You say potato, eu digo batata.

Uh oh. Nobody emote. You might weird out this Scandinavian piano trio on ECM. Not exactly Bud Powell or Monk, this stuff. Is this what a century of peace, socialism and drunken blonde sex culminates in? It’s so careful. So tentative. So pretty. It’s good, sure, but I never liked Bergman movies either.

Finland I can understand, but they’re not Scandinavian in anything but propinquity. They’re more like an Estonia’s hip, rich uncle. Or the people on the nice side of town pretending they are not distant cousins of those crazy Hungarians in the trailer park. (Finnish has fifteen cases, Hungarian twenty eight, now that’s crazy.) But I understand the Finns, I think, mainly because I can’t understand then. I mean they’re loud, party too hard, love hockey and crazy rock’n’roll and hate when people push them around. That I can understand. I just can’t understand what they are saying. Now Swedes, Norwegians, Danes I could understand fairly easily, would be conversant in a year’s time. Might even get to like lutefisk. But Finnish? I mean just how many ways can you say potato? Which reminds me that I was at a fun Finnish party once, above a sauna. They made greyhounds in a huge bucket and didn’t tell any of the girls–they invited mostly girls–that it was Everclear (jet fuel in a bottle) and not vodka. The poor things got smashed. One pretty little blonde–they invited mostly blondes–got her foot stuck in a waste basket and stumped around for a moment, bewildered, the most darling Jerry Lewis you ever saw. The Finns laughed and said potato fifteen different ways. Great party, but we left before the orgy in the sauna.

The computer is shuffling its little brain out and switches from Sven Svensson or whoever to Tania Maria. Piquant. It’s on Concord and is about as far from the ECM label as Rio is from Flekkefjord or Bodø. Sunny Brazil. Brazilians I can understand. They’re crazy, for one thing. I understand crazy. And everything they do there could possibly wind you up in bed or in prison. I understand horny and dangerous, too. And they have the best music. Some of the worst music, too (it’s too bad the military didn’t ban Arp synthesizers when it banned everything else), but also some of the best. Tania Maria is riffing up a storm here, pounding the piano with almost Monk like muscularity, such strong little fingers she must have, and the melody flows this way and that, like a borboletta going from flower to flower. Hips sway, undulate, go backwards, then that way, then the other way, and finally two steps forward. Uh oh, dig that bass. It’s huge. Now she’s doing a cuica with her voice, and the cuica is doing the voice beneath crazy hand clapped syncopation. Repeated figures on the piano, building and building. Now more of the clapping,and the cuica voices and voiced cuicas, and a pile of overdubbed vocals in ways that would just confuse and frighten Scandinavians. I hear they dig this in Finland, though. If they can say potato fifteen or twenty different ways, who knows how many ways there are to say samba. It’s so much simpler in Brazil. You say potato, eu digo batata.

Dexter Gordon

Damn, I wish I could get that Dexter Gordon tone in my writing. You can feel the reed vibrating between your teeth, a big man’s sound that fills the room, every corner, every crevice, the ceiling to the floor and even reverberates in shot glasses and empty beer bottles. Toward the solo’s end it disappears out the lowest register of the horn and the pads close on air, then silence. Fried bananas, he sez, very tasty.

Charlie Haden again

Weird. Charlie Haden just liked my retweet. And I don’t mean a second note on a piccolo. Apparently where ever he is, they have Twitter. Heaven, Heck, New Jersey, who knows? Charlie is there tweeting and retweeting and thrumming Rambling on the bass.

(Skip ahead to 4:40 and it’s sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.)

Pete Christlieb


On Friday Henri’s in Canoga Park was cooking.  The John Hammond Trio–with Jim Hughart on bass, Ralph Penland drums—has been together a helluva long time, and they play like a real unit…to top it off, tenor sax ace Pete Christlieb has been playing with them for a long time now, probably for hundreds of hours.  They come together for some pretty intricate ensemble like arrangements that you just won’t see in most clubs.  It’s an older, more relaxed style of jazz, some classic Blue Note feeling, and then sometimes it reminds me of even older sessions, like the feeling that is on that Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio record.  Reaching back, these guys, to Prez and Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster.  Christlieb is just a superb saxophonist…he sits there on a stool between solos grinning and bouncing about like an oversized cherub,  and then he picks up his horn again and blows these long, bluesy cadenzas just packed with ideas, and then suddenly sails into an effortless–my vocabulary is failing me here–an effortless flight that just fills the room with so much energy.  And he makes it seem so easy.  I had been listening to that record he did with Warne Marsh, Apogee, on the way out there and damn if he didn’t quote it once or twice.  Christlieb with Hammond and his trio is yet another absurdly underrated jazz experience that this city offers, and they seem to play at least weekly.

Roy Haynes and Esperanza Spalding


Here’s a review of a Roy Haynes/Esperanza Spalding press conference at the Playboy Jazz conference. I think this was 2010. Dig the contrast.

