Monday, October 05, 2015

Music Education Monday: Pat Metheny
and John Scofield on improvisation

Pat Metheny and John Scofield (pictured) are two of the top guitarists and bandleaders in contemporary jazz, and today's Music Education Monday post features video sessions with each of them talking about their personal approaches to improvisation.

Both first came to prominence in the late 1970s, and both share a connection to Berklee School of Music, where Scofield studied as an undergraduate and Metheny once served as a teaching assistant to his mentor, vibraphonist Gary Burton.

Scofield first became widely known in the heyday of fusion as a member of the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band, and made a couple of recordings as a leader before joining Miles Davis' band for three years in the 1980s. That gig helped raise his profile significantly, and his subsequent mid-80s electric albums like Blue Matter and Loud Jazz cemented his status as a significant and popular voice on his instrument. More recently, Scofield has emphasized his funk and gospel influences on record and in concert, also forming a recurring partnership with the jam band trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Metheny, who grew up in Lee's Summit, MO near Kansas City, got his first significant exposure playing in Burton's quartet. After a couple of early solo recordings, he joined with keyboardist Lyle Mays to form the first edition of the Pat Metheny Group in 1978, enjoying immediate success with both jazz and rock audiences. That band continues, albeit with different personnel, into the present day, though Metheny also has been involved in many other projects, from the free-jazz influenced Song X project with Ornette Coleman in the 1980s to his solo Orchestrion tours of recent years.

You can see both videos after the jump...

Miles on Monday: "Miles Davis In His Own Words," digging into Dig, and more

This week in Miles Davis news:

* A week ago Sunday, Davis's daughter Cheryl and nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr. (pictured) visited Alton to see the recently unveiled statue of the trumpeter.

* Universal Music's website has collected some of Davis' pithier and/or more insightful quotes and sayings in a blog post titled "Miles Davis In His Own Words."

* Last week's anniversary of Davis' death in 1991 prompted a number of tributes online and in the press, and one of the better ones came from the website

* On this date in 1951, Miles Davis went into Apex Studios in NYC with a band including tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, drummer Art Blakey, bebop stalwarts Walter Bishop, Jr. on piano and Tommy Potter on bass, and a 19-year-old alto saxophonist named Jackie McLean who was making the first recording of his career. The sessions would be released first on two 10-inch LPs, The New Sounds and Blue Period, and  later would be collected on one disc issued in 1956 with the title Dig.

You can listen to the title track of Dig here:

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sunday Session: October 4. 2015

Phil Woods
For your Sunday reading, here are some interesting music-related items that have hit StLJN's inbox over the past week:

* Frank Sinatra's Radio Broadcasts Unearthed for Reissue (Rolling Stone)
* Saxophonist Phil Woods Dies at 83 (DownBeat)
* Shhh! New Orleans Takes Steps to Turn Down the Music (Reuters)
* Interview: Harry Gregson-Williams talks his score for The Martian (
* The Hit Charade - An algorithm might create a playlist you enjoy, but don’t mistake that for creativity (Technology Review)
* For Jukebox Salesman, Collecting Records Isn't Just A Job: It's A Hobby, Too (NPR)
* Life on Mars: The Surviving Members of the Earliest No Wave Band Talk Muggings, Warhol, and 1977 (
* The New Payola: Chart-Rigging and Scams in the EDM Bubble (
* A look back at the 58th Monterey Jazz Fest (* Gary Clark Jr on being the 'chosen one' and getting phone calls from Beyoncé (The Guardian UK)
* The Night That John Coltrane Played Seattle and Launched a Movement (Seattle Weekly)
* Muhal Richard Abrams interview (
* Crusaders Saxophonist Wilton Felder Dies at 75 (Jazz Times)
* Akinmusire Debuts Poignant Multimedia Project at Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival (DownBeat)
* Chucho Valdés Brings Irakere Revival Tour to U.S. (Billboard)
* Terry Riley: 'I haven’t felt nailed down to anything' (The Guardian UK)
* How Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ Kicked Off the Streaming Revolution (Grantland)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Peter Martin's What Lies Ahead

Today, our video spotlight is focused on pianist and U City native Peter Martin, who has a new recording out this week and a performance scheduled next weekend in St. Louis to celebrate the release.

The album is called What Lies Ahead, and it features Martin in a trio setting with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, plus some guest performances from singers Erin Bode and Brian Owens and members of The 442s.

It was recorded in May at Shock City Studios here in St. Louis, and parts of the sessions also were captured on video, as seen in the first clip up above, which features Martin, Rogers and Hutchinson performing a track from the album called "Clapper Dapper."

