Radio Woodstock 100.1 Presents...
Woodstock Jazz Festival ft. John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, John Medeski
Larry Grenadier, Ben Perowsky, Chris Speed, Uri Caine
291 Tinker St
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
John Scofield is considered one of the "big three" of current jazz guitarists — along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. His influence began in the late 70’s and is going strong today. Possessor of a very distinctive sound and stylistic diversity, Scofield is a masterful jazz improviser whose music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, funk edged jazz, and R & B.
Born in Ohio and raised in suburban Connecticut, Scofield took up the guitar at age 11, inspired by both rock and blues players. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a debut recording with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, Scofield was a member of the Billy Cobham- George Duke band for two years. In 1977 he recorded with Charles Mingus, and joined the Gary Burton quartet. He began his international career as a bandleader and recording artist in 1978. From 1982-1985, Scofield toured and recorded with Miles Davis. His Davis stint placed him firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a player and composer.
Since that time he has prominently led his own groups in the international Jazz scene, recorded over 30 albums as a leader (many already classics) including collaborations with contemporary favorites like Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Eddie Harris, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Mavis Staples, Government Mule, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano and Phil Lesh. He’s played and recorded with Tony Williams, Jim Hall, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Dave Holland, Terumasa Hino among many jazz legends. Throughout his career Scofield has punctuated his traditional jazz offerings with funk-oriented electric music. All along, the guitarist has kept an open musical mind.
Touring the world approximately 200 days per year with his own groups, he is an Adjunct Professor of Music at New York University, a husband and father of two.
Born in Chicago in 1942, GRAMMY® winner Jack DeJohnette is widely regarded as one of jazz music's greatest drummers. Music appreciation flourished in DeJohnette's family. He studied classical piano from age four until fourteen, before beginning to play drums with his high school concert band and taking private piano lessons at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. DeJohnette credits his uncle, Roy I. Wood Sr., who was one of the most popular jazz DJ's in the South Side of Chicago, later vice president of the National Network of Black Broadcasters, as the person who initially inspired him to pursue music.
In his early years on the Chicago scene, he led his own groups and was equally in demand as a pianist and as a drummer. He played R & B, hard bop, and avant-garde and was active with the experimentalists of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in its early days, with the likes of founder Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman. In 1966, he drummed alongside Rashied Ali in the John Coltrane Quintet. International recognition came with his tenure in the Charles Lloyd Quartet, one of the first jazz groups to receive cross-over attention, which also alerted the world to Keith Jarrett's skills.
Jack DeJohnette has collaborated with most major figures in jazz history. Some of the great talents he has worked with are John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Jackie McLean, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, Chet Baker, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Eddie Harris, who is responsible for convincing DeJohnette to stick with drums because he heard DeJohnette's natural talent.
It was in 1968 that DeJohnette joined Miles Davis's group in time for the epochal upheaval marked by Bitches Brew, an album that changed the direction of jazz. In his autobiography, Miles Davis said, "Jack DeJohnette gave me a deep groove that I just loved to play over." Jarrett soon followed DeJohnette into the Davis group, and the drummer's first ECM recording, the duet Rutya and Daitya was made in 1971. Working with Miles also brought about collaborations with John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Dave Holland.
In 1968 he recorded his first album as a leader on the Milestone label, called The DeJohnette Complex, where Jack played the melodica along with his mentor Roy Haynes on drums. In the early 70's he recorded Have You Heard in Japan and two albums for Prestige, called Sorcery and Cosmic Chicken. These early sessions united Jack with Gary Peacock, Bennie Maupin, Stanley Cowell, Miroslav Vitous, Eddie Gomez, Alex Foster and Peter Warren.
