CoM&L Season 2 – Bob Baldwin

CoM&L Season 2 – Bob Baldwin

CoM&L - with Bob Baldwin In Bob Baldwin’s 2011 book, “You Better Ask Somebody!”—his guide, as its subtitle notes, to Staying on Top of Your Career in the Friggin Music Business—he writes of seeing “veteran artists, who should have been financially set for life, crying in their beer, sharing with me some … contractual regrets ….” Born Robert Garfield Baldwin Jr., the jazz keyboardist had a few such regrets of his own. According to his website, Baldwin recorded an album for Atlantic Jazz in 1994, but the label folded and took Baldwin’s State of Mind with it. Thereafter he sought to record independently. His father played piano as what the younger Baldwin calls a “hobby,” but his fellow hobbyists included jazz greats Max Roach and Art Davis on at least one occasion. Baldwin Sr. took his son along for some of those sessions, and he began giving his namesake piano lessons when the younger Baldwin was four. In 1986 the son came into his own with an ensemble called the Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project, which opened for trumpeter Tom Browne (“Funkin’ for Jamaica (N.Y.)”). That connection opened doors to other gigs, including ones with Grover Washington Jr., Phil Perry, and Will Downing. A 1988 Baldwin recording led to several albums for Atlantic, including Rejoice (1990), but the joy in that deal fled by the mid-1990s, as mentioned above. During the Oughts Baldwin released more than half a dozen albums , among them BobBaldwin.com, a 9/11 tribute titled Standing Tall, and Brazil Chill. In 2010 Baldwin’s Never Can Say Goodbye gave tribute to Michael Jackson. Since then his efforts have...
CoM&L Season 2 – Antoinette Montague

CoM&L Season 2 – Antoinette Montague

CoM&L - with Antoinette Montague “Some smiles are hopes to get other people to smile, but just as often there is embarrassment or a broken heart just behind those upturned lips,” said jazz/blues/R&B singer Antoinette Montague in a 2010 interview with Allaboutjazz.com. At the time her album Behind the Smile, which includes a same-named song written by Montague, was new. That title track, a smart lament over how little other people can know us (and vice versa), marked her as a talent to watch. Montague, the youngest of seven children, grew up listening to her mother sing inside their Newark, New Jersey home. Her first turn on stage came in high school: She sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” as part of a tribute to Walt Disney. During her studies at Seton Hall University she joined a gospel choir and frequented an East Orange jazz/blues club called the Peppermint Lounge, where she got to invited to sit in occasionally. On a jazz cruise in the 1990s Montague met singer Etta Jones, who became the Newark native’s mentor. Jones introduced Montague to singers Della Griffin and Myrna Lake, whom Montague “filled in for … when they were traveling,” as she notes in her online biography. With her 2006 album Pretty Blues Montague arrived as a solo recording artist. Its 12 songs revel in jazz tradition, without ever losing a straightforward freshness the singer brings to each performance. She also makes bold choices of material—“Miss Celie’s Blues,” from the screen version of The Color Purple, on her debut recording; Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which she recasts in distinctive jazz...
CoM&L Season 2 – Sonny Fortune

CoM&L Season 2 – Sonny Fortune

CoM&L - with Sonny Fortune Multi-instrumentalist Sonny Fortune has mastered a significant swath of the woodwinds over the course of his roughly six-decade-long career: alto, soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones; clarinet; and flute. Nat Hentoff once called him “the embodiment of the sound of surprise in this music,” meaning jazz. Fortune himself, in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, said, “[Don’t] allow the reality of denial or resistance or frustration … to dominate your thinking, your way of life.” He referred then to the way jazz itself, especially as recorded and marketed by the major labels, contracted, even as his own artistry grew and diversified. The Philadelphia native chose jazz at age 18. Fortune proved more indecisive in his choice of instrument, starting on alto sax but playing tenor for lengthy periods during which he’d “always tell people I was an alto player.” In commenting upon what he called his “immature” early sound for a 1993 Los Angeles Times story, Fortune noted that “You have to go a very long way to sound horrible on tenor sax, but you only have to go a very little way to sound terrible on alto.” From the start, though, he landed gigs with distinguished jazz makers: Elvin Jones, Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner. By the mid-1970s the list included Buddy Rich and Miles Davis. In June 1975 Fortune made his recording debut as a bandleader with the album Awakening. The next couple of years brought the stirring Waves of Dreams and the polyrhythmically impressive Serengeti Minstrel. Since those outstanding LPs, Fortune has followed an auspicious path as head of his own quartet,...
CoM&L Season 2 – Jeremy Pelt

