Ralph Moore Performs A John Coltrane Tribute

John Coltrane was a legend in his own right. Easily considered one of the greatest musicians of the modern era, Coltrane revolutionized jazz with his intense improvisations, multi-tonic changes and globally inspired sound.

Ralph Moore is a legend as well. The tenor saxophonist is known for his solid, straight-ahead and inspiring style. He’s a heavyweight in the jazz world and he’s played alongside amazing musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Roy Hargrove and Oscar Peterson.

Both men have forged solid jazz legacies in their own memorable and unique ways.

On Saturday, March 16, Ralph Moore had the chance to honor the man who influenced his tenor sax tone and playing style—John Coltrane.

Moore and his quartet headlined the 47th annual Lakeland Jazz Festival with a tribute to John Coltrane at 8 P.M. The Ralph Moore Quartet featured Moore on tenor sax, Xavier Davis on piano, Rodney Whitaker on acoustic bass and Sean Dobbins on drums.

A special pre-concert discussion with the quartet took place at 7 P.M. Hosted by WCPN radio host Dan Polletta, this portion of the show was only for ticket holders.

Post written by Devon F.

photo: Benjamin Lehman http://benjaminlehman.com

What it’s Like to Tour as a Jazz Musician

What is life like for a jazz musician while they’re touring? Is it full of plush, 5-star restaurants with valet services, or is it a life of hole-in-the-wall clubs that you get to by taking a cab? Well, the answer may surprise you.

Any jazz musician today, Grammy winning or not, is actually living between both of these lifestyles. There will be some months filled with touring through some of Europe’s most prestigious hotels, playing for large, high paying crowds, filled with many who have seen our musicians perform in the past. Other times one of our guys could go back to playing in a small town night club that seats, at most, 40 patrons. It all depends on the time of year and what the venue owners are looking for at that moment.

The one thing that never changes about where our musicians perform however, is the fan base. Whether it’s the Ritz-Carlton or a club that can barely afford Ritz Crackers, the love for jazz music is the same. That’s what keeps them playing and gets them excited for the next tour coming up.

Touring life itself is filled with quick meals and even quicker travel times. A successful jazz musician who’s “on the road” has to be both incredibly quick and flexible in regard to their schedules. Anything can change and anything can certainly happen while touring; from sudden room changes and traffic backups to even instruments breaking or losing pieces. Any musician will tell you they keep a bottle of super glue on them for a reason!

When it comes time to eating while on tour, jazz musicians tend to eat around 5, as most of their shows don’t start until 6:30 or 7 at night. This does not mean, however, that these same musicians don’t eat after the show; oh how wrong you would be! Any musician, jazz or not, will tell you that the post-show cravings for food is nearly unmatched by any other activity. Due to the fact that most sit-down establishments are closed by the time the show ends, many jazz musicians have found that an after performance diet consists of visiting the nearest hamburger or pizza joint!

A quick moving, life of luxury and fast food. This is the life of a jazz musician while they’re touring. Performance halls may change in their pedigree, but the fast happening, crowd loving jazz life is the same anywhere our guys play.

Have any touring stories of your own? Let us know down in the comments below!

On the Radio with Donna Summer

Often a song can pack so much sound and history that you can close your eyes and be transported.  Donna Summer’s “On the Radio” is a song so amazing that it serves as a marker for all songs of the disco century.  The song has the DNA of everything that made disco great. Listening to Donna Summer’s classic “On the Radio” puts you right back in the glitter and dance of disco long ago.

The song has a storied past. Initially written by her producer Giorgio Moroder and first played for her at his house in early 1979, the song failed to move Summer. Moroder put the song on the shelf knowing that someday it would be just right for her.  

Months later Moroder was working on the soundtrack for the movie “Foxes” and could not get the song out of his head.   He approached Summer again and asked her to listen one more time. This time she felt it and agreed to re-write the lyrics and record the song.  

Not an easy re-write, she is quoted as saying the whole song came from the lyric “It must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat.”  She wrote the song about lost love and the emotions that remain. From that point on, she knew where and how the song should go. A hit was born. The slow-ballad beginning that gives way to that incredible disco drum beat pushed the song to the top of the charts.  The song became so popular so fast that they included the track on her upcoming album release. They named the album “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II.”

Donna Summer’s loved the song “On the Radio” and commented that she always felt the song was a legato Italian melody at its heart.  Hearing the song again feels like being in a time machine traveling to an era that has not lost any of its detail or flare. Donna Summer’s “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II” is a fantastic song collection and worthy of inclusion on anyone’s playlist.


Post Written By Michael Brigger 

George Szell: Cleveland’s Great Conductor

Ask anyone to list their favorite things about Cleveland, and the Orchestra is sure to be on the top of many of those lists.  Cleveland is home to the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland Orchestra has been commanding a considerable presence in the music world for over 100 years.  Started in 1918, The Cleveland Orchestra has had many great conductors. George Szell is one of the legends who took over in 1946 and ran the orchestra like clockwork for 24 years.  In his time at the helm, he molded the Cleveland Orchestra into a perfect music machine. To celebrate his career, Sony Classical has released “George Szell: The Complete Columbia Album Collection.”  