Jack began to record as a leader for ECM, with each of his successive groups Directions, New Directions, and Special Edition making important contributions to the evolution of jazz. The New Directions band featured two musicians who would have long-term associations with DeJohnette: John Abercrombie and Lester Bowie. A friend from Chicago days, Bowie played intermittently with DeJohnette until the end of his life. Most notably, Lester and Jack collaborated on a duo album called Zebra, which was a world beat influenced video soundtrack and CD. Abercrombie continued to work with DeJohnette in the Gateway Trio, along with Dave Holland. Special Edition, with its rotating front line, helped introduce the sounds of David Murray, Rufus Reid, Howard Johnson, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Greg Osby, Michael Caine, Lonnie Plaxico, Gary Thomas and John Purcell to a wider audience. Jack most recently worked with Abercrombie on another long-time collaborator's album, John Surman's Brewster's Rooster (ECM, 2009).
DeJohnette has recorded as a leader on Columbia, Landmark, MCA/GRP, and Toshiba/EMI/Blue Note, but the bulk of his recordings are on the ECM label. He also has a growing catalogue on his own imprint, Golden Beans Productions, since the label’s launch in 2005.
While continuing to lead his own projects and bands, DeJohnette has also been a member of the immensely popular Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette Trio which will celebrate a 30 year anniversary in 2013 with a new live recording and several performances around the globe. DeJohnette has appeared on more ECM albums than any other musician; his recordings display his subtle, powerful playing and the “melodic” approach to drums and cymbals that makes his touch instantly recognizable.
Jack is also known for his cutting edge collaborations; his Parallel Realities CD, with Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny toured successfully and received much acclaim. Another major collaboration was a CD called, Music for the Fifth World, inspired by Jack's studies with a Seneca native elder, named Grandmother Twylah Nitsch. This project brought together the likes of Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun, John Scofield, traditional Native American singers, Michael Cain, and Lonnie Plaxico. DeJohnette's drumming, though originally influenced by masters including Max Roach, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Art Taylor, Rashied Ali, Paul Motian, Tony Williams, and Andrew Cyrelle, has long drawn from sources beyond “jazz.” More than thirty years ago, he was already describing his work as “multi-directional music.”
“As a child I listened to all kinds of music and I never put them into categories. I had formal lessons on piano and listened to opera, country and western music, rhythm and blues, jazz, swing, whatever. To me, it was all music and great. I've kept that integrated feeling about music, all types of music, and just carried it with me. I've maintained that belief and feeling in spite of the ongoing trend to try and compartmentalize people and music.”
DeJohnette has also composed soundtracks for both TV and video. These include a soundtrack in collaboration with Pat Metheny for a PBS play called Lemon Sky; a soundtrack for a documentary called City Farmers by Meryl Joseph and a video production with fellow percussionist Don Alias on Homespun tapes, Talking Drummers, which includes a documentary that was made of the whole process. Jack also enjoyed a cameo appearance as a member of the “Alligator Blues Band” in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie.
Beyond his own groups, some of DeJohnette's most wide-open playing can be heard in his recordings of spontaneously improvised music with Keith Jarrett (Always Let Me Go, Inside Out, and Changeless); John Surman (Invisible Nature, The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon, and the transitional sequences in Surman's music for reeds, drums, piano and brass ensemble, Free and Equal); Michael Cain and Steve Gorn (Dancing With Nature Spirits); and Don Alias, Michael Cain, and Jerome Harris (Oneness).
In 2004, DeJohnette recorded and toured with two GRAMMY®-nominated projects, The Out of Towners with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock (also known as the ‘Standards Trio’) and Ivey Divey with Don Byron and Jason Moran.
While continuing to tour the world with the Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette Trio in 2005, DeJohnette launched and toured with three new projects of his own—the Latin Project with Don Byron, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jerome Harris, Edsel Gomez and Luisito Quintero; the Jack DeJohnette Quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Jerome Harris; and Beyond Trio, a group celebrating the works of Jack's friend and master drummer Tony Williams, featuring John Scofield and Larry Goldings—and founded his own imprint, Golden Beams Productions.
On April 26, 2005, Jack DeJohnette opened his musical world up to his fans with the simultaneous release of two singular projects on his label: a stunning duet with the revered Gambian Kora player Foday Musa Suso called Music from the Hearts of the Masters; and a sublime recording for relaxation and meditation entitled Music in the Key of Om.
