I have also included a You Tube video, in which Nancy discusses her CD.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
The late jazz vocal master, Mark Murphy, has been an inspiration to so many other singers. One of the finest, who was also one of Mark's favorites, is Nancy Kelly. She is planning to release a CD on which she pays tribute to his musical legacy and is currently raising funds via Kickstarter. If you wish to contribute to this worthy project, please click on the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/321230614/nancy-kellys-mark-murphy-tribute-cd
I have also included a You Tube video, in which Nancy discusses her CD.
I have also included a You Tube video, in which Nancy discusses her CD.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
Misha Tsiganov, who has turned up in earlier blogposts, is back with a lovely new recording, "Spring Feelings." It has been reviewed by Cyrill Moshkow, in the March 2016 edition of the jazz portal, Jazz.Ru. I have included, below, a translation into English from the original Russian:
"Dutch producer Gerry Teekens, the head of Criss Cross Jazz, has the amazing talent to support and record in the top New York recording studios the best projects of the masters of jazz, who are gathered in the capital of the jazz world. Many of them constantly play with one another simultaneously on half a dozen projects. And so the second solo album which is being released on Criss Cross by Misha Tsiganov, a New York pianist originally from Leningrad, brings together his own partners from various projects. The outstanding “Russian American” trumpet player, Alex Sipiagin, constantly plays with Tsiganov in duets as well as in number of ensembles. The edgy and consistent drummer, Donald Edwards, is a member of the group Opus 5, with whom Tsiganov toured when substituting for pianist Dave Kikoski. The same applies to saxophonist Seamus Blake, who visited Russia with Manhattan Time Quintet, a joint project of Sipiagin and Tsiganov. Misha also has worked a lot with the experienced Austrian jazz musician, bass player Hans Glawischnig, who like Misha, has been part of the New York jazz scene since the nineties. In short, saying that this is a strong ensemble consisting of first-rate soloists is actually saying nothing. The main thing is that these masters are united by Tsiganov’s music. The album includes four originals by Tsiganov and four adaptations of jazz standards which stylistically and aesthetically sound as an organic whole. It is a powerful portrait of modern, not museum-nostalgic, striving into the future, New York mainstream jazz. Complex math puzzles and carefully calculated harmonic schemes connect with beautiful melodies, accessible even to an unprepared listener, in an energetically turbulent rhythmic environment that grabs the listener and carries him to breathtaking heights of musical virtuosity, sometimes almost head over heels. These virtuosos do not merely display high mastery - mastery is just the means- the means to convey emotions and share the joy of clever, beautiful full of ideas music."
Two reviews of “Spring Feelings” also appear in the March 2016 issue of AllAboutJazz:
"…pianist extraordinaire Misha Tsiganov… presenting a superb selection of five outrageous originals and four reimagined standards... another marvelous foray on the keys…" (Edward Blanco)
"…Tsiganov explores a new approach to quintet orchestration… really remarkable music… From conception to execution, this music succeeds on all fronts." (Andrew Luhn)
You can get an MP3 of “Spring Feelings” from iTunes:
Furthermore, the recording is available in both MP3 and CD formats at Amazon:
For further information about Misha and his music, check out his website: http://www.mishajazz.com.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
On Monday, March 14, 2016, I spoke at Mark Murphy's memorial, which took place at St. Peter's Church in New York City. It was a very emotional event, which packed the venue with friends, including those who were themselves jazz artists. In attendance were also many fans, who did not know him personally but had been moved by the legendary vocalist's music.
As a slide show of pictures was projected on the back wall, other singers and musicians performed songs which were closely associated with Mark. The performances were bridged with narration (thanks to writer James Gavin, who stepped in at the last minute). These were supplemented by longer recollections from colleagues and family members, about Mark's life and career. I've included, below, the program, which lists the songs, as well as the names of everybody who participated.
Here is my own brief contribution, about my dear, life-changing friend. It was difficult to put my feelings into words. I hope I have succeeded.
