Giant Steps…Blue Train…My Favorite Things…A Love Supreme. John Coltrane and Ralph Moore.

One man was responsible for these memorable and critically acclaimed albums.  That man was John Coltrane. Born September 23, 1926, in Hamlet, North Carolina, Coltrane would go on to become one of the most influential saxophonists in music history.

Coltrane was introduced to the saxophone in 1943 when his mother bought him an alto saxophone when he was 17.  He played clarinet and alto horn in a local band before starting to play the saxophone in high school. He started playing professionally with a cocktail lounge trio in 1945.

That same year, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted by the Army.  After he completed naval training, he went to Pearl Harbor. It was there where his musical talent was discovered.

From 1946-1955, Coltrane worked with a wide variety of smaller groups, big bands and jazz and R&B singers. He would eventually go on to work with the likes of Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.  Gillespie asked Coltrane to switch from alto tenor saxophone and he did. That switch helped to enhance his sound.

Coltrane’s partnership with Miles Davis had its ups and downs, but it produced some great music. Davis challenged Coltrane to take his sound in a new direction and he also held Coltrane accountable for his personal troubles. Their musical relationship produced albums like The New Miles Davis Quintet, Round About Midnight and Kind of Blue.

Coltrane was known for his vigorous and intense style.  His tone was described as huge and dark with clear definition and a rich sound.  It’s been said that he picked up a multi-phonic style as a result of working with Thelonious Monk.  Coltrane also was known for mode-based improvisation. This is when a solo is played atop one-or two-note accompanying figures that are repeated for extended periods of time.  This can be heard in “My Favorite Things” which was a radio and commercial hit for Coltrane.

Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has been heralded as one of the greatest albums of all times by many.  This album displayed Coltrane’s spirituality after turning things around in his life.  He once said it was his attempt to say, “Thank You, God” through his work. The album was recorded in one session and the musicians accompanying Coltrane were McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Released in January of 1965, the album earned two Grammy nominations and by 1970, 500,000 copies had been sold.  A Love Supreme was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance” in 2016. 

Ralph Moore, who is playing at the Lakeland Community Jazz Festival from March 15-17, 2019, is one of today’s highest ranking saxophonists and will be playing various tunes based off of the great John Coltrane.

Those looking to book Ralph Moore for other venues can contact Night is Alive 

-Article Written by Devon Fennell and Posted by Jeffrey Swan

Rachmaninoff: Live Recordings of the Reclusive Artist Show His Brilliance

Rachmaninoff is a name most musicians have heard of, but few can elaborate on.  Sergei Rachmaninoff was a composer, conductor and renowned pianist that moved to the United States from his homeland of Russia during the Russian Revolution. Once in America, this gifted composer/conductor chose to become a keyboard virtuoso spending his time between Los Angeles and New York.

Rachmaninoff was very concerned about his privacy and how his music was heard.  He did not even want his performances to be broadcast over the radio.  While he recorded many works with RCA Records at the time, none of the recordings were of him playing live. The studio recordings were all exact renditions of the compositions with multiple takes to choose from.

Music today is still created in this way.  Albums are released with perfectly produced tracks.  The recordings are amazing and deserve much credit, but music is best enjoyed live and in the moment.  In a lucky twist of fate, a researcher was listening to old recordings made by famed conductor Eugene Ormandy.  The recordings were from his debut at the Philadelphia Orchestra in January of 1941. The researchers discovered that these recordings held a buried treasure waiting to be discovered. Within the music, Ormandy had inadvertently recorded Sergei Rachmaninoff playing his Symphonic Dances. This unique and rare recording is a demonstration of why it is important to listen to the artist live and in the moment. With the audience around and the vibe of the other musicians feeding the production, Rachmaninoff can be heard playing with the passion and fire you would expect from the keyboard virtuoso. Titled “Rachmaninoff Plays Symphonic Dances,” the musical works are now available.

“Rachmaninoff Plays Symphonic Dances” is an amazing example of the energy that symphonic music can bring to the listener.  Rachmaninoff’s reclusive timid outward personality is a complete reversal from his powerful command of the music. The force at which he drives the compositions of “Rachmaninoff Plays Symphonic Dances” reveals a depth that can only be displayed through music. His music is a punch in the face with the anger, passion, and depth you would expect from the Russian master musician. The recording of “Rachmaninoff Plays Symphonic Dances” is an eaves-dropping experience worth the time.  Very few opportunities exist to hear something so new and unique from a time long past.