Music in the Key of Om is a seamless, one-hour piece created for relaxation and meditation featuring DeJohnette on synthesizer and resonating bells, a new line of instruments that he developed with the Sabian cymbal company. It was nominated for a GRAMMY® in Best New Age Album category.
Music from the Hearts of the Masters is a scintillating collaboration with Foday Musa Suso, the innovative Mandingo Griot and master of the Gambian Kora. This stunning duet contains deep, mesmeric grooves and passages of inspired improvisational dialogue which crosses and transcends musical genres.
In October of 2005, Jack released Hybrids (Golden Beams), a remix album by The Ripple Effect, DeJohnette’s collaborative project featuring Foday Musa Suso; multi-instrumentalist John Surman, one of the key figures of the European jazz scene for the past four decades; Marlui Miranda, the most acclaimed and recognized performer and researcher of Brazilian Indian music; producer, engineer and guitarist Big Al; and sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist, and mix master Ben Surman, who produced the album with DeJohnette. Hybrids blends shades of African jazz, reggae and dance music to launch jazz into the 21st century.
On February 8, 2006, Golden Beams released The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers, a live recording documenting the first meeting of Jack DeJohnette, “our era’s most expansive percussive talent” (JazzTimes), and Bill Frisell, “the most important jazz guitartist of the last quarter of the 20th century” (Acoustic Guitar) at Seattle’s Earshot Festival in 2001. The album features 11 mind-blowing tracks covering a breadth of sonic territories, created from the prepared themes and on-the spot compositions. Adding to the breathtaking guitar and drum artistry are live sound manipulations, such as Frisell’s delay/sampler/looper and DeJohnette’s electronic hand percussion, and some tasteful post-production (bass lines, ambient sounds and so forth) by mix master Ben Surman, DeJohnette’s collaborator on his electronic project, The Ripple Effect’s Hybrids. The group toured in fall 2006 as a quartet, adding Jerome Harris, the multi-instrumentalist, singer, and published author, who is internationally known for his versatile and penetrating style on guitar and bass guitar to the line-up. The Elephant tour coincided with the release of Golden Beams Collected, Vol. 1 (October 2006), a collection of highlights from the Golden Beams label, including a never released duo track with the late Don Alias and a brand new remix of tracks from The Ripple Effect’s Hybrids by DJ Logic.
DeJohnette has kept his long-standing relationship with ECM with the June 6, 2006 release of Saudades, a live recording of “Lifetime and Beyond: Celebrating Tony Williams” concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2004. DeJohnette conceived the project in a conversation with guitarist John Scofield regarding the importance of Tony Williams’ influence on them both, both musically and as a bandleader. To echo the instrumental format of Lifetime—drums, guitar, and organ—they brought in Larry Goldings, a fellow admirer of Tony, and dubbed the group Trio Beyond. The 2-CD set, nominated for a GRAMMY® for Best Instrumental Jazz Recording, revisits material once played by Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Larry Young, as well as Tony’s early days with Miles Davis, and Trio Beyond’s original compositions and improvisations.
Jack’s wide-ranging style, capable of playing in any idiom while still maintaining a well-defined voice keeps him in constant demand as a drummer, bandleader, and as a sideman. In 2007, Jack launched the "Intercontinental" project with the South African singer Sibongile Khumalo, capping a successful European tour with a performance at the Capetown Jazz Festival in South Africa. He appeared on the late Michael Brecker’s posthumously released last album, Pilgrimage (Heads Up, 2007), and Bruce Hornsby’s jazz debut, Camp Meeting (Sony Legacy, 2007), with Christian McBride, the latter supported by a US tour. He toured North America with Trio Beyond; Japan with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Ron Carter; and Europe with The Ripple Effect.
2008 had been a busy year for DeJohnette – with high profile tours with Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea; Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock; the Alice Coltrane tribute concerts; “Intercontinental” in Europe, and numerous recordings, including his latest release, Music We Are. Recorded during a snow storm near his home in Upstate New York, the album was released on April 7, 2009 on Golden Beams. Produced by DeJohnette and co-produced by John Patitucci and Danilo Perez, Music We Are combines strictly composed pieces, organically developed in the studio by the trio, with spacious collective improvisations to showcase the three virtuosos performing double-duty: DeJohnette on drums and melodica; Patitucci on upright and electric basses; and Perez on piano and keyboard. The album included a bonus DVD, providing a rare look at the trio’s friendship, intimate working relationship, and their recording process, and is also available in vinyl.
