Monday, July 28, 2014

Up Close with Bill Stewart

Today's "Up Close with..." features some great drumming with modern Master Bill Stewart:

Thank you to Nicholas Payton via his fine blog http://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com for sharing this one!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Up Close with Matt Wilson

Here's some great, up close action footage of my friend and mentor, Matt Wilson performing with the late, great Charlie Haden and his Liberation Music Orchestra:

It's always a lesson to watch a Master in action but, in particular, check out how much fun Mr. Wilson is having playing the drums with Charlie.

You can also find some great tributes to Haden as well over at Ethan Iverson's find blog, Do The Math:


Here are Matt's touching words of praise and tribute to his friend, Charlie Haden:

"When my wife Felicia and I found out we were having triplets my dear friend and mentor Dewey Redman urged me to call Charlie for support. I recall saying, " Hello Charlie, this is Matt Wilson. and I need to talk to you, but not about music. My wife and I are having triplets." He said, "Wow, man, that is great, man. I am on another call I'll be right back."And he was. We talked for over an hour. It was a beautiful conversation and his words of support were encouraging. Charlie has a son, Josh, and triplet daughters Petra, Tanya and Rachel. I have a daughter, Audrey, and triplet sons Max, Henry and Ethan. 8 kids, 4 ages.We called ourselves the Fathers of Triplets Rhythm Team.

The first time I played with Charlie was in the fall of 2003. We played a concert in San Francisco with Dewey and Joshua Redman. I recall, from the very first beat, how buoyant and comfortable the time felt. Charlie's walking feel seem to purr. It was strong but patient and the shape of his sound embraced the cymbal melody like a big warm hug. It was heaven to play sounds with him. I was thrilled when he phoned and asked me to play in the Liberation Music Orchestra not long after that gig. We rehearsed and started the tour at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the summer of 2004. Also in Montreal, I was honored to play with Charlie and Dewey Redman in a trio concert. I had been playing with Dewey since 1994 and to be included in this setting was a career highlight. They even had me do the set list. I can recall saying out loud to myself in between tunes, "I am really here. This is not a dream. This is UNBELIEVABLE!" There is a bootleg of it out there somewhere that I would love to have. 

The Liberation Music Orchestra experience was special. The arrangements by Carla Bley were extraordinary and the members of the band not only blended musically but personally. We were a real family and the memories of music and fellowship will always be dear to me. I remember playing a rock club with the band in Los Angeles. During a solo I had in the middle of a "America the Beautiful" I strapped on the snare drum and marched the audience out onto the sidewalk in front of the club and then back inside. As I returned I thought to myself, "This could very well be my last night with the band." I sat back down and turned back to look at Charlie with a bit of apprehension. He was smiling and gave me an approving thumbs up along with, "Wooo, Matt Wilson. Yeah man!" 

My daughter Audrey really loved Charlie. They really connected after she first met him. Charlie and his wife Ruth, who were always very kind to Felicia, me and the children, invited me to bring the kids to see a screening of the documentary about Charlie, Ramblin' Boy, at the Walter Reade Theater. This was not long after Felicia was diagnosed with leukemia so I brought Audrey and Ethan to the the theater as a distraction. The film was fantastic and we enjoyed it immensely. While watching, Audrey, who was 12 at the time, counted how many times in the film Charlie said, "Man." After the film and discussion we went up to say hello to Charlie and Ruth and thank them for the invitation. Charlie saw Audrey and greeted her with, " Hi Audrey, nice to see you man." Audrey replied, "Hi Charlie, it is nice to see you."She then quickly whispered in my ear, "Number 39."Priceless. 

I loved talking on the phone with Charlie and tried to do so on regular basis. I remember him playing mixes of the LMO recording, Not In Our Name, over the phone. Charlie always had a good joke to two to share along with political discussions. 

The last time I spoke with him was on June 16 the day after my wife Felicia lost her battle with leukemia. It was brief. His voice was weak but his words were strong. 

Charlie Haden - "I love you man! " I am eternally grateful for the amazing fun we had on the bandstand, the road and on the telephone. Your deep spirit, love and compassion will forever be a part of my musical presence."

- Matt Wilson, from "Do The Math"  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Digging Max

When people ask me who my favourite drummer is (I have many!) the name Max Roach is usually the first to come out of my mouth.

I came across a few items lately that reminded me as to why this man has had such a powerful impact on my own music:

- Here is Amiri Baraka's powerful eulogy from Max Roach's funeral in 2007:


And here's the wonderful piece of prose entitled "Digging Max" by Amiri Baraka:

Max is the highest 
The outest, the 
Largest, the greatest, 
The fastest, the hippest, 
The all the way past which 
There cannot be

When we say MAX, that’s what 
We mean, hip always 
Clean. That’s our word 
For Artist, Djali, Nzuri Ngoma, 
Senor Congero, Leader, Mwalimu, 
Scientist of Sound, Sonic Designer, 
Trappist Definer, Composer, Revolutionary 
Democrat, Bird’s Black Injun Engine, Brownie’s Other Half, Abbey’s Djeli-ya-Graph

Who bakes the Western industrial singing machine 
Into temperatures of syncopated beyondness 
Out Sharp Mean

Papa Jo’s Successor 
Philly Joe’s Confessor 
AT’s mentor, Roy Haynes’ Inventor 
Steve McCall’s Trainer

Ask Buhainia, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin or Klook 
Or even Sunny Murray, when he ain’t in a hurry. 
Milford is down and Roy Brooks 
Is one of his cooks. Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, 
Andrew Cyrille can tell you or youngish Pheeroan, 
Beaver and Blackwell and my man, Dennis Charles. 
They’ll run it down, ask them the next time they in town.

Ask any or all of the rhythm’n. Shadow cd tell you, so cd 
Shelly Manne, Chico Hamilton. Rashied knows, Billy Hart. Eddie Crawford 
From Newark has split, but he and Eddie Gladden could speak on it. 
Mtume, if he will. Big Black can speak. Let Tito Puente run it down, 
He and Max been tight since they were babies in this town.

Frankie Dunlop cd tell you and he speak a long time. 
Pretty Purdy is hip. Max hit with Duke at Eighteen. 
He played with Benny Carter when he first made the scene. 
Dig the heavy learning that went with that. Newk knows, 
And McCoy. CT would agree. Hey, ask me or Archie or Michael Carvin 
Percy Heath, Jackie Mc are all hip to the Max Attack.

Barry Harris can tell you. You in touch with Monk or Bird? 
Ask Bud if you see him, You know he know, even after the cops 
Beat him Un Poco Loco. I mean you can ask Pharoah or David 
Or Dizzy, when he come out of hiding, it’s a trick Diz just outta sight. 
I heard Con Alma and Diz and Max in Paris, just the other night.

But ask anybody conscious, who Max Roach be. Miles certainly knew 
And Coltrane too. All the cats who know the science of Drum, know where our 
Last dispensation come from. That’s why we call him, MAX, the ultimate, 
The Furthest Star. The eternal internal, the visible invisible, the message 
From afar.

All Hail, MAX, from On to Dignataria to Serious and even beyond! 
He is the mighty SCARAB, immortal as our music, world without end. 
Great artist Universal Teacher, and for any Digger 
One of our deepest friends! Hey, MAX! MAX! MAX!

-Amiri Baraka (Written in 1999, read at Max Roach’s funeral, Aug. 24, 2007) 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Lesson with Elvin - Parts One & Two (Redux)

Here's the two articles I contributed to Canadian Musician Magazine earlier this year (this time in better resolution!) These articles are both based on some concepts I learned from a drum clinic that Elvin Jones gave in Montreal in 1999.