VIDEO: AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER ON JAZZ AND JAZZ IMPROVISATION

We sat down to speak with Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter on jazz and jazz improvisation.  Dr. Lington shares how technology has changed the way people play and learn to play jazz. There is a lot students can do with technology today he shares.  Mother shares how he uses technology to transcribe the music on his computer and learn to play tracks.

How and when do they start improvising well-known jazz standards? It is a 3-stage process explains Dr. Lington. It starts with mimicking, followed by assimilation and finally innovate on that track. Not every jazz musician gets to that third stage of innovation he points out. Louis Armstrong was an innovator as was Duke Ellington among others he adds.

Dr.Lington and Motter then do a show and tell of jazz improvisation. They play a few well-known jazz standards like Billy Strayhorn’s Take The A Train followed by their version of improvisation.

Dr. Lington plays the baritone saxophone and Motter plays jazz guitar. Dr. Lington is a musician, teacher and composer, who teaches at San Jose State University. He is also a member of the Grammy winning band Pacific Mambo Orchestra. Motter graduated from San Jose University in music.

April is #jazzappreciation month.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp and aired on TV in the US.

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REMEMBERING BILLIE HOLIDAY ON HER BIRTHDAY

Jazz musician and composer Billie Holiday would have been 102 years old today. She was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia  and died rather young on  July 17, 1959.

Holiday was a gifted singer, whose voice captured deep and complex emotions in an effortless manner. You simply can’t be indifferent to Holiday’s music, especially her voice. Emotional, moody, soulful are some of the words that come to mind when you listen to her sing. There was something magical about her voice that made you sit up and take notice. You simply cannot ignore Holiday’s voice.

Holiday has the ability to convey emotion writes Tom Vitale in this article. He points out that Holiday was greatly influence by Louis Armstrong’s vocal style. Until I read Vitale’s article I had not made the connection on how strong Armstrong’s influence was on Holiday.

“Even when she sang a happy song, she seemed half in a dream world she wasn’t sure she should share,” writes Geoffrey Himes in What Makes Billie Holiday’s Music So Powerful Today.

Holiday started singing in the 1930s. “There was something special about her. Jazz musicians and some fans heard it, and so did a young record producer named John Hammond. He heard an 18-year-old Holiday sing in a small club in April 1933, writes John McDonough. Holiday came to be noticed in 1939 when she sang Strange Fruit.

Here a rare interview of Holiday talking about jazz and the book she wrote The Lady Sings The Blues.

Here are a couple of songs from Holiday for your listening pleasure. Did I mention that April is #JazzAppreciation month?

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JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH: ELLA FITZGERALD AND BARDU ALI

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Hot music or jazz traces its roots to New Orleans in Louisiana. It was in New Orleans that Bardu Ali or Bardou Ali or Bahadur Ali was born in 1906 to an African-American mother and a father who came from India. Interestingly, Ali’s father Moksad Ali is believed to have come from Bengal in India. Sometimes Ali’s father is described as being from Arabia.

Ali was a musician, bandleader and an actor. Ali’s name might not ring a bell, but the singer he helped promote will most certainly ring a a bell. She was Ms. Ella Fitzgerald –  who became the first lady of jazz. She helped change the face of jazz, and became the first female singer to join a mainstream jazz band.

By all descriptions Ali was a charismatic person, who knew how to negotiate. He was the frontman for Chick Webb, a well-known musician, who played regularly at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Webb was known as the “king of swing,”

Ali heard Fitzgerald sing at a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in New York. He was captivated by her voice and wanted her to be a part of Chick Webb’s band. But, Webb, according to this article in Ebony, “disliked” having girls in his band. Ali is supposed to have smuggled Fitzgerald into Webb’s dressing room and had her do an audition. Webb reluctantly agreed to have Fitzgerald in his band and pay her a weekly salary of $12. Webb and Fitzgerald played at the famous Savoy Club. Webb took Fitzgerald under his wings. And when he fell ill  Fitzgerald  stepped in to become the bandleader of Chick Webb’s band.

One of the early songs Fitzgerald recorded with Webb was A Tisket, A TasketHere is Fitzgerald singing It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.

During the 1940s Ali moved to Los Angeles, where he worked with the Rhythm and Blues (R&B) singer Johnny Otis, who inspired musicians like Frank Zappa and Beach Boys. Ali then went on to become the manager for Redd Foxx, a comedian. Ali died in 1981.

You can read more about Ali in Vivek Bald’s book Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America or watch this clip on Savoy King: Chick Webb and the music that changed America. It should probably read Chick Webb and Bardu Ali, who changed the music of America.