With Peace Time, Jack DeJohnette won the GRAMMY® for Best New Age Album in 2009. The hour-long continuous piece of music composed and performed by Jack features “flights of flute, soft hand drumming and the gently percolating chime of cymbal play, moving the piece along a river of meditative delight. Subdued layers of overtone singing and the distant drones of sitars waft in and out like comforting and familiar spirit guides that manifest themselves in sound” (eMusic).
In addition to the GRAMMY®, Jack has received many awards for his music, including, New Directions which received the prestigious French “Grand Prix du Disque” and “Charles Cros” award in 1979. Album, Album and Special Edition both won “Album of the Year” in the annual Downbeat readers' polls. Audio-Visualscapes became album of the year in the Downbeat annual critics' poll 1989. Parallel Realities won album of the year in Japan. In 1991, Earth Walk won album of the year and recording of the year in Japan. Jack has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berkley College of Music in Boston in 1991. There is an extensive list of awards for drumming, including over 20 years of the DownBeat polls, the NY Jazz awards, and the Jazz Central on-line awards, along with many international awards. He is the winner of both DownBeat magazine and JazzTimes magazine’s Readers Polls for 2008 Drummer of the Year and Best Drums, respectively. He won JazzTimes magazine’s Readers Poll for the previous two years as well and DownBeat Magazine's Readers Poll consecutively since 2005. In 2010, he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society's Hall of Fame. In 2012 DeJohnette was presented with the honorary Copenhagen Jazz Award and The Distinguished Jazz Legends Award at the Monterey Jazz Festival by Clint Eastwood.
In 2010, he introduced his latest working band, The Jack DeJohnette Group, featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, David Fiuczynski on double-neck guitar, George Colligan on keyboards and piano, and Jerome Harris on electric and acoustic bass guitars.
In December of 2011, Jack was honored to perform at the Kennedy Center in tribute to his good friend and inspiration, Sonny Rollins.
Jack celebrated his 70th birthday in 2012 and received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship, the highest U.S. honor for jazz musicians; recognized for his extraordinary life achievements, contribution to advancing the jazz art form and for serving as a mentor for a new generation of young aspiring jazz musicians. The year-long celebration was capped with multi-performances at the famed Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals, a tour of Europe with the Jack DeJohnette Group and several 70th Birthday Concerts with Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke.
Add to that another crowning achievement: DeJohnette’s latest album, Sound Travels. The album is a superb genre-spanning, nine-song collection that grooves with Latin rhythms and West Indian energy, muses with meditative tunes, and buoys with straight-up jazz swing. The album also features an array of collaborators, including vocalists Bruce Hornsby (on the funky, bluesy tune “The Dirty Ground” that has AOR hit potential), Bobby McFerrin and Esperanza Spalding. Also on board are emerging talents such as trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and guitarist Lionel Loueke (and Spalding, who plays bass on seven of the tracks) and established jazz stars such as saxophonist Tim Ries, percussionist Luisito Quintero and, on one track, pianist Jason Moran.
Keyboard master John Medeski thrives on the unpredictable, a trait that has kept his work with the trailblazing trio Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW) fresh and surprising for more than twenty years. With A Different Time, his first solo piano project, Medeski once again takes his sound in a completely unexpected direction – unexpected even to him.
"I had a more eclectic record in mind," Medeski says. "I wanted to put out something that would be more representative of what my live solo concerts are like."
Instead, A Different Time (out April 9 – the first release on Sony Classical's newly-revived OKeh Records imprint) is a far more introspective, meditative collection than fans of MMW's lively, groove-driven music might expect. Consisting mostly of Medeski's own compositions and improvisations, with a familiar spiritual and a Willie Nelson song added into the mix, the album presents a different side of Medeski's prodigious artistry, one which he was initially reluctant to display.
