages and levels. I’m a Music Educator (BA Music Ed, Bucknell ’77) so hope to engender enthusiasm with young people to sustain the artform going forward.

What is your role in the RiverArts studio tour?

The RiverArts Music Tour this past June featured 80 different musicians, performing in groups for free in the River Villages, including at our Jazz Forum, Tarrytown where I played with Vic Juris, Ron McClure and Tony Jefferson.  I’m on the RA Advisory Board, and my wife, Ellen Prior, is currently serving her second tenure on their executive board.

When did you start to play trumpet and why did you choose it?

4th grade…my dad suggested it…because of Louis Armstrong and Harry James!

Why did you want to own a jazz club?

This is my 3rd go-round and I dig creating performing opportunities for artists and groups, and great listening environments for audiences.

Which artist, now passed, would you love to have booked?

Miles Davis

Who would you most love to book?

Tony Bennett

When did the Jazz Forum All-Stars start up?

I’ve had the group since 1979 when I started my club (actually a loft) in NYC’s East Village. Four recordings as leader and performing regularly, with a rotating cast of exceptional musicians in both straight-ahead and Brazilian genres. We play a few originals, but mostly jazz and Brazilian standards.

My band features Vic Juris, guitar; Cameron Brown, bass; and Tony Jefferson, drums. My Brazil project groups feature Monika Oliveira, vocals; Eddie Monteiro, midi-accordion; Paul Meyers, guitar; Adriano Santos, drums; and often Nilson Matta, bass.

Where do you go in your head when you play?

Trying to make creative music that, hopefully, is perceived as beautiful and soothing, sometimes exciting, and hopefully swinging.

Which do you prefer, running a business that brings jazz to audiences, or playing?

Playing!

Difference in tone between a trumpet and a flugelhorn?

Flugelhorn is more mellow, with a darker, rounder tone.

When you played  “I’ve Got Rhythm” in Budapest, how did it feel to fit yourself into the music with an established ensemble?

That was a great and fun experience, especially because my wife, Ellen, and I were visiting beautiful Budapest for the first time.  Those guys were virtuosi!

CDs?

“Live On Broadway” 1982 at my 2nd Jazz Forum – LP only; “Five Is Bliss” 1987 featuring Harold Land and Jimmy Cobb; “Speak Low” 1990 w/Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb for Candid, Live at Birdland; and “My Romance” 2006 featuring Houston Person, from our live summer concerts.

I produced approximately 60 CDs by various artists, including several by Claudio Roditi!

Wish list?

I would love to record an album of Brazilian music on flugelhorn, with Brazilian musicians and others.

What is going to set Jazz Forum apart from other clubs?

Top-quality music by amazing artists in many genres, accompanied by delicious Italian food specialties and wine, draft beers and full bar in an intimate, accessible setting, presented by our not-for-profit.

Are you excited about opening night?

Oh yeah! Can’t wait!

Tickets for the Jazz Forum club can be obtained here or by calling 914-631-1000. Jazz Forum presenting sponsor: Montefiore Health System.

Also, Jazz Forum Arts presents free summer 2017 concerts in Westchester (34 in Dobbs Ferry, Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Ossining – presenting sponsor New York-Presbyterian).

Jazz Forum Mark Morganelli

Photo credit: Bob Plotkin

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

Defying Genres with 88 Keys: The Artful Music of Jeremy Siskind

Jeremy Siskind at Gilmore Intl Keyboard Festival

The delicacy of Jeremy Siskind’s piano work is both floral and flavorful; a sensory bounty whose story unfolds minute by minute. We listen, fixed in place, not only because the music is so absorbing, but also because of its surprises, chord changes and colorations.

In 2012, Jeremy won the Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition; in 2011, he claimed second place at the Montreux Solo Piano competition. His 2015 CD, “Housewarming,” is tonally rich. A leader in the in-home concert movement, Jeremy – who at 30, has so much ahead of him in a full and promising career – has brought music to over 100 households.

Your classical mastery is evident in “Autumn Leaves” and also “Twilit Water, Vanished Music.” How closely related are classical music and jazz?

I feel that the further we get into musical history, the more all genres are coming together, whether it’s classical, jazz, world, pop, or electronic.

