Jazz At Lincoln Center


Martin Gjakonovski, Lenny White, Mark Sherman, Bob Franceschini

Last night we played our second concert of the tour at “Pizza Express” in London’s Soho section. The music is growing as we dig in more and more. We did have an unfortunate problem at the airport in Cologne as we checked in for our flight. Martin Gjakonovski has been living in Germany for 20 years, but he has a Croatian passport as that is his birthplace. Well because Croatia is not part of the European Commission it is a real problem for him to enter London wither a special visa. My manger, and tour manager for this tour got the work permits for us all, but Martin’s visa had to be treated very carefully because of this problem. Well we got to the check in counter, and they would not give Martin his boarding pass, as something slipped by in the processing, or the airline did not know what they were doing regarding this matter. They said because his visa, and work permit were not stapled to his passport, he would not be permitted to board the plane in Cologne, as they would just send him back to Germany when he arrived in London. As I said in my last blog about the Germany gig, the stress level can really rise when situations like this occur, and it sure did. We were freaking out, and the airline is not in the business of making it easy for the passengers. We were flying on Easy Jet airlines, which really ought to be titled “Difficult Jet”. Of course if that was the name, nobody would buy tickets, so they lie and call it Easy Jet. Subsequently Martin was unable to come to London and make this concert. We arrived at the hotel in London 3 hours before the sound check after a very stressful check in, and I had to sort out a bass player for the gig. It was real drag as Martin has had the music for months and after the first gig he was deep in the music and the band was bonding. Anyway we got bass player named Arnie Somogyi. He did a great job and we made it through the concert ok. Actually it was really burning on the second set. It got to that comfortable place that we need it to be. The club is great, they treated us very well, especially as they understood what we had just gone through. These types of problems can happen, and I have learned over the years on the road that you must remain calm, and not allow it to raise your stress level too much, but it is very tough to control sometimes. I was quite aggravated with this problem, and of course Martin I am sure was devastated that he could not make the second concert. Anyway we made it through alright, but I must add that since the world trade center was bombed the world has really changed for the worse. Traveling is just become so stressful. When they search me sometimes I get the feeling that they are going to stick their hands down my pants. It is really annoying, and an invasion of privacy. The world has really changed!!

Beautiful Italia

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Featuring Lenny White, Bob Franceschini, and Martin Gjakonovski

