Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bob Dorough ( 1923 - 2018 )

By Neil Genzlinger at NYTimes
Bob Dorough, a singer, pianist and composer who was well known for his jazz but even better known for “Schoolhouse Rock!,” an infectious series of song-filled cartoons that conveyed math and grammar principles to young viewers, died on Monday at his home in Mount Bethel, Pa. He was 94.
His wife, Sally Shanley, confirmed the death.
Mr. Dorough was a moderately successful jazz pianist and singer when an advertising man named David B. McCall approached him for help with an idea. Mr. McCall had wondered why his son was able to memorize lyrics to rock songs but couldn’t learn the multiplication tables. Would catchy math-related tunes be the answer?
The original concept was to make a record and workbook, but when Mr. Dorough started producing zippy songs like “Three Is a Magic Number” and “My Hero, Zero,” the vision expanded into a series of animated shorts, which ABC began inserting into its Saturday morning lineup in 1973.
The series continued into the mid-1980s, with several revivals in subsequent decades, the subject matter growing to include civics, science and, perhaps most impactfully, grammar.
“Not to unduly shame the American education system,” People magazine began an article in 2016, “but chances are Bob Dorough has had more of an impact on grammar fluency than any other individual in the 20th century.”
Mr. Dorough (rhymes with “thorough”; his wife said Thorough Dorough was a nickname) was music director for the initial series and also wrote and sang some of the most fondly remembered “Schoolhouse Rock!” songs. They apparently stuck in young heads, or parental ones, or both. For the rest of Mr. Dorough’s career, it was not uncommon for him to be playing a jazz set and have someone call for a “Schoolhouse Rock!” tune.
“Just about every concert we did we would do some ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ because people enjoyed it,” Steve Berger, Mr. Dorough’s longtime guitarist, said in a telephone interview. The songs, he noted, were deceptively intricate.
“What you’ll notice is, each one of them is musically brilliant, is lyrically brilliant,” Mr. Berger said. The key, he said, was Mr. Dorough’s respect for the audience.
“He never wrote down to the kids,” he said. “He always brought them up.”
Robert Lrod Dorough was born on Dec. 12, 1923, in Cherry Hill, Ark. His father, Robert, was a salesman, and his mother, Alma Lewis Dorough, worked for a time for the Singer sewing machine company.
Music was always an interest for young Robert — violin and piano were among the instruments he studied as a child — but the idea of making a career of it really took hold when, as a clarinetist, he joined the high school band in Plainview, Tex., where his family had moved.
“That was when I fell in love with music,” he told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last year when he returned to his home state to play in Little Rock. “There was something about the ensemble, a lot of kids playing different horns, and it all fit like a glove when it was good. I said to my parents, ‘I’m going to be a musician.’ ”
First came military service, from 1943 to 1945; Mr. Dorough performed with and arranged for the Army Band. In 1949 he received a music degree at North Texas State Teachers College, then headed for New York, where he immersed himself in the jazz scene. His apartment on East 75th Street became the site of a regular jam session.
“You had to play early because of the neighbors,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. “They’d start knocking on the walls and floor at 10.”
The musicians, though, didn’t mind; the 10 o’clock quitting time meant they could still drop in on the late-night jazz scene downtown.
Mr. Dorough built a résumé that was nothing if not eclectic. In the early 1950s he was the traveling music director for the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson when Robinson tried a tap-dancing career. They were playing France when Robinson decided to return to the ring in 1955, but the Mars Club in Paris offered Mr. Dorough a singing and playing engagement, and he stayed for six months.
He returned to New York and recorded his first album, “Devil May Care,” released in 1956 on the small Bethlehem label. He moved to the West Coast for several years and was playing in a quintet at a Hollywood piano bar when he met Miles Davis, who would later ask Mr. Dorough to write him a Christmas song.
The result, in 1962, was “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern),” a wry, somewhat cynical ditty sung by Mr. Dorough. (Another track from that session, “Nothing Like You,” was included on Davis’s 1967 album “Sorcerer.”)
Another quirky collaboration was “I’m Hip,” a tongue-in-cheek portrait of someone who is decidedly not hip, written with his fellow singer-pianist-composer Dave Frishberg. It became a signature song for Blossom Dearie.
Mr. Dorough also helped produce, arranged for, played on or contributed vocals to albums by an array of artists that included Hoagy Carmichael, the Fugs, Spanky and Our Gang, and Art Garfunkel. He even acted occasionally; he appeared in an episode of the western “Have Gun — Will Travel” in 1959.
By the time he was recruited for “Schoolhouse Rock!” he was well connected in the music world, and thus was able to bring a high-end assortment of talent to that project. Ms. Dearie sang “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives.” Mr. Frishberg wrote (and the jazz trumpeter and vocalist Jack Sheldon sang) one of the series’ most delightful songs, “I’m Just a Bill,”
Though Mr. Dorough recorded many albums over the years, his major-label debut did not come until he was 73, when Blue Note released “Right on My Way Home.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Dorough is survived by a brother, Gregory; a daughter, Aralee Dorough; and a grandson. His first marriage, to Jacqueline Wright, ended in divorce in 1953. He married Ruth Corine Meinert in 1960; she died in 1986.
Mr. Dorough performed constantly throughout his career and was a regular at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pa., where he last played just a few weeks ago. In 2001, when he and Mr. Frishberg performed at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, Ben Ratliff, reviewing the concert for The New York Times, said of Mr. Dorough, “He’s all eternal youth and love for life, with a ponytail, a toothy smile and a goofy charisma.”
That persona, complete with Arkansas twang, was no act, Mr. Berger said.
“What you saw on the stage,” he said, “was who Bob was.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 25, 2018, on Page B15 of the New York edition with the headline: Bob Dorough, Jazzman Who Composed ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ Ditties, Dies at 94. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Sunday, April 08, 2018