The piano has an incredibly long and rich history in the classical tradition long before Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton entered the mix. It’s such a gift to be an instrumentalist who has the option to delve into the styles as varied as Bach, Chopin, Debussy, stride, Schoenberg, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk, among many others. 

Age when you became musically aware?

I started taking piano lessons at age 4 and took to music immediately, but I wasn’t really thinking crucially about the music until I was 13 or 14. At that point, I started choosing artists to follow, learning the history of jazz and doing really intense listening and practicing. 

I was taught with the Yamaha Music Education System, which was great because it wasn’t “traditional’ piano lessons, but rather very holistically taught. Yamaha makes sure that each student is trained in aural skills, keyboard harmony, composition and improvisation from the very beginning. That was a huge gift for me. It never occurred to me that it was “difficult” to improvise. 

Musical influences growing up?

Neither of my parents is particularly musical. However, interestingly, my grandfather (paternal side) was an accountant for a firm that produced Broadway musicals. So my dad got to go to many Broadway premieres as a child and had a love of that era of music. I was raised with lots of musicals because of that influence.

What musicians have informed your style?

That’s a long list! Interestingly, I first was very interested in “hard bop”/”soul jazz” pianists like Oscar Peterson, Gene Harris and Benny Green. As I went to college, I discovered more classically-influenced pianists like Brad Mehldau, John Taylor, Keith Jarrett and my mentor Fred Hersch. I’m interested in classical music (Bach, Debussy), and I love the great singer-songwriters of the classic era (Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Billy Joel) and today (Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, Tom Waits). So many others, too: Hank Jones, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Kirkland, Ahmad Jamal,  etc. 

You do a lot of teaching. What’s the best way to introduce jazz to young people?

I think for many young people, jazz is a complete unknown – you really have to go out of your way to find it these days! Allowing folks to hear excellent live music played by skilled, original and passionate musicians is an experience that is bound to be memorable, regardless of age or knowledge. 

You’ve written music instruction books for beginners. How do you choose the songs that can get them hooked on jazz?

I try to balance pedagogical integrity (pieces and arrangements that will be playable for young pianists) with artistry. If you’re only thinking about pedagogy, your students are bound to be bored, and if you’re only thinking about artistry, you’re bound to be overwhelmed.

The most brilliant pedagogical composers never sacrifice pedagogy for artistry, or vice versa, and I strive to live up to their example. 

How did you come to write for Hal Leonard?

It’s a long story that actually starts when I was about 8 years old, when I first took lessons from Phillip Keveren, who eventually because a beloved Hal Leonard author. Years later, I wrote for a magazine called Clavier Companion, reviewing pedagogical works. I wrote a review for Phillip, and my name rang a bell. We ended up reconnecting and he set me up with the editor for pedagogical works. I sent in a few drafts of pieces, and the rest – as they say – is history.

Describe the Michigan jazz scene.

Michigan has both an incredible jazz tradition and some of the best university jazz programs in the nation. In fact, when I lived in New York City, I roomed with excellent musicians who went to MSU and worked with excellent musicians who went to WMU – which isn’t to leave out U of M, where such acolytes as Robert Hurst and Benny Green teach!  

The amazing thing about this era of music is that there are great players everywhere; not just in New York and LA, but all throughout the country. 

What impact did Kurt Elling make on you when you collaborated together on “Housewarming”?

I got to know Kurt when I accompanied several lessons and masterclasses he was teaching. I’d already been a fan for a long time and was moved by the energy and authenticity of his teaching.

I was very fortunate that he was willing to sing some of my songs – it was a dream come true. As soon as you hear that voice and realize it’s the voice that you’ve heard on countless records that you love…it’s magic! 

Talk about your first composition, and how you feel you’re evolving as a composer?

My first composition was “Finding Bugs,” written at age 5. I certainly hope my composing has evolved since then! Recently, I’ve been experimenting with more songwriting than composing. I’m really interested in the way that lyrics and music interact (in fact, I wrote my master’s thesis about that), and I love trying to make songs that move people. 

What is your role in the “in-home concert” movement?

I’m very active in the “in-home concert” movement. My group has played about 110 in-home concerts in 24 different states and we’re planning a live in-home concert video/audio recording in August (2017). I’ve presented about in-home concerts at the Music Teachers National Association, Jazz Education Network and Chamber Music America conferences to try to spread the word and encourage more artists to try it.