"I am not used to speaking before so many people, but I’ll do my best! I am neither a performer nor a published writer on jazz, so my experience with Mark Murphy is somewhat different from most of those you will have heard today.
When I entered the Iridium in June 2004, I never dreamed it would lead to a friendship that grew ever deeper with the passing years. Mark was just one of many singers whom I enjoyed hearing, though I had never been to one of his gigs. To say that this experience was life-altering, is an understatement.
The Mark Murphy I came to know had many traits which might be unexpected, by those who only related to him as a singer. He was the man who hipped me to the History Channel show, “American Pickers,” because he was into antiques. He was obsessed with watching movies, especially classics starring Hedy Lamarr, Joan Crawford and Eleanor Powell. Mark did not read novels only by Jack Kerouac, but also loved to dig into mysteries. (When I gave him a copy of a jazz mystery set in Vegas, he said that Bill Moody’s description of the music scene reminded him of his gig at the Four Queens.) He was fascinated with extraterrestrials and folks who had served in WWII. Plus, he never ceased to love nature, in particular, flowers, trees and bodies of water.
The thing I’ll always remember most about Mark, however, was that the music was constantly inside him, as regular as breathing. I was told he once sang to an eagle flying over his log cabin. (Yes, folks, he lived in a log cabin.) I personally witnessed him scatting to a tiny frog. Mark would make up songs while crossing the street or waiting for a bus. On one occasion, in 2013, he sat at his regular table in the dining room of the Actors Home and sang to me the entire first verse of “You Are My Sunshine,” perfectly.
Even, when illness began to overtake him, Mark never lost his feeling for the music. I would play him CDs and DVDs of singers and instrumentalists, ranging from Miles Davis and Maria Callas to performers new to him. He would react in one of two ways: either smiling broadly with his eyes open and dancing with delight, or else he would close them, as he seemed to drink in what he was hearing. If the tracks were from his own albums, Mark would move his hands, as though he was performing on the stage. He would sometimes move his lips, singing silently to himself.
On the Saturday before he passed away. I asked him what he wanted to hear and he responded, “You know what I like.” So I put on “Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock, then “Speak No Evil’ by Wayne Shorter. As Mark listened, I looked into his soulful eyes and saw his inner beauty come out.
Mark Murphy was a great man yet so down to earth, a man and a boy simultaneously. Yet, in spite of all he went through, he never lost his dignity. It was like being in the presence of a great guru, one who exuded music until he took his last breath."
Sunday, February 17, 2013
A while back, one of my past blogpost subjects, Misha Tsiganov, sent me an English language translation of an article on him, which originally appeared in a Russian magazine, Jazz.Ru, in 2007. Finally, here it is for everybody else to read as well:
It all began with a white envelope bearing Berklee College of Music logo in the left upper corner I found in my mailbox one beautiful morning.
In Leningrad in 1990, my friends offered to deliver a tape with my playing the piano to Berklee in Boston. At the time this was totally unexpected since I had no material I considered worthy of being sent. Initially, I ignored the offer, but after being pressured by friends, I found a recording that my brother Alexei, who plays the vibraphone, and I had recently made and gave them the tape without any particular hope for success. I was lucky. Gary Burton, the chairman of the Jazz Department who was almost impossible to find at his office since he was always on tour, happened to be in his room, took the tape, and promised to listen to it. Later he said that we were very fortunate because if he had not been in his office, the tape would have ended up in the archives and would probably have been lost.
So on that morning I went to Mussorgsky College of Music as usual, checking my mailbox on the way. There was an envelope from Berklee. By the way, I still have this letter in safe keeping. In the letter Gary Burton wrote that he liked our playing a lot, that we showed much promise, and that we must continue our education at Berklee. He also promised to help us get a scholarship. As I read the letter, I couldn’t believe my eyes. After that, correspondence came from Berklee about the scholarship and with information that the school would take care of the travel papers and other matters pertaining to our coming here.