We arrives safely in Cologne Germany on April 11th for our first concert at Altes Pfandhaus, which is the premier jazz room in Cologne Germany. Maybe the only jazz club there. Anyway it is a very cool venue with a circular stage with seating all around the band. While speaking to the audience I tried to sort of turn in circles to reach everyone, but after a while I just gave up that concept, and just looked one way. Anyway it was our first gig and the music began to take shape nicely. Our sets consisted of original compositions by Bob, Lenny, and myself. In addition we played a few standards. Hot House by Tadd Dameron, and Celia by Bud Powell. Really at this point in my career I feel this tremendous need to pay tribute to the jazz masters who have created the bebop foundation for the music we play. Although I have over one hundred original compositions I always play at least one or two tunes by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, or John Coltrane. For me it is correct to present the music in this fashion. Without these guys there would not be the music we live to play. They really innovated, and changed the way we all interpret the harmony. Bob Franceschini and I grew up together. I have known Bob for over 40 years as we attended Music and Art high School together in New York City, so it is such a treat for me to join with Bob on this tour. We have not played together in a while so it has just been amazing to reunite for this music. Bob is one of the fines saxophonists in the world. For me he is ranked in the top ten along with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Jerry Bergonzi. He is truly in that class. I remember when Bob and I were in high school how we were both Bird, and Coltrane freaks listening constantly to all of the records at high volume. We used to play the records without volume on 10. If there were an 11 on the volume control we would have used it. The short story is Bob flat out is a master of the art of improvisation. He has all the elements you need to play music. Great technique, a warm gigantic sound, and tons of bebop and post bop language to draw from. Just incredible! About a year ago the record producer David Chesky put a CD together for Lenny, Jamey Hadad, and myself to do which entailed creating music with a drums and percussion trio. Lenny and I had a ball together on this recording and spoke of doing some other stuff together, so I finally got the opportunity to put this tour together. Sharing the bandstand with Lenny White has been just a true honor and privilege for me. I was watching Lenny play with Chic Corea, and Return To Forever when I was 14 years old. Totally admiring that band, and Lenny is just an incredible natural musician. He plays the music with a vengeance, and a big smile. Incredible chops, and musicality. In addition he has brought some great tunes to the table for this band. One called “L’s Bop” (Lenny’s Bop) which is a true bebop line on the A section, and a bridge which opens up into some just lush, beautiful chords that are spelled with the harmony of jazz standards. It is very fast, and difficult to execute, but when we get it right it is just a burner. The other tune Lenny has contributed is a tune titled “Wolfbane” which has a middle eastern flavor to it mixed with a strong post bop set up. Kind of like a snake charmers dance with a jazz flavor. It also has some really cool rhythmic hits, which create a great rhythmic structure for the musician to work the language on. Lenny has an amazing ear. He uses no music for all the originals, and just learns everything by ear so fast. I have never seen any drummer learn music this way so quickly, and efficiently. It is really old school in a way, but he makes it work in today’s music perfectly. I am so used to handing the drummer a lead sheet to use. Especially on the first reading, but Lenny uses no music, and gets it right very quickly. He has just amazing ears, and experience in the music having played with the who’s who in jazz for many years. In addition he is a 4-time Grammy winner. A true legend in the music! Adam Nussbaum, and Daryl Hall recommended Martin Gjakonovski to me for this tour. Martin with great musical precision, and he has clearly done his homework. His intonation is first rate, and he has a great feel, and has integrated beautifully into this 4tet. It is a pleasure to have him on the bandstand, and on the road. Really when putting a tour together like this you have to always of course consider the abilities of the musicians, but in addition to the music you really need to consider the personalities of the players. You will travel and spend a lot of time together in some really stressful situations. Traveling these days has become so difficult with security searches, and delays, and all sorts of problems that can occur. So it is vital to select a group of musicians that not only play the music to the highest level, but can also enjoy being together. Otherwise you have some real problematic situations, which just can turn the entire tour into a drag. This time I really selected a great group of musicians who get along on and off the bandstand. Off to London for the next concert.

On plane Germany-London

 

With Herbie Hancock

With Herbie Hancock

With Benny Golson

With Benny Golson

With Carl Allen

With Carl Allen

With Lenny White

With Lenny White

I am so proud to be a graduate, and on the faculty of The Juilliard School. Last night at school there was an incredible evening of celebration for Ron Carter as he has turned 75 years old, and a new Juilliard scholarship was launched in his honor. Fifty thousand dollars awarded yearly to a deserving student in the program. With Danny Glover as the MC for the evening, the program  packed Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Just a great presentation of  many of Ron’s tunes arranged by the students, and performed with the guest jazz masters. There were also performances by the Ron Carter nonet, and the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra performing selections from Ron’s big band recording. A who’s who of jazz history was there to support this event. It was a ball to hang with many of my colleagues from the faculty, as well as the legendary guests that performed with the students on the concert. What a great opportunity for the Juilliard jazz students to play with, Hubert Laws, Benny Golson, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Russell Malone, Ron Carter, Carl Allen, and Lewis Nash.

When I was at Juilliard I was playing in the orchestra with the likes of Sexton Ehrling, James Conlon, Zubin Mehta, George Solti, Leonard Bernstein and others. They had no jazz program at Juilliard when I attended. Wynton Marsalis and I used to just jammed in the hallways to find somewhere to play. What a program. What a night. Just amazing!

file://localhost/Users/marksherman/Desktop/Cadence_Sherman.pdf

The Places We Feel Free / The Tim Horner Ensemble

2011 Miles High Records  www.mileshighrecords.com

Featuring : Tim Horner – All Compositions, Drums, Percussion, Voice & Viola / Jim Ridl – Piano & Electric Piano / John Hart – Guitar / Martin Wind – Bass / Mark Sherman – Vibes / Ron Horton – Trumpet & Flugelhorn / Marc Mommaas – Tenor & Soprano Saxes / Scott Robinson – Tenor Sax

