Prelude:
This month we have two sets of interviews, plus a couple of special reviews and some other items that we hope you find enjoyable.
Ron Wynn.

Side 1 – Interview with Concurrence

Electric bassist Greg Bryant and keyboardist Paul Horton have been attracting substantial regional and local attention with their gigs as the duo Concurrence. The eclectic musical blend reflects their diverse interests and ability to maintain the improvisational foundation central to jazz in everything they do, while also being able to incorporate elements of rock, pop, funk, blues, and even electronic dance music. They have an exciting new project coming this summer (tentatively titled “With Brotherhood”).  Here are their responses to some questions I asked recently regarding their music, the group and the forthcoming album. Greg provided the answers to questions 1-4 and 10. Paul answered the others.(1) What made you decide to do this record at this time?“We’ve never done a full length record before, and finally, I think the time was right. We’ve done some sessions over the years, but we’ve never been fully satisfied with the outcome. We’ve always been more of a live band anyhow. But, after a brief tour where we used Brooklyn-based drummer Tommy Crane—we felt a serious chemistry and were compelled to document what we had been doing on the road. It’s almost like the compositions were screaming out to be documented.”(2) Who is/was the principal composer or were compositional duties shared?“This recording features mostly Paul’s tunes. Simply put, he’s one of my favorite composers. Whereas we began more as a free-improv group, we’ve always had a few of Paul’s tunes in our book. With the focus of the group now concentrating more on “songs”, I feel that now we can present these compositions in a format that will allow them to be appreciated in the best possible perspective. I think Paul has his finger on the pulse of something very special in music today. It’s rooted in the genre mixing that’s going on, and there’s a lot of possibilities in those mashups for a group like ours. Tommy Crane, our collaborator on drums, also lent us his tune “Use of Cymbals.” That song has become a favorite of ours to play. It was so strong, and the energy of it is so relevant that we had to use it to open the album. We also got our friend and brother Reagan Mitchell to write us a tune specifically for this album that came out very nicely. It’s got a touch of east coast hip hop on it and it features the great Rod McGaha on trumpet. ”

(3) How long has the group been together?

“Concurrence basically means “communion” or “brotherhood”. That’s what it’s always been about for both of us.  So, I’d like to think that we’ve been together since we became friends.”

(4) How did the duo begin?

“Musically speaking, we’ve been a duo, without drums, since 2004. We came together and recorded a series of unreleased improvised duets that formed the basis of our philosophy as musicians that deals with shift and change. I’d also offer that the principle of Harmolodics where melody, harmony, rhythm and “pure sound” are equally important was a highly influential concept on us at an early stage of our development. Although we’ve moved toward writing and playing songs, we’re still improvisers at our core.”

(5) How would you describe your music and who would you cite as influences?

“It has elements from a lot of different sources musically, but I would ultimately describe it as a type of social music. One of the first tunes we wrote in 2004 was entitled “Everything’s Eventual” which was in response to the Justice Department re-opening the Emmitt Till case earlier that year. In 2015 we composed a tune called “Keep Going” which was written in the days following the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore. So, in a lot of ways our music is about not giving up in the search for freedom and equality. As far as influences go, our biggest in terms of Concurrence would probably be Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, D’Angelo, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Madlib, Bobby Hutcherson, Bjork.”

(6) Do you tap songs from other genres and idioms?

Most definitely. We play covers by artists from Thelonious Monk to MF DOOM to Solange and more. When you have a band that has freedom as its foundation, it doesn’t make sense to limit yourself to only one corner of the musical spectrum when it comes to covers as long as you stay true to what you genuinely love and don’t pander.”

(7) How well do you think the band fits into what is happening in the Nashville jazz scene?