1 Sem 2018 - Part Eleven

Bobo Stenson Trio
Contra La Indecisión

By Karl Ackermann
With a few exceptions, Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson has spent his long recording career with the prestigious ECM label, dating back to his oddly named Underwear in 1971. That particular album turned out to be more a showcase for bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen than for Stenson, and the pianist did not lead again on the label for twenty years. Stenson was hardly absent from Manfred Eicher's iconic label in those intervening years, appearing as a sideman for Don Cherry, Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko and Charles Lloyd. On Contra La Indecision, Stenson reconvenes the trio that last issued the 2012 release Indicum.
Stenson and double bassist Anders Jormin have a three-decade history beginning with a mutual association with saxophonist Lenart Åberg. It was the pair's contribution to Lloyd's Notes from Big Sur (ECM, 1992) that brought both to prominence. Percussionist Jon Fält is the youngster in the trio—still in his thirties, he has mostly played with well-known artists inside of Sweden; his initial recording being Indicum.
Jormin is credited with five of the seven original compositions on Contra La Indecision. The album opens with Cuban guitarist Silvio Rodríguez's "Canción Contra La Indecisión" (Song Against Indecision), a light and catchy piece, ironically, from a composer known for his literary seriousness. Erik Satie's familiar "Élégie" begins quietly before Stenson moves it to a bright and punchy treatment with the rhythm section adding subtle, intricate textures. Béla Bartók's "Wedding Song From Poniky" is a beautiful rendition of the jovial original and features a pair of brief, but excellent, solos from Jormin. The bassist's own composition "Three Shades of a House" provides him with more opportunity in the form of an extended intro solo. The piece briefly veers toward abstraction when Jormin picks up the bow, but it doesn't stray far from the overall charm of the melody. "Stilla" has a rambling bluesy quality with an intriguing dialog between Stenson, Jormin and Fält.
Stenson's strong suits have always been his playing—his mastery of the measured build up—and his talent for arraigning other's compositions to put a unique stamp on each. His blending of classical, jazz and folk influences and uncommon time signatures has led to comparisons (not necessarily precise ones) with Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. Stenson's own style is easily recognizable and is especially well-served in the company of Jormin and Fält. Not all of Stenson's work has the bursts of color that we hear in Contra La Indecision and that makes it one of his most interesting albums to date.
Track Listing: 
Cancion contra la indecision; Doubt Thou the Stars; Wedding Song from Polinky; Three Shades Of a House; Elegie; Cancion y Danza VI; Alice; Oktoberhavet; Kalimba Impressions; Stilla; Hemingway Intonations.
Bobo Stenson: piano; Anders Jormin: double bass; Jon Falt: drums.

David Rees-Williams Trio
Time Scape

By John Fordham
David Rees-Williams follows up his best selling second CD with "Time Scape" featuring a lovingly maintained 1931 Steinway grand piano,lovingly played.The trio is completed by Neil Francis on electric bass and Phil Laslett on drums.Think Jacques Loussier and then some.The album includes compositions spanning four centuries from,among others, Purcell, Bach, Ravel and Watlock."David Rees-Williams is an accomplished pianist whose repertoire contains some of the most eloquent themes ever composed in Europe, the group recalled the Modern Jazz Quartet's meticulous relaxation.