Tracks:

A Room Full of Shoes

Invisible Heroes

Museum Piece

Mountain River Dream

A Precious Soul Fanfare for the Common

Jims

‘Tis

Spirit

Tha Places We Feel Free

Passion Dancer

 

The Places We Feel Free is the debut recording of drummer Tim Horner, out of NYC. Tim is one of New York City’s finest drummers and Jazz musicians. His disc, ‘The Places We Feel Free’ displays Tim’s musicianship as muti-faceted. He is a wonderful performer, composer and ensemble musician. His compositions (like his playing) are rhythmically vibrant. The tunes are melodically sophisticated, brushed with modern 20th century harmonies. You canhear the thoughtfulness behind each composition. The result is a release that unveils modern mainstream music, performed by an experienced group of NYC veterans that will surely excite the listeners, musicians and all who appreciate modern Jazz.

Everyone who participates on this disc has shining moments. It is so nice to hear Scott Robinson on tenor. If you are not familiar with his tenor playing, he unveils a richness of tone, blended with modern, creative touches in his improvisations. On ‘Fanfare for the Common Jims’, written for Robinson, Scott just rips through the form with ease and excitement! He then turns around plays with great sensitivity on ‘Tis’. He and trumpeter, Ron Horton provide Horner with a front-line that swings, combined with oneness of ensemble. Congrads Jims!

I love vibraphonist, Mark Sherman’s contributions. He plays with a rhythmic urgency that caught my attention—as in right away on ‘The Room Full of Shoes’. The opening cut. The unison’s and trades with guitarist John Hart are melodically sparring and enjoyable to listen to. I love how the rhythm section swings so hard—it gives the soloists the cushion and the necessary creative energy to just play ripping solos! Jim Ridl (piano) swings hard on that opening track on piano as well, creating an exciting and enjoyable listen.

Ron Horton, (Trumpet and Flugelhorn), plays with a richness of ‘sound’ on this recording. He plays with a big and full ‘sound’. His ‘pitch’ and ‘time’ are very good. On a ‘Precious Soul’ and ‘Tis’, his ensemble, and inventive solo’s are a welcome addition to this music.

Guitarist, John Hart on guitar is superb throughout. His electric playing flows, and he is well versed harmonically. I might note–not all electric players can turn the corner and play convincingly on a nylon classical guitar.  His training and experience are well noted. On Horner’s, ‘Passion Dancer’, his execution of Flamenco style is fluid and musical!

The disc is also programmed very well, with an assortment of time feels and variations of ensemble. The compositions also display beautiful variation. For example, listening to ‘The Places We Feel Free’, (dedicated to bassist, Bob Bowen), (a ¾ metered tune), ‘Places’ features nice open harmonies as it features a section for bassist Martin Wind to improvise. His solo is set up nicely by guitarist, Hart and vibraphonist, Sherman as their unison melody leads to the conversation with Wind. It is beautifully done. Sherman is great once again and Tim’s cymbal work is superb!

Horner not only writes in an assortment of time feels, he plays each style with the up-most capability. He is one of our modern masters when it comes knowing what the music needs from the rhythm section. His contributions are played with passion and conviction! His time feels so good. It makes you want to play if you’re a musician. It makes you want to move if you’re a listener. He is a superb musician!

You will listen to this disc multiple times, I can promise you if you are a lover of creative mainstream Jazz. Tim’s debut is not successful on one level, but on many levels. He has waited to release a musical statement, which clearly demonstrates his great understanding of the Jazz idiom! Congrads Jims!!

Tim Horner recording date. The Band


Time To Practice, And Write

I have one week until I depart for Napoli, and then Germany for festivals in the north. I reside for the next week in my house in Colledimezzo Italy. My vibes are set up in the garage of my father in law here, and I will practice, and write for one week. It is rare in my life when I have this much down time to practice, and write, and relax a bit. When I was attending The Juilliard School in my college years I used to practice, or shed as we musicians say for 6 hours a day. It always amazes me how even at my age of 54 years old, I still have the desire to practice my craft. To perfect the many diminished, and altered patterns, and scales. To search for new ideas, and possibilities, as well as to simply write a few new tunes, and learn new tunes that I still don’t know. The motivation in the music is for life, and I expect to play until I literally drop. Hopefully that is a long time from now.