For me, it’s a point of inspiration – introducing music in intimate settings to open audiences is what I love to do more than anything on earth.

What a great album “Housewarming” is! Talk about the interplay between the woodwinds (clarinet), vocals and piano, and letting each one shine.

Well thank you! One of the benefits of playing all those house concerts is that the band feels really comfortable with one another.

We’re all very much on board behind the story of each song, rather than trying to emphasize our virtuosity or individual skills. We’re thinking more about sound, arrangement, narrative, arc and word painting.

I’m so fortunate to work with Lucas Pino and Nancy Harms, two musicians who are willing to be in service of the songs I’ve written. It’s particularly intimate with Lucas, as our instruments overlap so much. We have to really be listening to stay out of one another’s way and complement each other effectively. 

The classic question: which gets written first, lyrics or melody?

For most of my songs, I write the melody and then the lyrics. I feel that this keeps the musical integrity intact.

However, sometimes I get inspired to write a poem and compose the lyrics first. Ironically, I generally prefer the songs where the melody came first whereas audiences seem to prefer the songs where the lyrics came first. One such song from the latest album is “Housewarming,” which started as a poem. 

What do you hope to convey to the listener?

I hope they can forget about the musicians and look inward. I don’t want people to be impressed so much as moved.

One of the perils of jazz in the modern age is that it’s often musician-focused rather than listener-focused, so I hope listeners can lose themselves in an emotion.

Perfect pitch?

 Yep.

Upcoming tours?

I’ll be doing an educational tour of Lebanon, Cyprus, and China in July (2017). The Housewarming Project will be doing four in-home concerts around southern California in August, but other than that, it’s a melange of recording, touring, teaching and creating.

Future plans?

Lots! One of my life goals is to write a Broadway musical. I took a great first step recently and co-wrote a musical with Adam Pasen called “Unfriended” that featured some of my pre-existing songs. It was featured as an “elevated stage reading” (performers read from scripts that include staging, songs and lines) at Farmer’s Alley Theater in Kalamazoo this past March. Adam and I are looking for other opportunities to shop “Unfriended” around, but I’m also thinking about writing another musical from scratch.

Photo supplied by Jeremy Siskind

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

A Novelist’s Journey, Episode 9: Trade Show Jitters

LI head shot

With the BEA (Book Expo America/Javits Center, NYC) coming up really fast now (end of this month!) I feel a jumble of emotions: excitement, curiosity and a case of the nerves. I can mingle with the best of them but I have no idea what kind of reaction to expect from the exhibitors, the other authors and the buyers I’m going to meet there.

My hopes are that people will just keep asking about my book: what influenced me, how did I create the characters, what’s jazz got to do with it. Fascinated, they won’t be able to tear themselves away from me.

Something tells me that with so much going on, in a such a dense venue with millions of bodies milling about – so many authors, so many stories! – I’ll have to do something to stand out in the crowd.

Or do I? My publisher told me to have a handout ready; get some bookmarks printed up and give them out with a little spiel. Everyone will be stuffing their handouts into some BEA-logo’d canvas bag, only to sift through the mass of paperwork at some future date when there’s time to digest all this data about the new crop of books about to flood the market.

I posted a question on my writers’ LinkedIn groups about what to wear at such an event (comfy shoes! bright colors! bring a sweater in case the A/C’s up too high!) but far and away the best response was: a smile.

I’ll be wearing my thrilled-as-HELL-to-be-an-author-here-at-BEA smile. With my bulging canvas bag. Stay tuned!

Norwegian Impressionism with Guitar, Drums and Bass

NYPAN

Painting with sound, leaving space for each musician to shine, Oyvind Nypan’s expressive guitar work tells its story and you want to hear more. They are in synch, these young men from Norway who make up the Nypan Trio. If you’ve only stuck to American and Mainland European jazz, this is quite the refreshing drink of a different kind of water.

What is your background and did you come from a musical family?

I come from Trondheim, Norway and started to play guitar at age 12. My parents were gardeners and none of my family members are musicians but music was always a part of my environment as a kid. They supported me in everything I wanted to do.

When did you know you wanted to compose jazz?