Post Written By Michael Brigger

Jorma Kaukonen: Front Row Seat to the 60’s.

Jorma Kaukonen: Front Row Seat to the 60’s.

Few decades in America are as defined and culturally rich as the 1960’s.  The era is responsible for some of the greatest music in the history of rock.  Listen to any 60’s band and you are immediately taken back in time. The music was a reflection of the passion and protest of the people.  The mental shift that took place in the 60’s can still can be felt present day. There are many legendary stories that can be told of the generation.  Jorma Kaukonen’s new book entitled “Been So Long: My Life and Music” is a front row seat into a world of music, drugs, and fame in the hippie 60’s.  

In “Been So Long: My Life and Music,” Jorma Kaukonen reflects about his life,    music and the artistry that defined the 60’s and found success.  This Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artist is best known for being the legendary guitarist for Jefferson   Airplane. He was a major part of the super-group that produced hits like, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”.  These are era defining songs that still get constant radio play 50 years later. Getting his start with other great San Francisco artists like Jimmy Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, Kaukonen was there from the          beginning. He played Altamonte, Monterey and Woodstock. These concerts are at the heart of 60’s music and this guy was around to see it all.

In the book Kaukonen draws a contrast between the artists and the fans who flocked to their shows.  He writes that the artists were not all drug induced artist like many have come to think. While drugs, alcohol, and a fear of monogamy were always present, these artists were professional musicians.  He states that he and his music peers did not look at themselves as hippies or drop-outs. They were successful artists that had reached a high level of success and the money that comes with it. They were not living in a beat-up old Volkswagen.  These were mega stars with mansions in San Francisco. They had rich people problems. They did not share the same life as their fans.

Kaukonen’s “Been So Long: My Life and Music,”  is not filled with endless stories of drugs, sex and parties but a clear look at a time in music that caused huge and lasting change to our culture.  Kaukonen’s honest and humorous telling of his past experiences is an amazing look at a time that many wish they could relive. Now 77, Jorma Kaukonen is still touring and active on the music scene.  He also developed a musical retreat in rural Ohio called the Fur Peace Ranch. At the ranch, Kaukonen brings students and professional musicians together to get instruction and hear the stories first hand.

Written by Michael Brigger

Iverson & Turner: Temporary Kings of Jazz

One of the greatest things about jazz is how two artists, with their individual styles and backgrounds, can collaborate.  What comes out can be remarkable. Jazz is a language that can be progressed, built upon and pushed forward. Collaborations can change the feel of music and affect space and time.  When that happens it is obvious as in the case of the album “Temporary Kings.”

Jazz Pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner come together to create an incredibly distinct and cerebral jazz that album shows both masters at work.  The album “Temporary Kings”, is elegant and brings the growing field of chamber jazz to the front of the jazz music scene. Iverson, from the renowned jazz piano trio Bad Plus, came to the project after many successful solo recordings and blogging extensively about jazz and music.  The album is his first release with jazz saxophonist Mark Turner. Turner and Iverson first met in the early 90’s New York City jazz scene. Those early jam sessions cemented the artists’ respect for each other. From that point forward the artists worked together most notably in the Billy Hart Quartet and have written for each other on different recording projects.  

On “Temporary Kings,” Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner are able to construct a mix of progressive smooth style and Cool School influences that can be heard throughout the album.  The album consists of 9 tracks that showcase the artists’ depth of knowledge and artistry. Iverson wrote six of the tracks while Turner wrote two on this album. The last track is a cover of Marsh’s “Dixie Dilemma” that both musicians felt was a great addition to giving the album its vibe.  Each production is a solid step progressing the art form forward. The musicians interact with each other dynamically pulling the listener in unmistakably strong directions. Turner’s saxophone creates an elegant contrast to Iverson’s impactful piano style and drive. Iverson says the album’s name refers to their amazing experience recording the album: “We were momentary royalty or something in this lovely environment before we came back to reality and back to Brooklyn where Mark takes his kids to school and I play for dance classes.”

Iverson and Turner are both amazing musicians and “Temporary Kings” is a great example of chamber jazz and the direction it is going.  This album is the definition of cool and will continue to find an audience because of the skill and proficiency of the artists. The duo has tour dates planned for select cities.

Article Written By Michael Brigger