Tomás Improta
Olha Pro Céu

Por Anderson Nascimento
Com mais de 45 anos de carreira, o músico Tomás Improta chega ao seu 10° disco solo, gravado entre novembro de 2015 e abril de 2016, apresentando novas e velhas canções.
O pianista abre o disco com “Olha Pro Céu”, canção de Tom Jobim, também escalada para abrir o disco, enquanto a sequência traz “Risque” de Ary Barroso, em versão cativante. Entre os artistas relidos estão ainda Edu Lobo e Torquato Neto, Heitor Villa-Lobos e Cole Porter.
O disco se concentra no piano do Tomás, com poucas participações especiais, a saber, o contrabaixista Tony Botelho na canção “Silvestre: Nascente do Rio Carioca” (Tomás Improta) e Gabriel Improta, seu filho, em “I Concentrate on You” (Cole Porter). Este fato contrasta com o seu álbum anterior “A Volta de Alice” (2015), repleto de músicos e texturas diferentes.
Embora esbanje bom gosto ao longo de todo o álbum, alguns dos melhores momentos são a lindíssima “Poema Singelo” (Heitor Villa-Lobos) e “Karen B.” (Tomás Improta), faixa que fecha o disco transmitindo um clima radiante.
Com produção do próprio artista, “Olha Pro Céu” é um disco que vai agradar em cheio aos amantes do piano, já que neste disco ele reina soberano, juntamente com o talento de Tomás Improta, claro.

Gilson Peranzzetta
Tributo a Oscar Peterson

By Mauro Ferreira
Três meses após ter lançado em janeiro um álbum gravado ao vivo em show com Ivan Lins, Cumplicidade (2018), o pianista, compositor e arranjador carioca Gilson Peranzzetta já apresenta outro disco. Tributo a Oscar Peterson chega ao mercado fonográfico em abril pela mesma gravadora, Fina Flor, que editou o álbum ao vivo de Peranzzetta com Ivan.
Como o título Tributo a Oscar Peterson já explicita, o CD solo de Peranzzetta celebra o legado do pianista canadense de jazz Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (15 de agosto de 1925 – 23 de dezembro de 2007), músico prodígio celebrado pela destreza e velocidade no toque do piano.
Embora a extensa discografia desse pianista de técnica exuberante seja formada essencialmente por álbuns em que o músico priorizou a interpretação de obras alheias, Peterson também foi compositor, registrando eventualmente músicas próprias ao longo de obra fonográfica que atingiu picos de produção entre as décadas de 1950 e 1970.
Na capa do álbum Tributo a Oscar Peterson, Gilson Peranzzetta é visto em foto de Aloizio Jordão.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Cecil Taylor ( 1929 - 2018 )