It was roughly a year later when my brother and I arrived in America, the land of jazz. The first man I saw in the crowd waiting for arrivals at the New York airport was a great Russian saxophonist Igor Butman full of energy and optimism. Seeing him instilled hope. Since we were whisked off so fast in a car to Boston and to our new life, we were unable to have even a fleeting look at New York.
We arrived to Boston the same day. Gary Burton did help us. Even though nobody got a full scholarship that year, both Alexei and I were offered $4,000 a piece. Since the tuition for a semester at that time was $5,000, each of us was $1,000 short, and for us this was an unattainable amount. Clearly, we had misunderstood something in our correspondence with Berklee, for we had been led to believe that we would be able to pay the lacking funds by working at the college. However, this wasn’t the case, so we had to postpone studying at Berklee indefinitely.
The three of us (my brother and I had been joined by a student from Latvia) settled in a small room in the attic of a dentist’s home. Since the dentist who had studied Russian needed practice with the language, he periodically came to us to talk, and communicating with him in our language was how we paid our rent.
Hard times began. Since we had no work permit, we had to play in the subway stations and on the street. When one puts his instruments on a street for the first time, it is not a good feeling. We had to “break” ourselves. It’s hard to to suddenly feel like a nobody and have to play and collect money in a hat after having given serious concerts in big concert halls in St. Petersburg, after receiving applause and signing autographs, and after having our posters displayed all over town. However, we knew that if we made no money, we wouldn’t eat.
In America, almost everyone starts at ground zero no matter who he was at home, and we surely started there. Every day the money was growing shorter. Once we went to a supermarket and filled a big shopping cart with pasta. When we started to pay, the cashier looked at us as if we were from another planet. She had never seen anybody buying so much pasta. When we saw how perplexed she was, we told her that today the store had a good sale on pasta and that it was cheaper than ever. The cashier said that today they did in fact have an unprecedented sale on pasta. Hearing that, we went back and bought all the pasta we could find in the supermarket. In our room the boxes of pasta lined one of the walls from floor to ceiling. Later, as we moved from apartment to apartment, instead of bringing furniture with us, we brought pasta.
In Boston I often associated with a great Russian pianist Eugene Maslov. He had already been in America three years, and many people knew him. I often went to his concerts where he introduced me to the best musicians in Boston. I began making some contacts and gave my first concerts at jazz clubs. For the first time I understood what capitalism is. At the end of the 80s when I performed at festivals and in clubs in Russia, my salary never depended on the number of listeners. Here, though, if people didn’t come, I made nothing. Of course, this was not always true, but in my case it was. I remember making a giant pile of ads and pasting them wherever possible all over town. This scheme often worked, for people came to hear me play.
The world is not without good people, so we eventually found money for the rest of our tuition for Berklee. I loved studying, but getting experience performing was the most valuable part of being at Berklee.
In 1993, thanks to drummer Oleg Butman for his recommendation, I was offered a steady job in New York City. I had always relished the idea of moving there, but until then, I had not had the opportunity. My life in this incredible city started with a great trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, who met me at the bus station in the middle of Manhattan on Forty-Second Street. As we exited the station, I looked around and asked where Manhattan was, still not realizing that I was already there. We walked all of Manhattan on foot and strolled in the Village where Sasha showed me some of the famous jazz clubs, such as “Blue Note,” “Village Vanguard,” and “Sweet Basil.”
In the evening Alex and bassist Boris Kozlov took me to a Russian restaurant for an audition. I was hired for the job and promised a decent salary. I fully realized where I'd come and what music I’d have to play. Even though the music was far from jazz, it was the price I’d have to pay to move to New York. I had to learn all restaurant repertoire. Later, I often moved from one restaurant to another. For half a year I accompanied famous Russian singer Willie Tokarev. Overall, I worked in the Russian restaurants for eight years. Occasionally, I had stimulating meetings, for Russian restaurants often used talented American singers who worked with stars like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Tower of Power. To accompany them was fun. Many other Russian musicians, such as Igor Butman, Sasha Sipiagin, Eugene Maslov, Renat Shaimuhametov, Viacheslav Nazarov, have also gone through working at Russian restaurants. Of course, all of us wanted to enter “Big Jazz,” but it isn’t simple because in the meantime, rent has to be paid, and groceries have to be bought.