"In all honesty, it was a little scary to put this out because it's so meditative and contemplative," Medeski admits. "I know it's not what anybody's expecting, but it's a side of me that exists. It's really raw and open, stripped of all hipness. But it's made me a little less afraid to just drop into the moment and play what's coming to me as opposed to something that I know will work, something that I know is cool, something that I know will have a certain effect. The whole point is to get lost in the music."
Not just a first for Medeski, A Different Time also marks the return of the historic OKeh label, once home for such jazz pioneers as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Sidney Bechet. Sony Classical has revived the label as an outlet for new jazz releases by artists like Medeski, Bill Frisell, David Sanborn, and Bob James, among others to be announced. "At this point," Medeski says, "after everything that's gone on in the music business, it's exciting that Sony has come around to releasing new creative music again. I like the energy of being part of something new."
While he's become better known for a more buoyant, organ-centric approach that melds free-wheeling jazz with jam band eclecticism, Medeski says that sitting alone at a piano feels natural, returning him to his earliest experiences at the keyboard. "I grew up playing piano my whole life," he says, "so it feels like home to me." He began playing more solo concerts in recent years, and decided it was time to document that aspect of his playing.
The album was recorded at Waterfront Studios, producer Henry Hirsch's recording studio built within a 19th-century church in New York's scenic Hudson Valley. For his solo debut, Medeski wanted to aim for a sound quality that approached his personal "Holy Grail," the recordings that classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein made for RCA Records. Hirsch shared his admiration for those sessions, so Medeski spent several days recording on Waterfront's nine-foot Steinway piano.
But Hirsch also encouraged Medeski to try the studio's other piano, a 1924 Gaveau – a French piano made in a pre-modern style, akin to Chopin's preferred model, the Pleyel. The instrument, as it turned out, was a revelation and made a profound impact on the music that came to be A Different Time.
"The Gaveau required a very delicate, controlled touch," Medeski explains. "It is much harder to get a good sound out of it than it is on a regular piano. You have to use a lot of control; touch makes a huge difference and when you play delicately you can get a lot of nuance and really make this instrument sing. I tried a lot of things that had never worked for me before, and when I went back and listened to all of the recordings, that stuff stuck out as the most unique."
The entirety of A Different Time was recorded on the Gaveau, with minimal electronics in order to capture the instrument's full dynamic range. The sessions were undertaken late at night, when outside noise was at a minimum and a more crepuscular mood settled over the church. As Medeski writes in his liner notes, he hopes that listeners approach the album in the same atmosphere, at a time "when social responsibilities are over, when the political questions of the day have been dealt with, when all gossip has come to an end, when all needs and wants have been put to momentary rest, when all plans have been made, when you are tired of words, and you are ready to yield to the sounds of these simple contemplations for the Gaveau."
The album begins with the title track, a stark "spontaneous composition" improvised by Medeski at the Gaveau. The name has several connotations, evoking that night-time ambience but also harkening back to a time when records occupied a listener's full attention, before the multifarious distractions of the modern world. "There was a time when people used to sit down and listen to music, when it wasn't just the soundtrack to your life," Medeski says. "I remember sitting in a room with a group of people, experiencing music together, at a time when we as human beings really got lost in the sound."
A Different Time offers a sustained opportunity to become lost in Medeski's deeply personal sound, presenting an intensely focused experience of keen emotional virtuosity. The selection ranges from the tender Willie Nelson ballad "I'm Falling in Love Again," a piece which Medeski has long wanted to record and which finally found its best expression through the Gaveau; to "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," a traditional spiritual that Medeski approaches with a lush reverence.
"Ran" is another tune for which Medeski has long sought the proper context, the album's sole through-composed piece. The wistful "Otis," which closes the album, was originally recorded on Notes From the Underground, MMW's 1992 debut album. The sing-song "Waiting at the Gate" dates back even further, to a musical Medeski wrote in his teens. "It's just a little tune that I wrote when I was a kid and never played for anybody," Medeski laughs. "Ever."