By Ben Ratliff

Cecil Taylor, a pianist who challenged the jazz tradition that produced him and became one of the most bracing, rhapsodic, abstract and original improvisers of his time, died on Thursday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his legal guardian, Adam C. Wilner. No cause was given, but friends said he had been in failing health for some time.
Mr. Taylor wrote music, led bands and for decades worked, as many jazz musicians do, in nightclubs and at festivals. But from early on he seemed to have much greater goals.
He was a supreme example of an uncompromising artist, arguing — mainly through his work, but in principled and prickly interviews as well — against reductive definitions of what a musician of his training and background could or should do.
For Mr. Taylor, a small and vigorous man who in his prime wore athletic clothing onstage — as if to confirm the notion that the audience was watching a physical workout — albums weren’t merely recording sessions and performances weren’t merely gigs
At the center of his art was that dazzling physicality and the percussiveness of his playing — his deep, serene, Ellingtonian chords and hummingbird attacks above middle C — which held true well into his 80s.
But in concert he also recited his own poems, whose enjambed lines might describe Aztec architecture, paleoanthropology, crocodile reproduction or a woman’s posture. His motions around the instrument and the bandstand were a part of his performance too.
In his system of writing music, working with bands and performing, he was concerned with what he called, in a 1971 interview with the writer Robert Levin, “black methodology”: oral traditions, music as embodied celebration and spiritual homage.
Classically trained, he valued European music for what he called its qualities of “construction” — form, timbre, tone color — and incorporated them into his own aesthetic.
“I am not afraid of European influences,” he told the critic Nat Hentoff. “The point is to use them, as Ellington did, as part of my life as an American Negro.”
In a long assessment of Mr. Taylor’s work — one of the first — from “Four Lives in the Bebop Business,” a collection of essays on jazz musicians published in 1966, the poet and critic A. B. Spellman wrote:
“There is only one musician who has, by general agreement even among those who have disliked his music, been able to incorporate all that he wants to take from classical and modern Western composition into his own distinctly individual kind of blues without in the least compromising those blues, and that is Cecil Taylor, a kind of Bartok in reverse.”
Because his fully formed work was not folkish or pop-oriented, did not swing consistently (often it did not swing at all) and never entered the consensual jazz repertoire, Mr. Taylor could be understood to occupy an isolated place. Even after he was rewarded and lionized — he was given a Guggenheim fellowship in 1973, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award in 1990, a MacArthur fellowship in 1991 and the Kyoto Prize in 2014 — his music was not easy to quantify.
If improvisation means using intuition and risk in the present moment, there have been few musicians who took that challenge more seriously than Mr. Taylor. If one of his phrases seemed of paramount importance, another such phrase generally arrived right behind it. The range of expression in his keyboard touch encompassed caresses, rumbles and crashes.
He was capable of performances full of stillness and awe, suggesting a kind of physical movement through musical phrases, as on the unaccompanied “Pemmican” (from the 1981 live recording “Garden”). Or he could go on full attack, as on “Taht” from the 1984 album “Winged Serpent (Sliding Quadrants)” — his fingers hammering and flying across the keys and breaking through the sound of a polytonal, polyrhythmic 11-piece band.
Some of his greatest musical relationships were with drummers, among them Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Sunny Murray and Ronald Shannon Jackson.
A Mother’s Influence:
Cecil Percival Taylor was born in Long Island City, Queens, on March 25, 1929, and grew up about four miles away, in Corona. His father, Percy, originally from North Carolina, was a chef for Dr. John Kindred, president of the River Crest Sanitarium in Corona. Growing up, Cecil revered his mother, the former Almeida Ragland, for her learning and her high standards. She spoke French and German, took him to see Bill Bojangles Robinson and Ella Fitzgerald, and suggested that he read Schopenhauer.
Acknowledging his desire to become a musician, rather than pursuing one of the careers she preferred for him — doctor, lawyer or dentist — his mother insisted that he practice the piano six days a week, then do what he wanted on Sunday. “That’s when the organization of my music began, when she wasn’t looking,” Mr. Taylor said in an interview in the literary journal Hambone.
She died of cancer when he was 14.
Mr. Taylor studied piano at the New York College of Music in Manhattan and, in the early 1950s, moved to Boston, where he had relatives, to attend the New England Conservatory.
While studying piano, arranging, harmony and solfège notation there, he started going to jazz clubs, which he said helped him develop ideas about his music more than anything he learned in school. He prized Ellington for his orchestral approach to the piano and Horace Silver for his rough, vernacular energy; he saw Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Sarah Vaughan and the relatively little-known pianist Dick Twardzik, all of whom would contribute to his conception of music, as did Stravinsky.

(The answer to the question of what music gave rise to Mr. Taylor, and what he liked to listen to, would encompass all those names as well as Marvin Gaye, Gyorgy Ligeti, Betty Carter, Judy Garland and Thelonious Monk. The Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and the flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya had also influenced him to think about structure, movement and time, he said.)
Back in New York, Mr. Taylor formed groups with the vibraphonist Earl Griffith and the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. In 1956, with a quartet rounded out by Mr. Lacy, the bassist Buell Neidlinger (who died on March 16) and the drummer Denis Charles, he made his first album, “Jazz Advance.” Featuring standards as well as his own compositions, it was produced by Tom Wilson, who later worked with Bob Dylan, the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground. The quartet played at the Newport Jazz Festival the next year, a performance released by Verve Records as one side of an album. (The other side featured a group led by the alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce and the trumpeter Donald Byrd.)
Mr. Taylor’s music at that time was steadily swinging and fit recognizably within the modern jazz idiom — its spiky phrases had a clear connection to Monk’s — but it was also already moving beyond it. “Tune 2,” for example, from the Newport record, had an 88-bar form, a long way from the 32-bar song structure more commonly used in jazz.
He went further in that direction on the 1958 record “Looking Ahead!,” then recorded a session, originally issued as “Hard Driving Jazz,” with an ad hoc group, put together by Mr. Wilson, that included John Coltrane.
With renown came a particular kind of scrutiny. In 1959, Gunther Schuller devoted a long essay in The Jazz Review to the question of whether Mr. Taylor’s music was atonal.
“Listening carefully to his playing leaves no doubt of the fact that Taylor indeed does think tonally, but the result of his thinking most of the time cannot be analyzed on tonal terms,” he wrote.
Whitney Balliett of The New Yorker described a crowd reacting to Mr. Taylor’s performance at the Great South Bay Jazz Festival on Long Island in 1958: A few were mesmerized, he wrote, while others “fidgeted, whispered and wandered nervously in and out of the tent, as if the ground beneath had suddenly become unbearably hot.”
By 1961, given the chance to contribute half the music on an album under the arranger Gil Evans’s name (the other half showcased the composer Johnny Carisi), Mr. Taylor played only original music: striking pieces with shifting tempos and splintering melodic lines.
The next year he formed a bond with the alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, who would work with him for more than 20 years; the two were the core of the Cecil Taylor Unit, a group with an otherwise shifting membership. (Mr. Lyons died in 1986.)
By 1966, when he recorded the album “Unit Structures” for Blue Note, Mr. Taylor was forming a syntax where none had existed. He was using blues tonality and dissonance in his improvisations and original structures in his written music, organized in ways that were not traditional for jazz, even for the relatively new avant-garde sort with which he was generally associated.
In one piece on “Unit Structures,” titled “Enter Evening,” piano, oboe, alto saxophone and bass play staggered and unresolved melodic lines that refer to one another only in a distant sense, coming together loosely only in places. There is percussion, but no steady rhythm.
It wasn’t the technique and feeling of jazz that Mr. Taylor was rejecting, only its form: the 32-bar song, the theme-solos-theme progression.
Instead, his structures often proceeded sequentially, shifting among motifs and tonal centers. When he used written scores for his musicians, melodies were indicated by note letters, but there were no staves or bar lines; this gave musicians more freedom within his music, and, he decided, more investment in it.
“When you think about musicians who are reading music,” he said in “All the Notes,” a 1993 documentary directed by Chris Felver, “my contention has always been: The energy that you’re using deciphering what the symbol is is taking away from the maximum creative energy that you might have had if you understood that it’s but a symbol.”
There was no academy for what Mr. Taylor did, and partly for that reason he became one himself, teaching for stretches in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at Antioch College in Ohio. (He was given an honorary doctorate by the New England Conservatory in 1977.) Not until the mid-1970s, Mr. Lyons told the writer John Litweiler, did the Cecil Taylor Unit have enough work that the musicians could make a living from it — mostly in Europe.
Solos and Duos
During this time Mr. Taylor was giving a lot of solo-piano performances, a practice he started around 1967 and refined through albums like “Indent” (1973), “Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!” (1980) and “For Olim” (1986).
He would occasionally perform in a duo with another improviser: pared-down and sometimes jarring situations if the other performer pushed too hard against Mr. Taylor. Those pairings led to a clashing concert with the swing-era pianist Mary Lou Williams in 1977; memorable performances with Max Roach in 1979, 1989 and 2000; and collaborations with the Japanese butoh dancer Min Tanaka. In 1979, he collaborated with the dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Heather Watts on a short ballet.
In the summer of 1988, Mr. Taylor played a series of concerts in East and West Berlin — solo, in duos and with groups of various sizes — which were released on the FMP label as an 11-CD set, “Cecil Taylor in Berlin ’88.”
Since 1983, Mr. Taylor had lived alone in a three-story home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. During that time he would perform occasionally in nightclubs, but more often in theaters or even museums around the world.
In 2014, a contractor working on his house, Noel Muir, bilked him out of nearly all of the $500,000 that Mr. Taylor had received for the Kyoto Prize; Mr. Muir was sentenced to one to three years in prison.
No immediate family members survive.
As uncompromising as Mr. Taylor could be, many musicians bear his influence, directly or by general example; a list of pianists alone would include Marilyn Crispell, Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Chucho Valdés and Jason Moran.
In 2016, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organized a two-week exhibition and residency dedicated to Mr. Taylor; it featured panel discussions, a play, films, dance performances, displays of his written scores and live music. He performed at the beginning and end of the event, playing piano and reading poetry, with Mr. Tanaka and with various ensembles. It was an ambitious attempt to take the full measure of Mr. Taylor as an artist who would not be held to the conventions of any one discipline.
“What I am doing,” he said in 1994, “is creating a language. A different American language.”