domingo, 15 de maio de 2022
A superb bass technician who doesn't have as extensive a recorded legacy as expected, Richard Davis has a wonderful tone, is excellent with either the bow or fingers and stands out in any situation. He has been a remarkable free, bebop, and hard bop player who served in world-class symphony orchestras backed vocalists and engaged in stunning duets with fellow bassists. He does any and everything well in terms of bass playing: accompaniment, soloing, working with others in the rhythm section, responding to soloists, or playing unison passages. He combines upper-register notes with low sounds coaxed through the use of open strings.
Davis studied privately for nearly ten years in the '40s and '50s, while also playing with Chicago orchestras. He played with Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Ventura, and Don Shirley in the early and mid-'50s then worked with Sarah Vaughan in the late '50s and early '60s, as well as Kenny Burrell. Davis divided his duties in the '60s between recording and performing sessions with jazz musicians and freelance work with symphony orchestras conducted by Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky. He recorded often with Eric Dolphy, including the unforgettable dates at the Five Spot. He also worked with Booker Ervin, Andrew Hill, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Earl Hines, and the Creative Construction Company. Davis teamed with Jaki Byard and Alan Dawson on sessions with Ervin, and others like Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He also played with Van Morrison. During the '70s Davis worked with Hank Jones and Billy Cobham, and he was a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in the '60s and '70s. Davis left New York in 1977 to teach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he has remained as a professor into the 21st century. Concurrent with his life as an educator, he continued making intermittent appearances as a performer, including at the Aurex Jazz Festival in Tokyo in 1982, playing in a jam session led by trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and at the 1984 Chicago Jazz Festival. Davis was featured in the 1982 film Jazz in Exile. He's done relatively few recordings as a leader, though three Muse sessions are available on CD. The superb The Philosophy of the Spiritual, which matched Davis and fellow bassist Bill Lee, is not in print or on CD. Notable Richard Davis recordings during the 21st century include The Bassist: Homage to Diversity (a duo recording with John Hicks) issued by Palmetto in 2001, as well as two Japanese releases on the King label, So in Love in 2001 and Blue Monk (with pianist Junior Mance) in 2008. AMG.listen here or here
terça-feira, 10 de maio de 2022
Known for his eccentric nature, French pop songwriter Michel Polnareff created a buzz for himself in the early to mid-'60s when his debut single, "La Poupée Qui Fait Non," rocketed to the top of the French charts, but it was his early-'70s release, Polnareff's, that cemented him a place as a legend in French pop. Polnareff was raised in Paris somewhat like a child of the arts, his mother, Simone Lane, was a dancer, and his father, Leib Polnareff, a musician who played sideman under the name Léo Poll for many artists, including Edith Piaf. The two immersed young Polnareff in music, shaping his ambitions, so it is no surprise that he learned piano by the age of five and was writing music at 11.
After a short stint in the French Army and a few menial jobs, Polnareff embraced his passions and busked the city streets with his guitar to moderate success. In 1965, he refused a recording contract with Barclay, a prize that he won in a songwriting contest, in one of the earliest displays of his now-famous aversion to conformity, but eventually signed to AZ under the direction of his new manager and Radio 1 musical director Lucien Morisse. "La Poupée Qui Fait Non" was released in the summer of 1966 and rocketed him up the charts not only in France, but in Germany, Britain, and Spain. The song was the first of a string of hits for Polnareff, but before long, the French press focused almost entirely on his garish stage presence. Being under the scrutiny of the conservative press didn't seem to stop the hits, however, and Polnareff garnered praise from celebrities such as Charles Trenet, but the persistent criticisms weighed heavily on him. By 1970, his stage costumes had become more flamboyant. The French press began questioning his sexuality, and the constant controversy around the singer came to a head when he was physically assaulted while performing. Not surprisingly, Polnareff canceled the rest of his tour and shortly afterward checked into a hospital for depression when he learned that Morisse, his manager, had committed suicide. After five months of treatment, Polnareff bounced back and resumed his hectic recording and touring schedule, but scandal soon followed when he ended up in court due to a campaign for his 1972 tour that was centered around publicity posters bearing Polnareff's naked behind. Polnareff was found guilty of gross indecency and charged 60,000 francs.