The heart-breakingly gorgeous "Luz Marina" was written for Mama Kia, the founder of an orphanage in Peru who passed away in 2010. Luz Marina was the name of her first adopted child, who died at a tender age. Medeski sought to depict Mama Kia's inspirational and generous spirit through the piece. The final two pieces are both improvisations: "Graveyard Fields," which shares the deceptively morbid name of a bucolic area in North Carolina, and the darkly tinged "Lacrima," more aptly named for the Italian word for "tear."
The fact that he didn't try out the Gaveau until he thought he'd already gotten a full album in the can took a considerable amount of pressure off of Medeski's shoulders, opening him up to the more naked, vulnerable sound of the album.
"I was just playing music," he says. It was just about dealing with the instrument and the room and making the music that felt good. I just got lost in the sound, and that's really the ultimate goal anytime you sit down to play."
Bassist Larry Grenadier was born in San Francisco on February 6, 1966. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English Literature in 1989. Grenadier has played bass with numerous jazz artists and has toured with guitarists John Scofield and Pat Metheny. He gained critical acclaim in the '90s playing in a trio lead by pianist Brad Mehldau and worked on sessions with Mark Turner, Brian Blade, David Sanchez, Chris Potter, Leon Parker, and Danilo Perez.
One of the most accomplished drummers of his generation, Ben Perowsky’s notable career has placed him among a small vanguard of players able to move between jazz, experimental music and cutting edge pop and rock. Starting at a very young age, Ben has worked with list of artists that form a who’s who in the music world. A few are: jazz legend James Moody, pop songstress Rickie Lee Jones, R&B star Roy Ayers, Miles Davis’ sidemen Bob Berg, Mike Stern and later John Scofield, Elysian Fields, Joan as Policewoman, Uri Caine, Steven Bernstein, John Zorn, Michael Brecker, Don Byron, Dave Douglas, Walter Becker, John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, Lou Reed and Loudon Wainwright among others.
Ben has been prolific as a leader all the while, with many releases as producer including Lost Tribe records in ’92, ’93 and ‘98.
Ben Perowsky Trio ‘99 from which the title Segment was used for the movie Talegega Nights.
Camp Songs in 2003, John Zorn’s Tzadik label.
El Destructo: Volume I, 2006, El Destructo Records
Moodswing Orchestra, 2009, El Destructo Records/Red
Esopus Opus, 2009, Skirl records.
He also recently formed the band RedCred with Chris Speed, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier, played beats on the disco hit song “Blind” by Hercules and Love Affair, toured with Canadian popstars Tegan and Sara and continues to record and produce tracks with many artists while residing in NYC.
A key member of the Brooklyn creative jazz community, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Chris Speed grew up in the Seattle area. Speed was first introduced to classical music and played the piano and clarinet before becoming interested in improvisation and the tenor saxophone during high school. He moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory and was soon part of the collaborative ensemble Human Feel, which in addition to Speed featured drummer Jim Black (also from Seattle), alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and bassist Joe Fitzgerald. Speed was also a member of Orange Then Blue, the creative big band led by drummer George Schuller (son of Gunther). Two noteworthy recordings from this early period of Speed's career are Human Feel's Scatter (1992) and Orange Then Blue's While You Were Out (1994), both on the GM Recordings label.
Galore However, Speed's greatest accomplishments would occur after he moved to New York City, beginning when he joined several pioneering bands on the so-called "downtown scene." These included Tim Berne's Bloodcount, the Dave Douglas Sextet, and Myra Melford's The Same River, Twice, critically acclaimed as three of the 1990s' top working bands in creative jazz and improvised music. Speed also remained a member of Human Feel, which survived its principals' move from Boston and released two CDs as a quartet minus bassist Fitzgerald in the '90s, and also reunited during the following decade to release 2007's Galore on Speed's Skirl label. (Speed also stayed with Orange Then Blue when George Schuller's ensemble shifted its base of operations to New York.) Notably, Bloodcount and Human Feel continued Speed's relationship with drummer Jim Black. Performing together in these and other subsequent downtown groups, Speed and Black were highly empathetic and strikingly like-minded collaborators in diverse musical settings.