The art of jazz improvisation is a continuous quest. It never seems to get old, and the constant searching for new stuff to play on the vast amount of standards, blues, and rhythm changes written by all the music masters. Of course these days I work a lot out of the Nicolai Slonimsky book titled “Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns”. This book was Coltrane’s handbook. It has a huge amount of information in which he dissects the octave into multiple parts. The “Sesquiquadritone  section is the division of the octave into 4 parts, and gives you many different diminished patterns, and scales that are all applicable in the jazz genre, and the classical genre as a composer. So I practice a lot from this book , and learn the different scales, and patterns in all keys, but of course I try to live by the advice I give to my many students, and that is, “Practice does not make perfect”. PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT”!!!  Practice everything slowly and correct. Not fast and wrong.

Fast and wrong 1000 times will give you no results. Slow and perfect  10 or 20 times will give you major results!

Mark Sherman

The Orsara Jazz Festival Faculty Band

The Orsara Jazz Festival Faculty Band

I had just an amazing week in Orsara Italy from August 2-7. The faculty and band for the festival was Jerry Bergonzi, Jim Rotundi, Mark Sherman, Antonio Ciacca, Lucio Ferrara, John Webber, and Joe Farnsworth. Everyday we taught workshops, private lessons, and ran combos for 100 students at the camp. At night there were concerts, and all night jam sessions, and of course the food as usual in Italy is amazing. We ate incredible meals every night and lots of wine. I am not a huge drinker, but it is impossible to turn down. In fact if you try to say, “no thanks I don’t want any”, people look at you like your nuts. Anyway, I want to say something about each faculty musician individually.

Jerry Bergonzi is a musician, and saxophonist who I personally have looked up for many years. Especially since the death of my colleague Michael Brecker, Jerry is certainly the closest living sax player to Coltrane. Clearly he is deeply influenced by Coltrane, and of course all the great masters on his instrument. He has a deep understanding of the language, a fat fat sound on tenor sax, and the heart of giant. Deeply sensitive, and in touch with all the positive, and negative things happening in the world today. I truly enjoyed bonding with Jerry, and of course sharing the bandstand, and the music with him. He is gentle giant in the music, and his presence made it a very special week for me. It was really an honor, and I look forward to touring with him next year in a quartet setting.

Jim Rotundi is trumpet player that I certainly knew of as he has a huge reputation as a great player, but I had never really worked with him on the bandstand. It was great to meet him and play quartet with him on a separate concert in Foggia Italy sponsored by the festival. Jim is a humble, yet powerful player with incredible technique, and sound. And of course his language, and solo concept comes straight from the heart. I consider him one of the best trumpet players in the world. In addition he is a great guy, who clearly cared about the students, and bonding with all the musicians. A great guy to have on the bandstand, or on the road. Currently he is a professor of trumpet in Graz Austria, where he has relocated, and surely is bringing his genius to that program.

Antonio Ciacca is a truly fine pianist, arranger, and composer, and it was because of Antonio’s recommendation that I was chosen as a teacher, and performer at the Orsara Jazz Festival. I am quite grateful for this. Heavily influenced by all the bebop piano masters like Bud Powell, Sonny Clarke, Tommy Flanagan, Red Garland, Oscar Peterson etc. Antonio and his wife Giusy have for many years been on the forefront of the jazz world as they together have a jazz booking agency call C-Jam productions, and have promoted many huge jazz concerts, and tours with the likes of Elvin Jones and the Jazz Machine, and many others. Because of Antonio’s extensive knowledge of the music history, and business, he was chosen by Wynton Marsalis to be the director of programming for Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York City for the last 5 years. He is also on the Juilliard faculty with me, where he teaches the business of music. These days however Antonio is all about playing as he has stepped up to performing, and composing full-time. On Saturday August 6th the faculty band of the Orsara Jazz Festival played a work Antonio wrote specifically for the festival, entitled “The Orsara Suite”, in which each musician was featured in a movement. A well-calculated work with great purpose that gave each of us many solos on all the movements, but between each movement each one of us had an extended solo feature. We rehearsed it several times during the week, culminating with a kick ass performance, and recording of the Suite on the Saturday night concert on the big stage. It was mobbed with maybe 1500-2000 people as we ripped through this piece. Antonio used a composing technique that we all often apply, in which he takes well-known tunes like “Woody And You”, or “Like Sonny”, and changes the melody, and or chord changes a bit, and turns it into his own version. It is quite effective, and of course we all had a ball playing this extended suite. It has been my great pleasure to work with, and befriend Antonio since I recently met him at the beginning of last school year at The Juilliard School. He is a fine musician.