After the jump, you can see them perform "Broadmoor," another song from the What Lies Ahead sessions.

Below that, there's some live footage of Martin, specifically a funked-up version of "Summertime" recorded this past July at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It features Martin and his colleagues from the touring band of singer Dianne Reeves, for whom he has served as music director for more than a decade. That's East St. Louis' own Terreon Gully on the drums, along with guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Reginald Veal.

That's followed a video uploaded by Martin himself, offering a backstage look at the Reeves band's 2015 European tour.

The final two clips are excerpted from a concert Martin did back in February at The Sheldon, where he's been presenting a series of performances in recent years and will return next Saturday, October 10 for a concert promoting the release of What Lies Ahead.

Shot by St. Louis videographer James Ross, the two clips feature Martin in a duo with fellow keyboardist Federico Gonzalez Pena, performing Italian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti's "Loro" and an unspecified selection (possibly a spontaneous creation?).

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Friday, October 02, 2015

Willie Akins 1939 - 2015

Friends and musical colleagues of Willie Akins reported Friday night on social media that the veteran saxophonist has died. He was 76, and had battled heart disease for more than a decade.

A native of Webster Groves, Akins (pictured) gained early experience with local bands including Eddie Randle's Blue Devils and a group led by his music teacher, bassist Walter Latham. After graduating from Douglass High School, he moved to New York City in May, 1957 to try to make it in the music business.

He spent eleven years in NYC, but, as detailed in a 2002 Riverfront Times profile, was mostly frustrated in his attempts to break into the city's highly competitive jazz scene. After the breakup of his first marriage and the death of his father, in 1968 Akins returned to St. Louis to look after his mother, and wound up staying for good.

Once back home, Akins worked as steadily as any local jazz musician could - painting houses during the day to help make ends meet - and for more than 40 years was generally regarded as one of the city's top modern jazz performers. While his illness had curtailed his playing schedule in recent months, Akins did make one last brief appearance at a benefit concert on September 4 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.

Before that, though, his weekly Saturday matinees at Spruill's in midtown were for 20 years a staple for St. Louis jazz fans, and often attracted visits and sit-ins from touring musicians as well. Akins also mentored several generations of St. Louis musicians, some of whom, such as saxophonists Greg Osby and Chris Cheek, drummer Kim Thompson, trumpeter Keyon Harrold and his brother, drummer Emmanuel Harrold, have gone on to national and international recognition.

In 2004, when the Riverfront Times' annual music issue named him "Best Jazz Artist," yr. StLJN editor was tasked with summing up his appeal, and this is what I wrote
An old-school jazzman in the tradition of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane, tenor saxophonist Willie Akins blows both tough and tender while conjuring entire universes of sound from a few pounds of metal and a few lines on a score. On the bandstand, wielding his sax like a tool and a talisman, Akins can sketch dark fantasies in chiaroscuro, meditate over love lost in infinite shades of blue or paint jubilation in colors as bright as the sun.

Dapper in appearance, modest and gentlemanly in manner, off the bandstand Akins is representative of a very particular sort of jazz legend, that of the local guy who could have made the big time but chose a calmer life close to home and family. Those who revere Akins can't help but wish he'd been recorded more often, so as to share his considerable talents with the world. That said, it's a gift to have Willie Akins as part of the St. Louis music scene, and anyone who loves jazz should be thankful for his continued presence.
In 1998, Akins released Alima, his only album as a leader. The quartet date featured a mix of originals, covers and standards performed by Akins, bassist Willem von Hombracht, drummer Montez Coleman, and pianist Simon Rowe.

Akins' survivors include his wife, Sandra and children Hassan Corbin of Las Vegas, NV; Voncia Taylor of Aurora, CO; Yusuf Reynolds of Carbondale, IL; Vanessa Cunningham of Amityville, NY; Kenya Brown of Boston, MA; Alima Dunn of Houston, TX; and Omar R. Akins of East St. Louis, IL; and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Eddie Randle and Sons Funeral Home, 4600 Natural Bridge Avenue. Visitation will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7, with services at noon on Thursday, October 8. Burial will be at
Sunset Garden of Memory in Millstadt, IL.

In the embedded video below, you can see Willie Akins performing Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" in 2011 at the Artists' Quarter in St Paul, MN, backed by Montez Coleman, Willem Von Hombracht, and Simon Rowe.

Updated 10/3/15 and again on 10/4/15 with information about survivors and funeral arrangements.

Tatsuya Nakatani seeking musicians for
Gong Orchestra performance on October 11

Percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani is coming back to St. Louis to present another performance of his Nakatani Gong Orchestra, and he's looking for some local musicians who want to join in.