PachoraSpeed first became interested in Gypsy music during his Boston days and along with fellow Orange Then Blue alumnus Matt Darriau became a leading New York musician linking jazz and creative improvisation with Eastern European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern folk music. The Pachora quartet was one of Speed's primary vehicles for exploring this facet of his musical interests. In addition to Speed on clarinet, the band featured Black on dumbek, drums, and percussion as well as Brad Shepik on Portuguese guitar and electric saz and Skuli Sverrisson on electric bass. Speed demonstrated his mastery of engaging folk-flavored clarinet lines on Pachora's lively and groove-based tunes, which were rendered with a contemporary edge while retaining an old-world flavor. Pachora released three Knitting Factory Works CDs, Pachora (1997), Unn (1998), and Ast (1999), followed by a fourth album, Astereotypical, on Winter & Winter (2003).
While Speed was certainly a driving force among four strong artistic personalities in Pachora, he was most definitely the man in charge of yeah NO, a quartet that arguably better displayed the range of his musical vision. Speed played both tenor saxophone and clarinet with the group, which also featured trumpeter Cuong Vu (like Speed a former Seattlite who attended the New England Conservatory and performed with Orange Then Blue). Rounding out the foursome was Sverrisson on bass and, as anticipated, Jim Black on drums. While Eastern European folk melodies and rhythms were present in the music of yeah NO, these influences were in no way treated as a stylistic limitation. Rather, the folk elements were just one part of a broader palette encompassing sharply focused and sometimes quite lyrical creative jazz compositions, four-way collective improvisations, and explorations of ambience and texture. Like Human Feel which preceded it, yeah NO often subverted the standard relationships between front line and rhythm section. Any of the four members, in any combination, would together or break apart, shift from the background to the foreground, or move from soloist to accompanist mode.
Speak to It The stylistic similarities between mid-'90s Human Feel and the later yeah NO could be seen as largely attributable to the presence of Speed and Black in both bands. But it is interesting to note that the two quartets also had a link in Sverrisson; the future yeah NO bassist co-produced Human Feel's Speak to It, released by the Songlines label in 1996. Songlines also issued three CDs by Speed and the yeah NO band, the first titled simply Yeah No (1997), followed by Deviantics (1999) and Emit (2000); Swell Henry followed on the Squealer label (2004). While involved with Pachora and yeah NO, Speed also led a trio including keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Ben Perowsky. This often hard-swinging unit featured some of Speed's most robust clarinet and tenor work, along with incendiary Hammond organ support from Saft and splashy drumming from Perowsky. The Chris Speed Trio's Iffy, released on Knitting Factory Works in 2000, highlighted the reedman's edgy and adventurous approach along with touchstones to somewhat more traditional and mainstream elements of post-bop, soul-jazz, and groove jazz.
Soul on Soul While busy with his solo career, Speed appeared as a sideman in groups fronted by Mark Dresser, James Emery, and Ben Perowsky. He contributed to a number of recording sessions led by Dave Douglas, appearing on such albums as the Dave Douglas Sextet's 2000 release Soul on Soul (the trumpeter's highly acclaimed Mary Lou Williams tribute CD) and the following year's ambitious Witness, both albums issued by RCA Victor. He also joined the Balkan street band-styled Slavic Soul Party!, appearing on the albums In Makedonija (Knitting Factory Works, 2002) and Bigger (Barbes Records, 2006), as well as two groups led by drummers, his longtime collaborator Jim Black's AlasNoAxis quartet and John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet, appearing on the AlasNoAxis albums AlasNoAxis (2000), Splay (2002), Habyor (2004), Dogs of Great Indifference (2006), and Houseplant (2009), all released by Winter & Winter, and such Claudia Quintet albums as I, Claudia (2004), Semi-Formal (2005), For (2007), Royal Toast (2010), What Is the Beautiful? (2011), and September (2013), all released by Cuneiform Records.