While working at the Russian restaurants, I constantly went to jam sessions and spent nights at the jazz clubs. Soon I began to getting jazz gigs and making some useful acquaintances.
In 1998 I was invited to Norman Hedman’s Tropique, a very engaging project. From there I began to give concerts at the jazz clubs, travel to big jazz festivals, and be interviewed on radio and television. In 2000 we recorded an album on Palmetto Records that took sixth place on the USA music charts.
In 2003 on Norman’s recommendation, saxophonist Chico Freeman invited me to play with his band. An interesting note is that in 1990 in Moscow when the biggest Russian jazz festival featuring Freddie Hubbard, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson, and others took place, Norman Hedman played percussion in Chico Freeman’s group. Naturally, I was in Moscow for all of these days. As I sat in the concert hall, I, of course, couldn’t even imagine that I would eventually join Norman Hedman’s group and a little later Chico Freeman’s group. During the two years I worked with Chico, we recorded an album on Arabesque Records, played in many New York clubs, and traveled to Europe.
Working on the record “Nine Guys From Out Of Town” with the admirable musicians Michael and Randy Brecker was one of the most absorbing events of my recent years. The record contains three of my compositions, and the Brecker brothers play on two of them. Dave Valentine, a famous flute player, also participated. I was especially amazed by Michael Brecker’s scrupulousness and need for perfection. After playing solo on one of my compositions, he asked for it to be saved because he wanted to record himself again using the same accompaniment. Doing so is not difficult with modern technology. Then he had his performance recorded for the third, fourth, and fifth times. In the end, none of his solos satisfied him completely, so he eventually suggested that we choose the version we liked most. We couldn’t understand him because to us all of his solos sounded perfect. Michael, though, gave me a lesson on how demanding one should be toward one’s work.
Following Chico Freeman’s recommendation, Joe Chambers invited me to his band. Joe is a legendary drummer who has recorded a huge number of records with such outstanding musicians as Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Hubert Laws, and Tommy Flanagan, and others. Since I had listened to and studied Chick Corea’s “Tones for Joan’s Bones” and Wayne Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple” with Joe Chambers on the drums long before coming to the USA, Joe’s offer was unbelievable.
In my many years spent in the USA, I understood that in most cases only recommendations will help a musician get anywhere. Somebody who knows you well mentions you to somebody else. Then this somebody calls you and offers you something, and so it goes. Gradually, your connections grow, more “necessary” people know about you, and your chances for career advancement increase.
Since 2004 I’ve been working with Joe Chambers. During this time we have played in many New York clubs and also recorded the album “The Outlaws” on Savant Records. I think that our trip to Greece was one of the most unforgettable events. While there, we played in Athens at the Half Note Jazz Club seven days in a row with Joe Chambers on the drums, Gary Bartz on saxophone, Dwayne Burno on bass, and me on the piano. In these seven days I came to understand more about jazz than I had in the previous ten years, for a musician gains priceless performing experience only by going onstage and playing every day with other musicians who are far superior to him rather than by just meeting them accidentally at jam sessions once a year. In fact, I know many phenomenally gifted musicians whose lives have prevented them from gaining sufficient performance experience. I also know talented but not spectacularly gifted musicians whose fate has given them the chance to share the stage constantly with great jazz masters. As a result, in time the latter musicians greatly surpass the first.
I think that constant practice with more experienced musicians is most important in jazz. When you find yourself in an extreme situation where you have no right to play below the level of the musicians sharing the stage expect from you, you suddenly discover new resources you possibly didn’t even suspect you had. It seems as if you catch a string that pulls out “hidden” reserves. If you were in this situation just once, it’s possible that you caught this string but most likely didn’t understand how you did it, but if you find yourself doing this every day, you begin to meld into the state of mind when this indescribably complex sensation of you and music as one takes place. When you can reach that state at will, you can consider yourself a real master from that moment on.