His touring continued through mid-1973 with stops in Polynesia and North America, but upon his return to France, Polnareff found his bank account had been drained by his financial advisor. Polnareff's owed the French government was over one million francs in unpaid taxes, and with little money to his name, he fled to the United States. Unknown in a new country, he was safely out of the limelight and within the reach of the French authorities. He spent more than a decade in the U.S. before he cleared up his monetary issues with the French government, and in the meantime, he recorded for Atlantic and composed movie scores. Despite his absence from France, Polnareff's new music remained present in French popular culture and continued to chart through the mid-'80s, until he removed himself entirely from the public eye and quietly returned to France to work on a new album. Kama Sutra finally appeared in the summer of 1990, and the album garnered three French hits. Polnareff remained in France for five more years before returning to the U.S. to perform at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Musical director and guitarist Dick Smith (Hampton Grease Band, Earth, Wind & Fire) executive-produced the ambitious Live at the Roxy, which achieved platinum certification in France. To mark this occasion, television channel Canal + ran a special, À la Recherche de Polnareff ("In Search of Polnareff"), in which he appeared in military uniform (thus resulting in the nickname "The Admiral"); he was interviewed in the California desert by Michel Denisot, and performed an acoustic mini-concert. Upon returning to France, he didn't release another album for 20 years, instead choosing to spend his time becoming a father, and in relative seclusion working on various other projects. In 2004 and 2005, state television station France 3 broadcast a 90-minute documentary entitled Michel Polnareff Dévoilé. During those years, the artist's music got a boost from unexpected sources. His tune "Voyages" was sampled for Necro's single "Light My Fire," as well as the Shortwave Set's "Is It Any Wonder?" In addition, Masher (L)SD sampled "Sous Quelle Etoile Suis Je Ne?" for the tune "Howards' Thinking Clearly." In 2014, he was the subject of another film documentary, Quand l'écran s'allume, that made the rounds of European cinemas. In December 2015, Polnareff announced that a new studio album would be forthcoming in the summer of 2016. To that end, he issued the single "L'Homme en Rouge" as a pre-release. By the time the deadline date rolled around, Polnareff admitted the album was not yet completed. Instead, he released the concert offering, A L'Oympia 2016, followed by the compilation Polnabest. While the unfinished album continued to languish in 2017, Universal Music France issued the 23-disc Pop Rock en Stock, which contained his entire studio output balanced by a wealth of live material and rarities as a celebration of Polnareff's 50th anniversary in music. AMG.listen here or here
Lloyd McNeill is a composer, flutist, poet, photographer, teacher, and globally celebrated visual artist. He is regarded by jazz musicians as an innovator in his chosen instrument. Between 1969 and 1978, he self-released several albums --including 1969's Asha, 1970's Washington Suite, 1976's Treasures, and 1978's Tori -- that are considered classics by improvising musicians as well as critics for their innovative meld of vanguard and spiritual jazz, folk, blues, free improv, and modernist classical technique. They are considered classics by musicians and many critics for their innovative meld of vanguard and spiritual jazz, folk, blues, free improv, and modernist classical technique. McNeill's last recorded outing was 1998's X.Tem.Por.E, in collaboration with pianist Richard Kimball. McNeill is also a prolific, internationally renowned painter and visual artist; his work has been exhibited from Paris and New York to Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio. His first five recordings have been remastered and reissued by the U.K.'s Soul Jazz/Universal Sound label. McNeill was born in Washington, D.C., in 1935. He studied music at Dunbar High School before joining the U.S Navy, where he served as a hospital corpsman. Upon discharge, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and majored in art. He also played music there -- conga drum, notably, though he was already a proficient flutist. He worked with the Lloyd Terry Band, Nina Simone, and Lionel Hampton. McNeill graduated from Morehouse in 1961, and his senior exhibit drew the attention of James A. Porter, chairman of the art department at Howard University. Porter offered him a full-tuition scholarship, and McNeill became the school's first MFA student. While at Howard, he studied everything from fresco painting and line drawing to easel painting. In addition to visual art, he undertook advanced flute studies with Eric Dolphy in 1963 during a year at Dartmouth as an artist in residence.
McNeill moved to Paris in 1964 with saxophonist Andrew White, a Howard classmate, and close friend. He played flute in a variety of settings and studied at Paris' L'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. While living there, he met and became close with Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline until their respective deaths. He also found time to play music, though mostly in Cannes, collaborating with Guatemalan guitarist and singer/songwriter Julio Arenas Menas.
McNeill returned to the U.S. in 1965, when he accepted the position of the artist in residence at Spelman College from 1965 to 1966. He taught part-time at Howard in 1969 and began playing with jazz groups around town. That year, Asha, billed to the Lloyd McNeill Quartet, appeared from his own Asha Records label. It was followed by the duo offering Tanner Suite with bassist Marshall Hawkins.
In 1970, McNeill began a three-plus-decade teaching association with Rutgers University and moved to New York City. He not only taught art but also Afro-American history, and was instrumental in the development of the school's jazz studies program. McNeill did advanced flute studies with Harold Jones and issued his second quartet offering, Washington Suite, the same year. It featured White as an added guest. Though he played on albums by Brazilians Thiago de Mello and Dom Um Romao, McNeill didn't record again as a leader until 1976. In the interim, he traveled to West Africa on a State Department grant and visited and studied in Senegal, Benin (then Dahomey), the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria, where he met Fela Kuti, stayed at his home, and played at his club in Lagos. While in Africa, McNeill gave lectures, painted, drew, and exhibited his art.
In 1976, he formed the Baobab Sounds label to release Treasures. His sextet included McBee, Ray Armando, Dom Salvador, Brian Brake, and Porthino. He was also recruited by organist Charles Earland to play on his 1976 album The Great Pyramid and Brazilian saxophonist Paulo Moura's Confusão Urbana, Suburbana E Rural. Busy teaching and working in the African-American art and music communities, McNeill didn't record again until 1978, when he released Tori on Baobab. While Armando was once again part of the group, the rest of the band included guitarist John La Barbera, bassist Buster Williams, tubist Howard Johnson, drummer Victor Lewis, and percussionists Romao and Nana Vasconcelos. 1980s Elegia was the final recording from Baobab and McNeill's last release for another 18 years. Its lineup included McBee, Porthino, Vasconcelos, Dom Salvador, guitarist Claudio Celso, and vocalist Susan Osborn. The set was conducted and produced by Andrew White.
From 1980 to 1998, McNeill taught, painted, wrote, published poetry and essays, and exhibited internationally. When he returned to recording, he cut the duet album Ex.Tem.Por. E with pianist Richard Kimball on New Milford Records. McNeill retired from Rutgers in 2003 but remained professor emeritus. In 2007, he was chosen by the United States Postal Service to design a postage stamp for the celebration of Kwanza. It was circulated in 2009. In 2010, Universal Sound re-mastered and reissued Asha, and followed it in 2011 with a new version of Washington Suite. A remastered Tanner Suite appeared on the label in 2015. It was followed by new editions of Elegia and Treasures in 2019, and Tori in 2021. AMG.listen here or here