CoM&L Season 2 – Jeremy Pelt

CoM&L - episode 6 with Jeremy Pelt In the overview atop Jeremy Pelt’s Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings entry, he is identified as a trumpeter “who plays with unabashed nostalgia for the great days of Blue Note.” Pelt, who just turned 41, began blowing a horn in elementary school, but jazz entered his repertoire during his high-school years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in professional music at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where his studies included film scoring and jazz improvisation. After graduating in 1998, he landed a spot in the prestigious Mingus Big Band, which keeps alive the musical legacy of jazz great Charles Mingus. Early in the new century Pelt lent his assured hard-bop/post-bop sound to the efforts of artists and ensembles including Black Jazz Art Collective, Louis Hayes & The Cannonball Legacy Band, Sharp Nine Class of 2001, and Ralph Peterson (on whose 2002 album Pelt played trumpet and flugelhorn). Pelt delivered his own debut album, Profile, in 2002—also with drummer Ralph Peterson, as well as with pianist Robert Glasper and bassist Gerald Cannon, among others. Perhaps as a result of Pelt’s college curriculum, some of his subsequent album titles echo or spin titles used for films: Close to My Heart (2003), Men of Honor (2010), The Talented Mr. Pelt (2011). In 2014 an independent feature film titled All the Beautiful Things arrived with an original score by Pelt. His produced work as a jazz composer stretches back at least to his start with the Black Jazz Art Collective. Some of Pelt’s recent recordings—Water and Earth; Face Forward, Jeremy; Tales, Musings, and Other Reveries—showcase his interest in...
CoM&L Season 2 – Tim Bowman

CoM&L Season 2 – Tim Bowman

CoM&L - episode 6 with Tim Bowman Detroit native Tim Bowman got around to serenading his hometown recently. “Detroit Funk,” a percussive instrumental tune on Bowman’s album Into the Blue, feels like the theme song for the best Motor City-set TV series never made. The guitarist’s own early days in Motown had a more sedate (and sacred-sounding) soundtrack. At age 11 Bowman began playing his instrument in church. He also sang in the International Gospel Center’s choir. Later, he and his sister Vickie both performed in an IGC ensemble called International Sounds of Deliverance. She married a member of the singing Winans family in 1978, and eventually the eponymous gospel group extended an invitation to her brother. Bowman played with the Winans briefly and served as the band’s musical director before embarking upon a solo career in the late 1980s. Love, Joy, Peace—Bowman’s debut solo album—arrived in 1996 and sold briskly. Paradise and Smile followed in 1998 and 2000, respectively. “Summer Groove,” the first track on 2004’s This Is What I Hear, became Bowman’s first number-one record. By 2007 he was touring with Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub, and Gerald Albright. In 2008 he released a self-titled album that had another echo-like aspect to it: Among his collaborators on the recording was Tim Bowman Jr. Tim Bowman became the senior Bowman’s breakthrough record, reaching number 15 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. His fourth number-one song, “Seaside Drive,” appeared in 2013. It’s among the 15 cuts on the aforementioned Into the Blue. On his website Bowman states, about his own work, “I’ve always tried to make music that people could get...
CoM&L Season 2 – Najee

CoM&L Season 2 – Najee

CoM&L - episode 5 with Najee On top of “saxophonist” and “flute player,” Grammy nominee Najee sort of adds “poet” to his résumé with his new album, Poetry in Motion. This star-studded production includes efforts by some artists familiar to regular consumers of this blog — Maysa and Will Downing, both interviewed here themselves — as well as by Eric Roberson and others. Najee dedicated this August 2017 release to the memory of two recently departed giants, Prince and Al Jarreau. “Whenever I have worked with people of their caliber,” Najee says, “I have always walked away with something that helps to shape my musical conversation.” That conversation began as a family chat, so to speak. Jerome Najee Rasheed’s brother, Fareed Abdul Haqq, gave the future performer-known-by-a-single-name his first soprano saxophone. “My first [loves were] the tenor saxophone and flute,” Najee recalls in his web page’s bio, which also identifies jazz master/educator Billy Taylor (through his Jazzmobile program) as a key early influence. Najee and his brother, a guitarist, went on to study at the New England Conservatory, after which both young men gained employ with Chaka Khan in the early 1980s. Such a connection with the Queen of Funk, among others, would recur over the course of Najee’s career, both on stage and in the recording studio. By the mid-’80s Najee had embarked upon a recording career of his own with the album Najee’s Theme. Numerous recordings have followed that debut, including Day by Day, Tokyo Blue, Embrace, and The Morning After. Some rarefied audiences have gotten to enjoy Najee’s playing: Nelson Mandela, for whose birthday the wind instrumentalist...