Must have been a hundred reporters. First up was Roy Haynes, though.  What is he now, 85? He looked twenty years younger. Played twenty years younger than that. He ran that room, baby, made suckers out of the reporters, we were all laughing our heads off and recording every line, each a gem. A classic performance. Then he split to applause and in came Esperanza. The salty, hard bitten atmosphere dissipated instantly and it was almost church. We whispered. Reporters were afraid to ask anything for fear they’d bruise her. She looked so sweet, her voice was so sweet, there was so much innocence there we all stopped swearing. We knew it wasn’t real, that she couldn’t actually be a jazz musician and be that innocent. But on that off, off chance that just maybe it was, we lobbed soft questions and she answered them all, eyes sparkling.


Roy Haynes


Roy Haynes is ninety years old today, still drumming, still funny as hell, still jazz as jazz can be. I’m reposting this one from a few years back.

(an email from 2006)

Saw Roy Haynes last night (4/6/06) at Catalina’s. Absolutely first rate jazz. Jaleel Shaw is a killer alto, some Jackie McLean edge to his tone. He also did a long drawn-out blues on his soprano that seemed to have the spirits of both Lucky Thompson and a down in the dumps Pee Wee Russell floating over the stage. The piano player was great, though his name utterly escapes me now (some reporter I’d make…)…there was a phenomenal “Green Chimneys” and while Haynes, bassist Dan Sullivan and Shaw played the introductory figure straight, the kid on piano did it in some kind of counterpoint that made the Monk even more Monk. And Haynes…man, that cat is 80 years old and plays literally better than most half his age. I mean that, literally. He was perfect.  Drums can be godhead, and man, this reached it. He’s also funny as hell, strutting around out front playing his pair of sticks into the mic, a one man Rat Pack killing the room with wisecracks and heckling, demanding and getting a white Bacardi with a dash of soda, on ice, with a slice of lime. Looking maybe sixty, a really fit, lithe sixty at that. Good genes.

Dig this one. He’s there through Sunday. I am definitely gonna reprise this experience myself.

(and this is from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, 2007)

Last time  brought his quartet into the Catalina Bar and Grill, every set was a sensation. The jazz was intense, be bop and hard bop and post bop and assorted off the wall takes. Alto player Jaleel Shaw burned in the spotlight, looking and sounding a lot like the horn players Haynes played with back in the day.  And Haynes himself–his drums chops were so on, his patter so warm, his jokes and jibes and stories so damn entertaining you could not believe the man was 81 years old.  Anyone over fifty in the audience felt old in comparison. Haynes has played with towering figures of jazz history—Prez and Bird and Monk and Trane and Getz and Miles among them—but Haynes himself is not just history. Not yet. The guy still dominates a room from behind that kit, driving his young quartet to make killer jazz music. Between solos he takes a breather now and then, goofing with the crowd, but then he is 82 now. If you are a jazz fan you must see Roy Haynes once before you die, because apparently he never will.   (2007)

(And this too is excerpted from my LA Weekly column, 2009)

Roy Haynes is eighty three. Of course, that’s in Roy years…he’s about forty three in regular people years. How else can you explain this legendary octogenarian’s energy? This cat plays his ass off…but even more impressive, he makes the kids in his Fountain of Youth band play their asses off. If you’re looking for labels, the music they play is hard bop and post bop—which means that it’s equal parts hard grooving, wild soloing, and non-retro edgy—with plenty of space for the band to cook. Alto player Jaleel Shaw’s sound is NYC hard, so that even his gorgeous ballad passages have a diamond edge (think Jackie McLean). And Haynes demands and gets maximum dynamics out of pianist Martin Bejerano and just the right notes from bassist David Wong. And readers leery of paying big bucks for nostalgia, with dear old cats who ain’t what they used to be, should listen to Whereas, Roy’s live release from 2006. You’ll think you’re hearing tracks from the sixties but that was Roy Haynes, eighty one years young.

So it utterly mystifies all us here at the L.A. Weekly jazz bureau why the hell the house ain’t packed to the rafters when Roy Haynes is in town. As illustrated in his A Life In Time cd/dvd box set (on Dreyfus), Roy Haynes is a living, breathing, playing, still creative history of post-war jazz. Not only has he led some great sessions, but the man played with Monk (take Mysterioso) and subbing for Elvin Jones in Trane’s quintet (check out the bombs he’s dropping on “My Favorite Things” on Newport ‘63) and with Monk with Trane (At the Five Spot) and, oh man, Lester Young and Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and Fats Navarro and Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy (Out There) and Sarah Vaughan and everybody else (including last month with Phish; and see if you can find the clip of him with the Allman Brothers on “Afro Blue”). He’s all over the record collection of yours, tucked away in the credits and bashing and skittering and k-kicking, brushing and hinting, placing stunning rhythm intricacies here and perfect empty spaces there, driving and swinging and bloozing and dancing across that kit…. A pure be bop drummer. And live he spins stories and cracks wise and is a first rate showman. You really have to see Roy Haynes.

Jazz moved fast in those days

Driving today and flipped on KKJZ and Koko exploded out of the radio, Max Roach Quartet. Crazy drumming, nobody plays like that. Kenny Dorham blowing Bird on the trumpet in long frenetic buttery lines, just gorgeous, then in comes I think George Coleman (yes, I just looked it up) on tenor, hard and fierce and beautiful, what a ridiculously overlooked player. What a fantastic cut. Why don’t I have this album? Recorded in late April 1957, I had just turned one year old and Bird had turned three years dead. Jazz moved fast in those days, in revolution time.