Originally released as a 106-disc collection, the actual number of CDs shows how prolific George Szell was.  Szell ran the orchestra in an era where the conductor was the god and general of everything. The devotion he required from his musicians was notorious.  Szell was an authoritarian and needed absolute control. Szell’s musical compositions feel exact, detailed and complete in execution. Szell was an incredibly productive artist, and his utter drive and enthusiasm for perfecting the music are on full display in the recordings. While Cleveland was his home, there are several recordings that Szell made with the New York Philharmonic and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. What is interesting about Szell is how he approached each piece of music.  He is from the school of thinking that the conductor’s job is to reproduce the music exactly as the composer intended. His reproductions of some of the great musical works are seen as the unobstructed view of the composer reproduced by the capable hands of Szell and the fantastic artists of the Cleveland Orchestra. He is known for his literal translation of the romantic era composers especially. His renditions of Beethoven and Brahms are some of the best reproduction of the great composers’ music.  

George Szell is known for his utter devotion to the Cleveland Orchestra with a tenure lasting a quarter century.  While many artists would not be able to keep the music fresh, Szell never tired from his passion. Whether the music was created in the 1700’s or 1900’s, Szell worked tirelessly to produce orchestrations that reflected what the composers intended.

Post written by Michael Brigger 

Real Jazz With Willie Jones III

Downbeat magazine wrote a fantastic piece on our very own Willie Jones III. The 49- year-old drummer, who just sold out two shows at the famous Blues Alley nightclub in Washington, D.C, had this to say about his new album My Point Is… (WJ3):

“The common ground for these musicians is that they all love to play in a style that some would call hard-bop or straight ahead—what I’d call real jazz.  Real jazz to me has the rhythmic feel of swinging. You can improvise, but change the rhythm base, and the style is different. It’s great if blues is in it, but there doesn’t necessarily have to be. The groove basis for jazz is the ride cymbal.  If I want to play r&b or funk, then the emphasis will be on the backbeat with the snare drum and hi-hat.  I can do that.”

The high-ranking jazz drummer, who is currently touring across the United States and Europe, is best known for his time performing with the Roy Hargrove’s quintet.  Willie Jones III is also well respected in the jazz industry.  

Ted Panken, the writer of the three-page spread on Willie Jones III, dives into discussing everything from Jones’ ideas on the future of jazz, how he handles booking gigs, being a bandleader and running his own recording studio WJ3 Records, as well as Jones’ major musical influences in his life.

For those looking to read more about Willie Jones III and discover how a top-tier jazz artist lives and works in our modern age, head over to DownBeat.com and read Willie Jones III Merges Swing and Swagger by Ted Panken!  

Scotty McCreery Knows The Rules

When it comes to singing with emotion there are few country artist that can match Scotty McCreery. Country music was created by musicians that wore their hearts on their sleeves and Scotty McCreery is no exception.  

McCreery’s musical beginnings happened at a young age. He was first influenced around the age of 6 by Elvis Presley. McCreery’s grandmother is credited with introducing him to the music of Elvis who became one of his biggest influences. His North Carolina roots lead him to country. Around the age of 9 he began to learn guitar and write his own music. McCreery continued his musical path through high school in North Carolina where he received notoriety for being such a gifted singer.

The first time most country fans were introduced to McCreery was in 2011 on the tenth season of American Idol. He went on to win that tenth season at the young age of sixteen. After winning, McCreery went on tour with American Idol, his first experience with a big fully staged music tour.

Shortly after the America Idol tour, McCreery released his first single I Love You This Big. The song debuted on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at number 32, quickly becoming the highest debut for a single since 1990. His debut album, titled Clear as Day, was released shortly after in 2011 and was well received. McCreery made history as the first country act to debut at No. 1 on Billboard 200 with their first studio album, as well as the youngest man to open at the top of the chart with his debut release.  He was a hit.

Always having a strong sense of family and home, McCreery’s next project was the release of, Christmas with Scotty McCreery“, in 2012. The album is a reflection of a classic country style that included nine holiday classics and two new holiday songs. “Christmas with Scotty McCreery” was a hit and went on to be certified gold.

McCreery recently released his forth album, Seasons Change, in March 2018 to critical acclaim. The album’s lead single Five More Minutes, gained in radio popularity at a point when McCreery was not signed to a label. The hit made McMcCreery the only country music artist in Country Aircheck/Mediabase history to chart a song without the backing of a record label. He went on to sign with Triple Tigers label and in early 2018 “Five More Minutes” became McCreery’s first No. 1 Country Airplay single.  The hit would top Billboard and Mediabase in February 2018 and was certified platinum.

Country fans can expect Scotty McCreery to keep delivering great new country songs.  From Elvis to Idol, he has shown that time and passion make great country.

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