I began by playing the trumpet for two years, moved on to play the drums for a long time then picked up the guitar, when I began to make my own music right away. I like all kinds of music and try to be open for anything that comes into my head. I had a guitar teacher who introduced me to Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker and I was totally blown away. The world changed for me from that day on.

What is the subgenre of jazz that you play, called?

As a working musician, I play all kinds of music, but my albums go in the direction of contemporary jazz.

“Heavy Hangs the Head”

 How did you meet the other members of the band?

I play in a lot of different settings. I play with people I communicate well with, musically; and who have something to bring into my music. They play drums, bass and keys.

What have you recorded?

I released my first album “Elements” in 2010 on Ponca Records. My album “Stereotomic” just came out on the great jazz label Losen Records.

In January 2017 I went to New York and recorded with some amazing musicians: Ben Wendel, Taylor Eigsti, Joe Martin and Justin Faulkner. That album will be out later this year (2017).

What do you think of the NYC jazz scene?

NYC is amazing and I love it! So many great players, great music and culture make this a very special place for me. I would like to spend more time in the Big Apple and get that NYC energy.

What is the essence of the difference between American and Norwegian jazz?

They are two different languages. There are Norwegian players, myself included, who are approaching American modern jazz, but you can’t run away from your roots. This is what makes music interesting to me. Everybody contributes and the result will always change. There are no rules.

Which musicians have inspired you and why?

Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Michael Brecker, Julian Lage, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Miles, Coltrane… The list is endless and changes from day to day. I discover new music every day and stay up-to-date with what is happening in the jazz community. It’s like a bottomless well of inspiration that never dries out.

Your music has a definitive feeling: forward-moving, thought-provoking, airy. What is your mood when you compose?

I try to amplify my feelings by converting them into music. That leads me through different moods and musical territory as the winds are changing.

You can really hear the individual members of the band in your songs. How do you give each other the room to go off on your own?

A really important decision is which musicians to engage with in my projects. This way I know what to expect from them. We just try to listen to what the other guys are saying when they’re playing.

Is there a single melodic line or do your songs meander wherever they’re meant to go?

I am obsessed with melody and a lot of my compositions are built around small melodies that I like to complement with chords and rhythm.

Your album graphics favor black & white. Why?

Maybe it’s because B&W gives you a more timeless feel.

Have you toured in the US?

I have never toured in the US but I’d love to go there and play.  I just finished a tour in the South of Norway with my trio with Daniel Formo on Hammond organ & Truls Rønning playing drums. We had an awesome time playing a lot of new music. Good times!

Future plans?

Releasing my NYC album later this year and also another album with a rock/jazz blend called Tronosonic. We recorded at Ocean Sound Recordings at Giske (Norway) in December (2016) and I’m really looking forward to getting this one out. It’s different and sounds great!

Other recordings:

2010: Elements (Ponca Jazz Records)
2013: Republique (Losen Records)
2015: Directions (Nypan Music)
2017: Stereotomic (Losen Records)

Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/69eowBvnmhkvFsSTgplMWd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/onypan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nypanmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onypan/

Snapchat: jazzdaddyfunk

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

Photo by permission

Ribbons of Gold through the Air

Claudio Roditi by Chris Drukker

It can be the cool “So What” by Miles Davis or the thoughtful jazz chestnut “On Green Dolphin Street” or something fast and spicy. No matter: Claudio Roditi’s trumpet speaks in a way that fills a room with sweet honey sounds. He left his native Rio de Janeiro while in his early 20s to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and played with greats like Herbie Mann and Paquito D’Rivera. His Brazilian-informed understanding of the horn puts audiences in awe, as well they should be.

When you first came to the US to attend Berklee, did you know English? Did you know anybody here?

When I first came to Boston in September of 1970, I could speak English because I had studied it in Brazil in the 60s.

I had a dear friend from high school, Victor Assis Brasil, who had come to Berklee the year before, and he was influential in my coming to Boston to study. I also knew pianist Nelson Ayres, so I had a couple of friends. And not forgetting that at age 24 it wasn’t too hard to make new friends.

Did you come to the US primarily to study or to also build a career?

I came primarily to study jazz. I had no intentions of staying here for the rest of my life. Needless to say that the fact that I ended up staying upset my mother, Daisy, terribly. However, I found the love of my life: Kristen.