Nakatani (pictured) will be in St. Louis to play at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, October 11 at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center. He'll do a short solo performance as well, but the evening's main attraction will be the NGO, described as "a non-traditional music orchestra delving into the rich harmony of multiple gongs."

The NGO has performed with various lineups more than 50 times at venues around the globe, including the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, as well as previously here in St. Louis at LNAC.

To realize the performance, Nakatani is looking for up to ten St. Louis musicians willing to take part in a pre-show workshop to learn his specialized bowed gong and conduction techniques, and then do the concert. If you're interested, email LNAC's Mark Sarich at

For listeners, admission for this event will be $10 at the door, and an early arrival is suggested, as seating is limited

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's the latest wrap-up of assorted links and short news items of local interest:

* Pianist Peter Martin's new album What Lies Ahead is out today. It's a self-released trio date with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, also featuring guest appearances from singers Erin Bode and Brian Owens and members of The 442s.

You can see a video of Martin, Rogers and Hutchinson playing "Clapper Dapper" from the album (pictured) here, and hear audio excerpts from some of the other tracks and/or order a copy here.

Martin and company will celebrate the release with a performance next Saturday, October 10 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

* Jazz St. Louis now is offering four pairs of free student tickets for selected Wednesday night performances via a pre-show lottery. Students 25 years old and younger can go to the box office starting at 6:00 p.m., present their ID and enter their name to win one of the pairs of free tickets.

A drawing then will take place at 7:00 p.m., and each of the four winners will be able to use their tickets for either the 7:30 or 9:30 p.m. performance that evening. For details, see the Jazz St. Louis website.

* Trumpeter and East St. Louis native Russell Gunn is composing original music for Fetch Clay, Make Man, a new play opening later this month in a production from Atlanta's True Colors Theatre.

The play, which is based on a true story about a meeting between Muhammad Ali and actor Lincoln Perry (better known as his character "Stepin Fetchit") before Ali's second fight with Sonny Liston, opens October 27 and runs through November 22 at the Southwest Arts Center in Atlanta.

* Pianist Reggie Thomas, another St. Louis expat who's now heading the jazz studies department at Northern Illinois University, will be part of the rhythm section for the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Jazz Vocals Competition to be held November 14 and 15 in Los Angeles.

Thomas, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen will back the contestants as they perform for a panel of judges including Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Freddy Cole, Al Jarreau, and Luciana Souza.

* Vintage Vinyl has made the website Thrillist's list of "The 21 Best Record Shops in America."

* John F. Goodman (a writer, not the St. Louis-born actor) of Jazz Inside and Out reviewed the DVD of the Clark Terry documentary Keep On Keepin' On.

* Pinched by a series of budget cuts affecting state universities in Illinois, radio station WSIE has launched another IndieGoGo campaign, this time hoping to raise $10,000 to help with operational expenses. You can learn more about the campaign and pledge your support here.

* Saxophonist Oliver Lake has posted to Facebook some photos from Tuesday's night Trio 3 performance with guest pianist Ethan Iverson at the Blue Note in NYC

* The Riverfront Times annual "Best of St. Louis" issue is out this week, and to no one's surprise, Jazz at the Bistro aka Ferring Jazz Bistro was named "Best Jazz Club" in both the staff-written listings and the reader's poll.

Unanimity did not prevail in the selection of "Best Blues Club" though, as the readers picked BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups, while the staff selected the Blues City Deli.

Edited after posting to correct errors in the item about the RFT's "Best of St. Louis" list.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Recently on Heliocentric Worlds

It's the start of a new month, and so it's time once again to check in with StLJN's sibling site Heliocentric Worlds, where each day we present a different online music video, drawing on genres including jazz, blues, soul, funk, classic rock, prog rock, experimental and more.

The most-viewed videos added to the site last month were:

Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder - "Statesboro Blues"
Eddie Palmieri - Live at the Newport Jazz Festival 
So Percussion - Cage's "Third Construction"
Ray Bryant - Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Gil Scott-Heron - Live at Woodstock '94 

Other clips posted last month featured performances from Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, The Neville Brothers, Curved Air, Rashied Ali Quartet, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, George Coleman Octet, Graham Parker & The Rumor, Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, Sun Ra Centennial Dream Arkestra, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, T-Bone Walker, Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance, John Lee Hooker, Billy Cobham, Edgar Winter, Herbie Mann, George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet +1, Diana Krall, Gene Harris, Ray Brown & Grady Tate, Les McCann Trio, Bud Powell, Robert Cray, and Hank Jones.

If you've somehow missed out on all this until now, you still can see all of these videos, plus thousands more clips from the archives, by visiting
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