In St. Petersburg I acquired invaluable experience while constantly jamming with a famous Russian multi-instrumentalist David Goloschokin and working in Valery Zuikov Band. I will never forget how I entered the stage of the Jazz Philarmonic Hall for the umpteenth time to play with David’s group. When my time to solo came, I started to play. David turned to me and said or rather ordered, “Swing it; swing it!” I understood that if I didn’t swing it, I’d be in trouble. When saxophonist Valery Zuikov invited me to play with his band, I had an opportunity to play with the best St. Petersburg soloists, such as trumpeters Alexander Berenson and Boris Romanov, guitarist Alexander Starostenko, and others. I will always remember Goloschokin and Zuikov with a special gratitude, for what they gave me is priceless.
I’ve been living in New York City for many years now, and I really love this city. I love it because Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk have created their amazing art on its streets. I love New York for its cutthroat competition which won’t allow me to relax and which constantly pushes me to grow. New York is unquestionably the world’s jazz capital. Many musicians who achieved high results in jazz come here from all over the world to test their skills. For this reason many brilliant jazz musicians live in New York, competing with one another. There isn’t enough work for everybody, and a kind of “arms race” takes place. In this “race” musicians “arm” themselves with knowledge, technology, and experience to achieve a higher level of playing.
Quite recently, I visited Russia. In St. Petersburg my group performed at the Theater of Estrada at a jazz festival organized by Kvadrat Jazz Club. We played as a quartet: Andrei Ryabov on the guitar; Dmitry Kolesnik on the bass; Oleg Butman on the drums; and I on the piano. After that we played two concerts in Moscow in Le Club. There we were joined by Craig Handy, a great New York saxophonist. I had the best of impressions regarding the trip and would like to thank everyone for such a warm reception. I was very glad to see Vladimir Feyertag and Nathan Leytes. It felt as if I had dipped for a moment into the good old times. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the skill of the young Russian jazz musicians whose level of playing has grown considerably in the past 15-20 years. In fact, some St. Petersburg and Moscow guys play on a solid New York level. I believe that Russian musicians will always be able to pave their way to jazz heights and take a deserving place in the world jazz scene.
In case any of you haven't yet read Misha Tsiganov's original blogpost, you can find it here: http://www.jazzsaints.blogspot.com/2010/08/russian-born-misha-tsiganov-is-one-of.html.
Monday, November 5, 2012
You can find the podcast at iTunes through this link:
Important news about one of my previous interview subjects, drummer Chris Wabich! His podcast for Break the Mold came out today. Chris recorded this when he was just off the road and jet lagged, so he discusses multiple topics at random even MORE than usual!
You can find the podcast at iTunes through this link:
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
It's always nice when you go to a jazz performer's gig and find yourself equally impressed by the playing of their sidemen. That's how I first encountered bassist Boris Koslov. He was with the Misha Piatigorsky band, backing Mark Murphy at a NYC gig. My friend and I actually paid rapt attention during the bass solos!
In spite of being such a busy guy, Boris answered my usual two questions, during a break between sets by the Mingus Big Band.
1. What made you decide on a career in music?
Rather hard question because I made the decision when I was 15. I just loved the way it felt and I just loved the way the music made me feel and I always thought that, if it makes me feel so good maybe if I can learn to play it and, you know, change something to the way I feel I can make other people feel better. Also I kind of felt that it connects people. By the time I was 15, we had a program in Soviet Union, when you would enter the competition and you could enter college before finishing your high school after the 8th grade. Then you would finish your high school while in college, while already getting a professional education. So, I wanted to play bass guitar and at the same time, I was really into another connecting type of hobby or potential career, which was transportation, in particular, railroad. I had to make a decision when I was 15 basically, and I thought I made the right one, because now I am on the plane and train so much that sometimes now I’m wondering if it’s still my hobby or not. But I thought it was initially all about connecting people.