How old were you when you started playing music?

I started with piano lessons at age six, then bongos, then at age nine I asked my father Alberto to buy me a trumpet.

My early influence was my father, who could play some guitar and also sang. Second was Maestro Fernandez (originally from Uruguay), who gave me piano lessons and was married to my mother’s cousin Zizi. Once I had my first trumpet I’d ask my father to buy me any record that had a trumpet or trumpeter on the cover. So I got albums by Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Ray Anthony.

Who were your early influences and your favorite jazz artists?

I fell in love with the music of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Chet Baker by the time I was 12 years old. Then Lee Morgan, Booker Little and Freddie Hubbard.

Recently you played a lovely version of “On Green Dolphin Street” at Trumpets Jazz Club (Montclair, NJ). What are some of your favorite songs?

“Green Dolphin Street” is a favorite song of mine. Also, “Speak Low,” “So What,” and “Body and Soul.” And not to forget my own compositions: there are many that I’ve written that I like.

Where have your toured?

I’ve toured the world mostly as a sideman. I only toured with a group of my own to Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in Italy, and also to Graz, in Austria.

Tell me about your band, or do you play in several bands? 

I’m a freelance musician, so I’ve played with a lot of different people and still do. I love playing with musicians who are into playing the music I love, and hopefully that they also love.

Then there was that dedication song you played at Trumpets. Do you do a lot of composing?

The song you are referring to is “To Bill and Deanne,” composed for my friends Bill and Deanne Chenitz, who were in the audience at Trumpets. I find myself writing more songs for my friends. They inspire me!

How many times have you been nominated for a Grammy?

I’ve been nominated first for a solo I played on the CD “Symphonic Bossa Nova” by Ettore Stratta. That nomination was for best instrumental performance. Secondly I was nominated for my CD “Brazilliance x 4.” However, I never won.

Upcoming shows and tours?

On July 18, 2017 I will bring a quartet to Westfield, NJ, for the Sweet Sounds Downtown jazz festival. The week of August 15 and the week of August 22, 2017, I will be playing with the Brazilian group Trio da Paz at Dizzy’s Club (Jazz at Lincoln Center). And there may be a date at the Blue Note with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band; however, it’s not confirmed yet.

The place you always wanted to play?

There is no place where I’ve wanted to play and haven’t played yet. Now, bringing my own group to some of these places is a different story. I’ve performed with Paquito D’Rivera, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Herbie Mann and McCoy Tyner but not with a group of my own.

What’s in the soul of a jazz musician?

I cannot answer for other people, but my intention in music is to bring some beauty and happiness to the world, doing something I love to do. Life is frequently rough and it feels really good when you touch people in a positive way and consequently make them feel a little better.

What direction is jazz going in now?

I have no idea. At the same time I’m not interested. I’m not an innovator and was never into how different I could make the music. I love certain periods of jazz, especially the hard bop period, and some Brazilian music. So that’s what I like to play and compose.

Did you prefer playing in the 1980s with the smoke-filled (more authentic?) clubs versus today’s clubs?

The clubs of the 1980s were part of the music and the smoke-free clubs of today are also part of the music, but they are a little easier for horn players.

Is it harder for musicians to get gigs now, and if so, why?

Yes, it is harder for musicians because of the heavy competition. Also, it’s harder to get better wages.

Was the April 2017 gig at Trumpets Jazz Club your first time playing with harmonica virtuoso Enrico Granafei?

I met Enrico Granafei (the owner of Trumpets) along with his wife Kristine perhaps thirty years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. We play music together whenever we have a chance.

You stopped one song and reset the tempo. How often does a re-count like that happen?

I only stopped a song and restarted it in the middle of the set because something was drastically wrong, and the performance was being filmed. I just couldn’t let it go out like that. That was a rare case.

Your playing is stunning. What do you think about when you’re improvising?

Thank you, Debbie, for the kind words! What I think when I’m improvising is to make sense and create something I think is beautiful.

Why do you love music so much?

Music is something we cannot live without. To dedicate my life to that purpose is fulfilling, and despite the difficulties in making a living from it, I think it has been well worth it.

Photo credit: Chris Drukker

© Debbie Burke 2017

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