Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the plus side…

After all of the angst and financial mess following the Festival Productions-Festival Network LLC transaction nearly three years ago, one positive has emerged. Ben Ratliff had the details this month in the New York Times in his article Historic Sounds of Newport, Newly Online.

Before Festival Network essentially collapsed from its self-inflicted financial woes, the short-lived new ownership of the Newport Jazz Festival empire sold its audio archives to San Francisco-based Wolfgang’s Vault. It may have been its only good move while or after running George Wein’s successful production operation into the ground. Fortunately, Wein was able to resurrect that - at least for Newport and New York, where his resumes in 2010 after a one-year hiatus under the sponsorship of the health-care company CareFusion.

The audio archive sale price has not been disclosed. But after spending nearly $5 million on audio transfers and mixing, Wolfgang’s Vault (an online concert recording and rock music memorabilia archive) has begun posting free audio streams of performances from the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival.

Many of the tapes likely were made by performers’ record companies. In addition to the free audio streaming, higher quality audio of the concerts can be downloaded at costs estimated between $10 and $13.

The company says it acquired tapes of more than 1,200 individual performances dating back to at least 1955, Newport’s second year. Twenty of the Newport '59 sets are now available - and hundreds more concerts through the years will be posted in the coming months from the jazz festival as well as its companion Newport Folk Festival.

From what I’ve heard so far, the material is terrific. Count Basie’s ’59 Newport set with Joe Williams and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross is top-notch. What a great way to relive key moments in jazz history.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interesting developments at J@LC

Remember the halcyon days when to be considered a university, you had to have six or seven accredited colleges as well as graduate and professional divisions? In our society’s more recent cavalier and clever language-mashing, it seems anything goes.

It started with Hamburger University, then Dunkin’ Donuts University and probably thousands’ more corporate training initiatives that persist today with the university adjunct. And, of course, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Swing University.”

Grammar cop semantics barb aside as I jump back into blogging after two weeks in the sun, the JALC program is a great jazz education option for adults seeking a greater appreciation or understanding of the music we treasure so much. The program’s Winter 2010 session opens with a free January 5 open house at Irene Diamond Educational Center at Rose Hall in JALC’s Manhattan digs.

Available winter classes focus on Mary Lou Williams (taught by her spiritual guide and later manager, Father Peter O’Brien); drums and the workings of the jazz rhythm section (taught by Lewis Nash); bebop (taught by JALC trombonist Vincent Gardner); and Jazz 101 and Jazz 201 history courses (taught by the indefatigable broadcaster, archivist and jazz historian Phil Schaap).

Details are at JALC’s Web site, Courses from $125 to $200. Single class tickets, from $30-40, are available for cash purchase at the door on the evening of the class. To enroll, visit the site or call 212.258.9786,

Of great note this week is JALC’s announcement, covered in depth in Monday’s New York Times, that the institution is broadening its programming to underscore the close relationship between jazz and popular song. Singer-pianist Michael Feinstein has signed on as director of JALC’s new popular music series. He will create three programs and a family event for the spring of 2011. Stephen Holden has it covered in depth. Read on – about the importance and the many nuances.