2. What is it you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?
It was the love of jazz definitely. But when I say jazz, I really mean the love for the time-based music, because I think most of the music that comes out of folklore: African, Caribbean, Indian, funk and everything that we know as pop and jazz music in the American music; it’s all time-based. The notes matter less than the rhythm. That’s the key that’s what interestingly enough oftentimes is being overlooked during the jazz education process, as I see it. And it took me a while to realize that, but it’s that initial attraction that really made me move towards jazz. I was attracted to rock and roll as many young kids initially. We had a very scarce supply of rock and roll or jazz things back in Soviet Union, and I was also really into Dixieland and Louie Armstrong and whatever my father had in the house. It’s just the groove or the rhythm that really got me. And later on, it was the level of conversation that potentially happens with other players and subsequently, the audience, that got me really attracted eventually in '91 to the decision to move to New York and try myself out, where it was basically to learn how to better groove and deal with time and how to better communicate. I found myself as sort of like hitting a wall a little bit, because I was invited to play with all the best bands at the young age of 22/23. They put me "Number 1" Young Jazz Musician, and I knew that I was very green, very raw. That’s what decided on my career in New York, as opposed to staying in my hometown of Moscow.
You can get a good idea of Boris Koslov's marvelous bass technique by watching this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yZ67KvDFX8.
To get even more information on Boris Koslov, go to his site at http://www.borisbass.com.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I first met LA-based drummer Chris Wabich when I attended an NYC gig by an early incarnation of Sketchy Black Dog. However, I soon discovered that he wears many musical hats and crosses many genres. Among the highlights have been a stage production of Frank Zappa's "Joe's Garage", plus the soundtracks of the TV shows, "Malcolm in the Middle", and "American Idol" as well as the film, "Wild California". Furthermore, he has been involved in recordings with such varied performers as Ludacris, Sting, Stanley Jordan, Jimmy Haslip, Lalo Schifrin, Sheila E., Alex Acuna, Turkish superstar Omar Faruk and Prog Rock legends Kevin Ayers, Mike Hoffman and Richard Sinclair. In 2010 Chris participated in Mark Murphy's latest CD, "Never Let Me Go", and he currently is one-half of the World Music duo, Wahid.
During a break from his busy schedule, Chris agreed to answer the usual two questions.1. Why did you decide on a career in music?
Actually i didn't!!! It was a natural series of events. I just loved playing with anyone and everyone as a kid, and it was never enough. my first "real" sort of gigs were when I was 15, winning an audition with the local symphony beating out the local college kids. The same time I started subbing in at local country clubs playing big band music for people in their 60s and 70s who used to actually dance to Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, etc. eventually I was the house drummer in a few places and had no social life as a teenager... I was the kid and all the 60 something year old musicians would try to help me swing better. once I learned the songs it was easy, but before then...sorry guys!!
What's funny is that these days I feel exactly the same way. Whenever I have a performance and the music is good, I'm ready to play even more. sometimes even after a double header or triple header day I feel like "is that all you got? come on!!" however if someone in the band is killing the vibe, I'd rather be a shoe salesman.
2. What is is you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?
Jazz for me is about connecting with your emotions. I am a jazz person whether I'm playing rock, latin, or whatever. I think melodically all the time. I want to get inside the songs and weave lines around them. I want to set the mood and play to elevate the song. Being primarily acoustic, jazz leaves more room for me to express color and nuance. when things are unnaturally amplified, it takes the sonic interaction and intent out of how acoustic instruments were meant to blend with each other.
If I'm allowed the space to color and find new things, I'm the happiest person. I also love playing ballads with the right people. that is where the true music comes out, no jiveness or shredding or practiced licks, a one-time performance of color. On the flip side, if my life was just that it would be really boring, to be the tinkly, feel good, in a sweater gentleman... Above all, I'm constantly on the search for the night/gig/band with the "sweetest" grooves and players. It doesn't have to go to the moon and back on every song (which is so common in jazz), just keep the established vibe and make it relevant to YOU. Think of Wayne Shorter 60's... pretty sweet eh?
To see a video of Chris Wabich playing drums during a 2012 performance with Sketchy Black Dog, click here.