“I think we’ve carved out our own spot in a packed scene where you have improvising musicians and composers mixing prog, funk, gospel, hip hop, jazz and whatever else you can think of into their music. We have a lot of fun in Concurrence because even though we are playing original tunes (sometimes with little or no improvisation) and a few covers, there’s always the possibility that we could jump off a cliff into the unknown if we wanted to. And again that comes from working as a duo for 10 years where we played completely improvised sets.”

(8) What would you say is the biggest problem for jazz bands locally?

“Finding places to play is always a challenge. You need a place to work out songs and have the freedom to experiment in front of a crowd.”

(9) Do you plan to issue a single or any type of breakout from the album?

“Yes right now we are working to release a single and hopefully some visuals to accompany a couple of the songs from a show we did in NYC recently. Beyond that we also want to produce a short film in connection with a couple of tunes.”

(10) Will you do any touring after it is released?

“Yes, we’re working on dates as we speak. We feel it’s important to be ambassadors for not just our music, but for music in general. We need art and music right now to help us deal with a lot of the selfishness and injustice that is damaging our society right now.  It’s a great privilege and responsibility to represent music everywhere, and we look forward to connecting with as many people as we can.”

Side 2 – Part 1 of two-part Interview with pianist/author/scholar Bob Gluck

Bob Gluck is a prolific and busy guy. He’s a longtime jazz historian and critic, also a fine acoustic and electric keyboardist, as well as currently being a professor of music and director of the Electronic Music Studio at the State University of New York, Albany. We first became acquainted online, and I’ve since been fortunate enough to get copies of his two most recent, critically praised books. The first was “You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandshi Band.”
The second was last year’s “The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles” (Both University of Chicago). Because Bob is so thorough and knowledgeable, when we did the interview he gave me incredibly detailed and comprehensive responses. So much so, I’m presenting this in two parts so to not overwhelm the reader, and also insure that Bob’s knowledgeable and valuable comments to my questions don’t go unread due to reader fatigue at the length of the interview.Bob Gluck on Miles Davis and other matters (Part 1)(1) Why did you write this book at this time? Were you at all influenced by the recent Miles film, or was this always a planned project?

“Here’s the story. There were two motivating factors behind my writing the book. First, when I was working on the Mwandshi book, it was clear to me I was telling just part of the legacy of the Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s. That was before Herbie Hancock’s Sextant. But running in parallel was Miles own “Lost” Quintet, and then Wayne Shorter’s subsequent solo projects and the first couple of years of Weather Report.”

“The other reason for the book is I wanted to tie the aesthetics of the band into a larger framework of downtown NYC groups and the loft scene. I see the Lost coming in part out of the same aesthetic that I now refer to as “children of Ornette.” So the second portion of the book addresses Anthony Braxton and Circle, the Revolutionary Ensemble and then seeks places of parallel concern. The major difference of course was economic.”

“The film had nothing to do with my own project. BTW, I had taken 25 years away from playing piano. When I returned the first thing I did was book some shows, which included some repertoire from “Bitches Brew,” performed with piano and electronics. A quartet gig included (clarinetist) Don Byron when he was teaching at my school. So the music was already on my mind around 2005, three years before I embarked on the Mwandshi book.”

(2) Why do you think so few other observers or critics have made the stylistic link between the Davis Quintet and the avant-garde? What things did and have you heard that lead you to make that connection?

“For one thing I think people have read too literally Miles’ negative statements about Ornette, whom he was closely watching starting in 1959 at the Five Sport. Second, since the Lost Quintet was not recorded in the studio and its one live release was a jumbled, heavily edited affair, nobody who didn’t see the band really knew what made it tick. The assumption was that “Bitches Brew” was all one needed to know about and it was viewed as a weigh station towards a jazz-rock aesthetic. Which is not how I view what Miles did in his subsequent 1970s bands. All of them, even the most Afrocentric, were pretty avant-garde. Think for instance about Pete Cosey’s influence.”

(3) What were the qualities that Miles sought in his sidemen of that period?

“It is hard to know exactly what Miles noticed about some of the musicians. