Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jazz trombonist Harold Betters, 84, has played with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong

Pittsburgh jazz legend, Harold Betters during Irwin's Art & Jazz Night
Jazz trombonist Harold Betters will bring his vast catalog of music to Irwin, Penn. next Thursday for a live performance during the summer's first Art & Jazz Night.

Betters, a Connellsville resident, described himself as a lifelong musician. He first picked up the trombone when he was 7 years old.
"I come from a musical family with five boys and two girls," Betters said. "My dad played violin, and taught us to play, and we all got instruments."
Betters played in the Connellsville High School marching band, and upon graduation, he joined several local marching bands before joining the Army. He served during the Korean conflict.
While in the Army, Betters became a member of the U.S. Army Band, where he said he learned how to actually listen to music.
"Before that band, I couldn't play without (sheet) music right in front of me, so they taught me how to listen to the music to play," Betters said.
Betters went on to the Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., after he left the army, in hopes of one day becoming a high school marching band instructor.
After he graduated from Ithaca, he spent one year at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. During that time, Betters found himself performing on stage with several notable musicians, including Herbie Jones, who played trumpet with Duke Ellington's big band.
"I learned how to improvise during that time, and I also learned that, to get a job, you had to play music for people to dance to," Betters said. "So I had to listen to jazz numbers, and learn how to play them."
When Betters came back to the Pittsburgh region, he played in the Jerry Betters Quartet, with his brother.
Although he stayed with his brother's band for five years, Betters said he was never happy.
"He always wanted to play slow songs for all the girls, but I liked to play jump numbers," Betters said. "So I started my own band."
Betters' band played at several clubs throughout the region, but he found his home at the Encore, in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood, where he played Mondays through Saturdays.
Eventually, Betters' reputation grew. He made appearances on several television shows, including the Merv Griffin Show and three stints on the Mike Douglas Show.
After his appearance on Griffin's show, he went to California, where he played with jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
Then Betters and his quartet toured with Ray Charles for two months, he said.
Although he toured and traveled to play television shows, Betters made sure to keep his job at the Encore. He attributes his success to the club, where he built the majority of his fan base.
"I like to play where people really enjoy me and show it," Betters said. "My fans have been good to me, and I have a great following."
Betters continues to play shows throughout the Pittsburgh region on a regular basis with his quartet, which includes bassist and vocalist Bob Insko, keyboardist John Burgh and drummer Cecil Brooks.
Next Thursday's performance marks Betters' third time playing Irwin's Art & Jazz Nights, which is organized by the Irwin Business & Professionals Association. It's become a tradition for Betters to call the IBPA before they can call him, according to Gail Macioce, who plans to sing with Betters' quartet.
"He tells us he loves the venue so much, and that's apparent whenever you talk to him and watch him perform," Macioce said. "Harold Betters is the epitome of a jazz persona because he has the musical ability and can really engage the crowd."
Macioce said the IBPA is honored to have Betters come into the borough each summer for its Art & Jazz Nights.
And Betters couldn't be happier to oblige, he said.
"The people are just wonderful, and I just love playing for people when I can see people dancing and they're really enjoying themselves," Betters said. "Don't ever think that I won't play anymore because of my age.
"The only way I'm going to retire is if I come to a point where I physically cannot play no more."

Thanks Harold. A lot of us veteran trombonists feel the same way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trombonist Marshall Gilkes "Sound Stories" | News

Trombonist Marshall Gilkes "Sound Stories" | News:
'via Blog this'Trombonist Marshall Gilkes "Sound Stories"
Trombonist-composer Marshall Gilkes makes a major statement on Sound Stories (March 6, Alternate Side Records). Working with a sympathetic, immensely talented quintet featuring saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist Adam Birnbaum, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Eric Doob, Gilkes takes his innovative composing and lyrical, hard-swinging soloing to new levels of excitement and refinement.

"I like an orchestral shape in my music-with ups and downs-as opposed to a flat line where everything moves with the same intensity," says Gilkes. "I try to see the big picture when I write. Some of the pieces on the album have nine pages of music. They're through-composed, although I do allow a lot of freedom."

A strong thread connects the sections of each intricate composition. Even as tempos shift and time signatures change, the parts clearly relate to the whole. Gilkes conceived "Presence," "Anxiety," and "Armstrong" as two-part pieces where the sections fit together to form a complete unit. "On 'Presence,' there's a frantic first statement of the melody, which sets up Donny's solo," Gilkes explains. "The contrasting section for piano is through-composed, although Adam has lots of freedom to embellish the written melody and play with the chords. Part 2 begins with a variation on the first melody and ends with a recapitulation of the opening."

Gilkes likes improvisation and composition to form an organic whole. "I want each solo to support the written form," he says. "The solos should build, and set up the next part of the composition, to cue it in." Gilkes intensifies the beauty and intimacy of "Downtime" in his solo, building to a ravishing climax that signals the return of the lovely melody. The long, thematically coherent lines of his improvisation on "Slashes" contrast the short, fragmented phrases of the composition.

Closely integrating composition and improvisation demands special musicians, and Gilkes surrounds himself with players attuned to his ideas. Pianist Birnbaum and Gilkes display empathy and craftsmanship in their duet on "Bare." Bassist Nakamura and Gilkes tell superlative musical stories in the beginning of Gilkes' solo on "Anxiety Part 2," and the bassist's lyrical gifts are evident during his solo on "Downtime." McCaslin presents his fiery presence on "Presence," and "Armstrong" (named for Gilkes' late grandfather, not the legendary jazz trumpeter). The music was polished during the band's week long engagement at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola just prior to recording Sound Stories. They navigate Gilkes' complex charts and compositional intent with grace and vitality while interjecting their voices into the music.

Gilkes was born in Camp Springs, Maryland, and spent his childhood in many different parts of the United States traveling with his father, a musician in the Air Force, and his mother, a singer. He began playing trombone at the age of ten and hasn't looked back.
A graduate of The Juilliard School as well as Interlochen Arts Academy, Gilkes was a 2003 finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. He made his recording debut in 2004 with Edenderry of which JazzTimes wrote, "He sounds fine on the ballads, where he plays with the slightest hint of terminal vibrato, but his ripe tone and aggressive soloing on the faster numbers really stand out." Jazz Review called his 2008 quintet recording, Lost Words, "one of those rare releases that has so much good music on it the listener can be ensured of solid artistic sentiments and beautiful playing throughout its entire length."

He has performed at jazz festivals and venues throughout Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, and taught and presented master classes at institutions around the world including The Banff Center, Berklee College of Music, and on behalf of the Juilliard School. In addition to his work as a leader, he has performed or recorded with Richard Bona, Edmar Castaneda, Billy Cobham, Dave Douglas, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and the Village Vanguard Orchestra. He is featured on Maria Schneider's Grammy Award winning CD Sky Blue, among many others, including CDs by John Fedchock, David Berger and Edmar Castaneda. After living and working in New York for twelve years, he moved to Cologne, Germany where he is a member of the WDR Big Band. He is an artist for Edwards Instruments.

"I'm trying to become a more refined player, to really hone my ideas as a composer and improviser so I can play exactly what I want," Gilkes says. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not very good with words, so I'm trying to play what I can't put into words."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Riffing on Ray

Hitting the road with soul icon gave trombonist her big break

By  Kevin Joy
The Columbus Dispatch Sunday January 22, 2012 11:59 AM
After performing two nights in 1995 as a Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra featured guest, Ray Charles inquired about a musician whose smooth, dulcet tones had caught his ear.
“Who was that guy on trombone?” Charles asked.
That was no guy — nor was the player a member of the ensemble.
Sarah Morrow, a Pickerington native, had been hired for the back-to-back concerts, the biggest gigs that the 27-year-old had landed since leaving a New Jersey arts-administration job to pursue music full time.
Unaware of Charles’ interest, Morrow approached his manager after the first show.
“I just had this overwhelming feeling,” she said, “that I needed to ask to audition for his band.”
As expected, she received a swift rebuff — until the brassy hopeful mentioned that she had played lead trombone that night.
“He stopped, turned and said, ‘That was you?’  ” Morrow recalled. “Then he said, ‘So you think you can handle the road?’
“A few days later, I was in L.A.”
Not only did Morrow land the break of a lifetime, playing for two years with a 22-piece orchestra in locales ranging from Barbados to Japan, but she also became Charles’ first (and only) female musician — the significance of which took time for the graduate of Ohio University in Athens to realize.
On Friday and Saturday in the Lincoln Theatre, Morrow, 42, will celebrate her mentor’s memory by joining the Columbus Jazz Orchestra for the show "Hit the Road, Jack: The Music of Ray Charles."
Columbus bassist Roger Hines, who toured and recorded exclusively with Charles in the 1980s, will also play with the ensemble.
Although Charles died in 2004, his repertoire endures — from the irresistible boogie-woogie groove of Mess Around to the sweet, soulful opening notes of Georgia on My Mind. The extensive Charles catalog includes gospel, blues and even country.
The material “has a way of bringing the spiritual world to us on an everyday level,” Morrow said. “He puts everything that he has into every note.
“I viewed him really like a grandfather.
“I think I probably got more face time than normal,” she said. “He was concerned about the fact I was a young woman and made it clear that if anyone messed with me they had to answer to him.”
Yet life on the road, in particular among the company of raucous male musicians — and some territorial members of Charles’ backing singers known as the Raylettes — wasn’t easy.
“It was like the army,” recalled Hines, an adjunct music professor, 59, at Capital University in Bexley.
“It was rowdy.”
In Morrow’s memory remains fierce dialogue with a Raylette who declared that the coveted trombone spot should have gone to a black woman.
Today, when thinking of the encounter, Morrow remembers something that Charles once said to her during an international flight: “If you let your emotions get the best of you, you’re not good for anything.”
“In the end,” Morrow said, “the beauty was that the music always wins out.”
These days, she also focuses on more practical pieces of Charles’ guidance: remembering to put proper space between notes, knowing when to use softer volumes and understanding the importance of timing.
Such pointers helped Morrow launch a solo career, which included overseas pairings with jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Duke Ellington Orchestra as well as with Columbus musicians Foley (a bassist, who goes by one name, who played for Miles Davis and recorded on the Motown label) and pianist Bobby Floyd.
Paris, where she was later scouted by a European jazz label, has been Morrow’s home for the past 14 years, although she plans to move back to the United States this year to be closer to her family.
A more recent engagement was a string of dates with pop trailblazer Cyndi Lauper and her “ Memphis Blues” tour. In the bedroom-turned-studio that Morrow uses when in Ohio is a signed, framed photo of Lauper. The trombonist gushed about having her makeup applied by the funky True Colors chanteuse.
Morrow’s success, her supporters say, is the result of more than that chance conversation in Dayton.
“She inspires you,” said Floyd, 57, of the Northwest Side. “She allows that creativity to happen.”
The performer remains a source of pride for Pickerington schools, said Mike Sewell, who served as band director during Morrow’s middle- and high-school years.
“The horn is an extension of her,” said Sewell, 54. “These things aren’t taught. It’s a gift. She’s always had that.”
Columbus Jazz Orchestra Artistic Director Byron Stripling, a trumpeter who once played some shows with Charles in the mid-1990s, noted Morrow’s toughness.
Being the “woman on the bus,” Stripling said, “that’s dues-paying. . . . She certainly won those guys’ hearts, minds and musical respect.”
The chutzpah began early. At the tender age of 4, Morrow became entranced with the trombone after attending a performance of The Music Man. When she was later assigned to the clarinet, she lied to her parents and claimed that her orthodontist had said reed instruments would harm her braces. She got her trombone.
These days, Morrow is preparing for the spring debut of her contemporary jazz album Elektric Air and remains at work co-producing a Louis Armstrong tribute album by five-time Grammy winner Dr. John.
The 71-year-old New Orleans blues rocker called Morrow “a bad-ass trombone player . . . who threw me a whole gang of loops.”
All opportunities, though, seem to circle back to the powerful influence of Charles.
Morrow played trombone as part of the opening music heard in the Academy Award-winning biopic Ray (2004), but she still can’t bring herself to watch the film.
Perhaps even more emotional than performing his tunes is playing them with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble that Morrow worshipped as a teenager.
“They are the reason I started playing jazz,” she said. “I do what I do because of the CJO.”
Morrow hopes that listeners find inspiration next weekend.
After all, as she can attest, only a few notes might be needed to get someone’s attention.

View Slideshow

Pickerington native Sarah Morrow, who has played trombone in venues throughout the world

    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Fred Wesley - 'Boogaloo'

    Wesley rejoins Allstars for some 'Boogaloo'

    Trombonist Fred Wesley played with James Brown in the '60s and '70s, becoming musical director of the J.B.'s in 1970. He joined the Count Basie Orchestra in 1978. He plays with the Greyboy Allstars on Dec. 30 at the Belly Up Tavern. Photo courtesy of Alex Hincliffe

    Fred Wesley is one of the original founders of funk music. Serving as James Brown's bandleader for the majority of the soul icon's most creative years, Wesley's unmistakable trombone playing and funked-up arrangements continue to shape music today.
    Wesley's gig with Brown was sandwiched between stretches with both Count Basie and Parliament-Funkadelic, and the one-time adjunct college professor in jazz studies has arranged for everyone from Ray Charles to Van Morrison.
    In 1995, Wesley played on the debut album for then-relatively unknown San Diego jazz/funk collaborative, The Greyboy Allstars.
    "West Coast Boogaloo" is now considered a classic, and the Greyboy Allstars have both lived up to their name and helped get San Diego into the jazz conversation.
    On Friday night, Wesley will rejoin the much-heralded locals at the Belly Up for the first of only two shows (the other is Saturday in San Francisco), where they'll play the 16-year-old album together in its entirety.
    And it all started when the legendary trombonist met Greyboy Allstars front man Karl Denson over a beer neither man was drinking.
    "It's a funny story," Wesley said recently from his South Carolina home. "I first met Karl at an audition. It was a call for some kind of light beer. There were a bunch of horn players that showed up. They wanted to see groups of twos and threes and ended up putting me and Karl together. Before that, I didn't know Karl from Adam. We did our little thing together and hit it off real good. We didn't get the gig, but that was the hookup."
    Although the pair got along famously, they didn't reconnect until years later when Stephan Meyner's jazz label, Minor Music, was releasing an album by Wesley.
    "I didn't see him for a while," he said. "But then Karl was at a session for one of my albums. I saw him and said 'Hey, I remember you!' and we talked about the audition and everything was all right. But I realized what a fine tenor player he really was when he played on that album. And Karl was in it when I put my band together. We've been friends for a long time ---- longer than we can remember. But when we did 'West Coast Boogaloo,' he had left my band and started the Allstars. He just called me up to do it and I did it."
    Wesley's unassuming, matter-of-fact demeanor permeates everything he does, from his 2002 biography, "Hit Me Fred: Recollections of a Sideman," to casually talking about his time in some of music's greatest bands.
    "It's all an accident," said Wesley. "I was playing trumpet and my father needed a trombone in his band. But the trombone has stuck with me, and I've stuck with the trombone. I knew people like James Brown and George Clinton had an innovative style. I just had no idea it would last this long. Looking back now, I know it was radical and I do think it will last forever. But more than anything, I'm just really happy to be among the people who were with them."
    Wesley has been forced to take time off recently, as he has been recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on his right hand. The two end-of-year dates with Greyboy mark a return to form, as the bandleader has performances with his own band booked well into the spring.
    "I want to do as much music as possible," he said. "I'm 68 years old. I realize it's coming to the end at some point. But I'm going to try to get as much in as I can."
    While Wesley will go down in the history books as part of some of the most influential acts of his (or any) generation, all he cares about is playing that trombone.
    "Some horn players are never really famous or big stars," he said. "I just want to leave a body of work that is undeniable. I've played with everybody you could ever think of. I want to leave a big footprint when I'm done. From the beginning, that's something that I've always intended to do, and it's exactly what I'm going to continue to do."

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Melba Liston- Curt's Jazz Cafe

    Archive for jazz trombone

    Unsung Women of Jazz #6 – Melba Liston

    Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2011 by curtjazz
    Melba Liston (1926 – 1999)

    “When I saw the trombone I thought how beautiful it looked and knew I just had to have one. No one told me that it was difficult to master. All I knew was that it was pretty and I wanted one.” – Melba Liston
    Trombonist/Arranger/Composer Melba Liston was born in Kansas City, MO on January 13, 1926.  In her early years, she shuttled back and forth between the and Kansas City, KS, where her grandparents lived.  She got her first trombone at seven, when a traveling music store brought instruments to school.  By the time she was eight, she was playing solo trombone on local radio shows.
    When Melba was eleven, her family moved to Los Angeles.  There she was mentored by a local music teacher, who ran a big band made up of neighborhood children.  That relationship ended after four years, when Melba decided to join the musicians union, against the teacher’s wishes. Nevertheless, Liston joined the pit band at Los Angeles’ Lincoln Theatre at age sixteen.
    When the Lincoln discontinued live shows in 1943, Liston joined the new band being formed by Gerald Wilson.  She also recorded in a group with old school pal Dexter Gordon.  Melba stayed with Wilson for five years, until his group disbanded.  She then joined Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band, along with Wilson. That lasted about a year, until Dizzy’s band also broke up.

    After joining Wilson again in a Bebop band that backed Billie Holiday on an ill-fated tour of the South, Ms. Liston gave up music for a few years. She took a job with the Los Angeles Board of Education. Music, however, was not completely out of her blood, as she continued to compose and arrange on the side.  She even tried her hand at acting for a while, landing bit parts in The Prodigal, alongside Lana Turner and in The Ten Commandments, as a harp player.
    But the music was never far away from Melba’s heart, so when the State Department asked Diz to form a big band for a Middle East/Asia tour, he coaxed Liston into joining him. Though she rarely soloed during that time, she did a considerable amount of arranging.  Including “Stella by Starlight”, “My Reverie” and “Wonder Why”. These arrangements (and more by Melba) were recorded and can be heard on the Birks Works compilation, on Verve.

    Diz wasn’t the only one who dug Melba’s arranging.  Quincy Jones, who played trumpet in the Gillespie band at the time, was forming a band to tour Europe. he asked Ms. Liston to join him and she agreed. In 1958, Melba Liston recorded her sole album as a leader; Melba Liston and Her BonesOn this date, Liston and an array of trombonists, including Slide Hampton, Al Grey and Bennie Green, were front and center, with solid support from Kenny Burrell, Ray Bryant, Charlie Persip and others. Co-produced by Leonard Feather, it’s a shame that this fine album drifted into obscurity.

    In that same year, Melba met pianist composer Randy Weston. Weston admitted that at the time, he had never met a woman trombonist before.  Their meeting sparked a creative partnership that lasted almost 40 years.  Weston initially hired Melba to put some meat on the bones of his compositions. They realized quickly that musically, they were two halves of the same coin. Said Weston; “Melba is incredible; she hears what I do and then expands it. She will create a melody that sounds like I created it. She’s just a great, great arranger.”  All in all Weston and Liston worked on 10 albums together, including Little Niles, Earth Birth and Volcano Blues.

    Melba Liston with Dizzy’s ‘Dream Band’ in 1982 on “Manteca” [Melba solos starting at 3:35]
    Besides her work with Weston, Melba continued to freelance, working often with Clark Terry and briefly with Charles Mingus. Upon her return to Los Angeles in the late ’60′s, the pop music world took note of her talents and she arranged sessions for stars including Marvin Gaye and the Supremes.
    Ms. Liston was very active until 1986, when she suffered the first of several strokes.  She had to give up playing and was confined to a wheelchair, but Melba continued to compose and arrange, until her death in 1999.
    Melba Liston – most of her career was spent behind the scenes, but her work was always headliner quality.
    Recommended Recordings:
    • Melba Liston and Her Bones (Fresh Sound) – CD in print; mp3 available
    • Volcano Blues  [w/ Randy Weston] (Verve – Gitanes) – CD OOP but available
    • Little Niles [Randy Weston] (Jazz Track [Import]) – CD in print [her first recording with Weston]
    • Khepera [Randy Weston] – (Verve) CD in print, mp3 available  [her final recording with Weston]