Number Stations In 2006 Speed founded the independent Skirl Records label, dedicated to documenting the work of Brooklyn artists whose music is centered on creative jazz but transcends stylistic boundaries. He appeared on a number of the label's releases (all featuring artwork by Karlssonwilker and DVD-sized digipaks), including two albums by the Clarinets, an eponymous debut (2001) and Keep on Going Like This (2011); two albums by trombonist Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards quartet, The New Mellow Edwards (2006) and Big Choantza (2009); the aforementioned Galore by the reunited Human Feel (2007); two albums by Endangered Blood, the quartet's eponymous debut (2011) and Work Your Magic (2013); and Ruins (2014), by the duet of Speed and Italian drummer Zeno De Rossi. In 2013 Speed also appeared on another Curtis Hasselbring album, the conceptual Number Stations, released by Cuneiform and featuring Hasselbring leading a septet including members of both the New Mellow Edwards and another of the trombonist's ensembles, Decoupage.
After a decade of significant contributions to numerous collaborative endeavors, Speed stepped out with a new album as a leader, Really OK, released by Skirl in 2014. The album featured the reedman exclusively on tenor saxophone, leading a trio with Dave King (the Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Buffalo Collision) on drums and Chris Tordini (Okkyung Lee, Claudia Quintet) on acoustic bass. The album, consisting mainly of original compositions but also including the standard "All of Me," Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip," and John Coltrane's "26-2," found Speed drawing from tradition but putting his own unique spin on the classic saxophone-bass-drums trio form.
Chris Speed's artistic success as both bandleader and sideman is due at least in part to his willingness to step out of the spotlight and give his collaborators plenty of room to express themselves. Speed is a compelling soloist; he possesses a lovely round tone on the clarinet and his wailing tenor can be powerful at even quiet volumes. He also employs a wide range of extended techniques on both his horns, and is highly imaginative in discovering new textures and timbres to explore. Yet even in groups he leads, Speed surrounds himself with musicians whose styles often command equal if not greater attention than his own. It is a measure of Speed's maturity as an artist that he avoids personal grandstanding and brings out the best in his bandmates. Speed remains focused on the sound of the group as a whole, and how all the players can contribute to a unique collective statement.
Uri Caine was born in Philadelphia and began studying piano with Bernard Peiffer. He played in bands led by Philly Joe Jones, Hank Mobley,Johnny Coles, Mickey Roker, Odean Pope, Jymmie Merritt, Bootsie Barnes and Grover Washington. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and studied music composition with George Rochberg and George Crumb. Caine has recorded 25 cds as a leader. His most recent cd is a solo cd, Callithump, (Winter and Winter 2014) He has made cd's featuring his jazz trio, his Bedrock Trio and his ensemble performing arrangements of Mahler, Wagner, Beethoven, Bach and Schumann. Recently Caine has received commissions from the Vienna Volksoper, The Seattle Chamber Players, Relache, The Beaux Arts Trio, the Basel Chamber Orchestra, Concerto Koln and the American Composers Orchestra. Caine was the Director of the Venice Biennale for Music in September 2003. He has performed his version of the Diabelli Variations with orchestras including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the CBC Orchestra in Canada and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. From 2006-2009 he was composer in residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and premiered his Concerto for Two Pianos and Chamber Orchestra with Jeffrey Kahane in May 2006. In 2009 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for The Othello Syndrome. During the past several years, Caine has worked in groups led by Don Byron, Dave Douglas, John Zorn, Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco, Clark Terry, Rashid Ali, Arto Lindsay, Sam Rivers and Barry Altschul, the Woody Herman Band, Annie Ross, the Enja Band, Global Theory and the Master Musicians of Jajouka. He has received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts , the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Foundation. In December, 2010 he was awarded a grant by the USA Artist Fellowships. He has performed at many jazz festivals including The North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival. Monterey Jazz Festival, JVC Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, as well as classical festivals including The Salzburg Festival, Munich Opera, Holland Festival, Israel Festival, IRCAM, and Great Performers at Lincoln Center. He lives in New York City with his wife, Jan.
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