Lucio Ferrara guitarist, and director of the Orsara festival has only recently become one of my colleagues. He is a fine guitarist, influenced heavily by guitar master Wes Montgomery, and truly plays as if he loves the music deeply. On Friday night August 5th Jim Rotundi, and myself were driven about 30 minutes away from Orsara to the city of Foggia, where we played quartet with Luca Santaniello, and Joe La Piore, two fine Italian jazz players currently living in New York. Lucio played trio with Luca, and Joe before Jim, and I did our quartet segment of the evening’s festivities. I loved the deeply rooted bebop approach that Lucio takes towards the music. Much like my close friend and colleague Rodney Jones who also comes out of Wes Montgomery, and Kenny Burrell. What better place to come from as a jazz guitarist today. As a director Lucio did an incredible job managing, and administrating the day to day activities of the festival, as his cell phone never stopped ringing, as with 100 students, and the faculty he had to constantly deal with many issues that had nothing to do with playing the music, but when it was time to play Lucio really sounded great. A crisp clear sound, with great command of the jazz language.

John Webber is clearly one of the finest bass players around having performed with just about every big name in the business. I know him from his work the great tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. I really enjoyed hanging with John as he has a great sense of humor, and many great stories of his experiences having played with Benny Golson, George Coleman, Cecil Payne, Pharaoh Sanders Jon Hendriks, and list of jazz masters that goes on and on. He plays immaculately in tune with a great feel that sends the message of authentic jazz. Flat out a fun guy to have around. His playing made me feel very comfortable which I see as the goal of any musician. When you walk into a playing situation make those around you feel comfortable. John quietly does a great job of just that.

Joe Farnsworth is a drummer deeply rooted in the tradition of jazz. As a drummer myself having studied with Elvin Jones as a youngster, I am always in touch with what the drummer along side of me is doing. If I can swing harder than the drummer on the bandstand, then it is the wrong guy. Joe is absolutely the right guy, super experienced having played with many of the same jazz masters that John Webber has played with in Eric Alexander, George Coleman, Junior Cook, Johnny Griffin, Pharaoh Sanders, and the list goes on. Actually the two of them are truly a great combination. They fit together stylistically like a glove. Joe sounds to me as if you mixed Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, and Elvin Jones all together. He clearly loves to play as do all of us, but when you mix the three drummers styles together that I just mentioned you get magic. Joe is an original player that creates that authentic sound of jazz. A fun guy who deeply loves the music. He is just a ball to play and hang with.

Saturday morning before the big concert I did a solo vibraphone concert in an unbelievably beautiful 1000-year-old church in Orsara. The acoustics, and the physical setting were enough to make one see god. I played solo versions of “Along Came Betty”, “My One And Only Love”, “Celia”, and one of my originals entitled “Solitude”. I felt it was a very spiritual and motivating performance for me as 50-70 people showed and listened very eagerly to what I brought musically.

I look forward to returning to the Orsara Jazz Festival and jazz camp for years to come. It was an incredibly motivating, and rewarding musical week.

Jerry Bergonzi

Jim Rotundi

Mark Sherman

Antonio Ciacca

Lucio Ferrara

John Webber

Joe Farnsworth

Jerry Bergonzi and Mark Sherman

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