Thursday, April 30, 2020

International Jazz Day thoughts about our new world of virtual jazz

The world at-large - and the jazz world as we knew it and enjoyed it - have changed drastically over the past six weeks because of the pandemic. No near-term end is in sight for the challenges it has caused.

Unless they were held prior to early March, none of the 2020 editions of listeners' favorite jazz festivals, are likely to be held this year.The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival have pulled the plug until 2021. So have many others. Clubs and concert venues are shuttered. Nobody knows with any certainty when they can reopen.

But there are some positive things happening. Funds have been started to assist impacted artists. Even though their traditional revenue streams have dried up, musicians have found ways to remain creative and help bring some solace to listeners. 

There is a wide range of virtual concerts and jazz sets streamed live from artists' homes or home studios through the internet's social media platforms.

Those I've tuned into include daily or near-daily performances by pianists Makoto Ozone ("Live From Our Living Room") at home in Tokyo, Fred Hersch ("Tune of the Day") from his piano at home in Manhattan, and Ted Rosenthal from his home in New York, trumpeter Mark Morganelli from Tarrytown NY, Hammond B-3 organ player Tony Monaco from his digs in Columbus OH, and guitarist Nate Najar & singer Daniela Soledade from St. Petersburg FL.

Those same platforms have given artists a new technology tool with which to reach eager ears. Educators have been able to work with their students - including ensembles - remotely. Group performances have been broadcast - with each band member sitting in a different location. Check out the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's "Quarantine Blues," an original composition that the players wrote, arranged, and recorded entirely on their respective mobile phones while isolating themselves in their homes. It's posted right here on YouTube.

Yes, we're in unusual times. We're adapting to it - and trying to get through it as best we can.

Today brings the ninth annual edition of International Jazz Day. This is also the global celebration's first virtual edition. Instead of the planned Global Host City all-star concert and activities planned for Cape Town, South Africa, organizers have scheduled an online all-star concert with many featured artists. Tune in at 3 p.m. EDT at the International Jazz Day website or you can watch it stream on Facebook.

Jazz hasn't left us. It's only a mouse-click or smartphone screen away. It's up to we listeners to support it as best we can.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Jazz musicians silenced by coronavirus, Chapter 2 (updated 11-24-2020)

Here is part two of our chronological listing of jazz-related COVID-19 deaths from the novel coronavirus, updated as we receive them. Our profound sympathies to their families, friends and fans as we remember their musical legacies.
Bootsie Barnes, 2007
  • Tenor saxophonist Bootsie Barnes, a Philadelphia jazz legend, died April 22. He was 82. His many musical partners over the years included trumpeters Lee Morgan and John Swana, saxophonist Larry McKenna and drummers Tootie Heath, Philly Joe Jones and (childhood friend) Bill Cosby.
  • Bassist Howard Tweddle died April 22 in Ottawa, Canada. He was 69. The British-born engineer and musician moved to Canada in 1981.
  • Irish saxophonist Frank Cullen died April 27. He was 85. He played in a variety of Dublin-area show bands in the 1960s and '70s.
  • Guitarist Rob Saunders died April 27 in Hopkinton MA, He was 69. He was a gypsy jazz specialist, as well as a fine illustrator.
  • Trombonist Duane Solem of Edina MN died May 2 at age 91. He was in the Bruce Dybvig Big Band, which won Look magazine’s National Amateur Swing Band Contest at Carnegie Hall in 1946. Duane played in jazz and dance bands throughout his adult life.
  • Brazilian singer, drummer, composer, lyricist and writer Aldir Blanc died May 4 in Rio de Janeiro. He was 73. His songs were recorded by Nana Caymmi, Milton Nascimento and Elis Regina, among others.
  • Brazilian samba singer and composer David Antônio Corrêa died May 10 in Rio de Janeiro. He was 82. He died of kidney failure brought on by COVID-19, less than a month after being hospitalized for surgery after he was run over by a vehicle.  
  • The multi-talented trumpeter and singer Joey Giambra died May 14 in Buffalo NY. He was 86. The retired Buffalo Police sergeant detective was also a pianist, actor, restaurateur & chef, filmmaker, poet, writer, historian and one-time mayoral candidate.
  • Composer, guitarist and singer Evaldo Gouveia died May 29 in Fortaleza, Brazil. He was 91. Gouveia composed more than 1,200 songs in his career. He came to prominence in the 1940s' golden age of radio. He had been in fragile health since a stroke in 2017.  
  • Bossa nova singer, actress and model Dulce Nunez died June 4 in Rio de Janeiro. She was 90. 
  • Trumpeter and educator Roy Okutani died June 27 in Sweden. He was 60. The Hawaii-born musician became director of jazz sturies at Birka Folkhogskola in Osterlund in 2006, after 23 years on the faculty at Berklee College of Music.
  • Boston-area saxophonist and music educator Rich Kenneally died July 2 at age 66. Until his retirement in 2019, he was a longtime music educator in Quincy MA, and ardent champion for young musicians. His wife, Cece, died from COVID-19 in late May.
  • Mbira player Cosmas Magaya died July 10 in Harare, Zimbabwe. He was 66. He was a renowned improviser on the plucked instrument, touring the world and teaching at many universities.
  • Helen Jones Woods, trombonist in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in the 1930s and 1940s, died July 25 in Sarasota FL. She was 96. After the integrated, all-female, swing orchestra broke up in 1949, and one concert with a symphony that fired her when it realized she was Black, she became a nurse and social worker. She never again touched her horn.  
  • Pianist and composer William Pursell died September 3 in Nashville at age 94. He was a jazz and R&B player before becoming a Nashville studio pianist working primarily in the country and folk music genres starting in the early 1960s.
  • Accordionist, composer and arranger Louis Corchia died September 12 at a hospital in Saint-Mandé (Val- de-Marne), France. He was 85. He was the son of another French accordion great, Primo Corchia.
  • Karlheinz Drechsel, a German jazz broadcaster, critic, drummer and jazz festival co-founder, died October 5 in a Berlin hospital. He was 89. Drechsel co-founded Dresden's International Dixieland Festival. His weekly radio program, Jazz Panorama, aired from 1959-1991. 
  • Pianist, composer, educator, African instrument maker and musicologist Nadi Qamar (aka Spaulding Givens) died October 21 in Green Bay WI. He was 103. The Ohio-born musician worked in California and New York City for several decades and taught for seven years at Bennington College in Vermont.   
  • Jazz club owner Al Howard died October 21 at age 93. Before buying Harlem’s popular Showman’s Café in 1961, he was a New York City police detective, best known for having helped save Martin Luther King Jr. after the civil rights leader was stabbed in the chest at a Sept. 20, 1958 book signing.
  • Dr Emil Iliev, founder of the International Jazz Festival Bansko, has died at age 73. His death was reported November 16 on the festival's Facebook page. The festival began 23 years ago in the Bulgarian mountain resort town. “His love for music, strong spirit, desire for life and his enthusiasm turned the Bansko International Jazz Festival into one of the most important international cultural events in the Balkans,” festival executives said.  
Here are links to the chronology: Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.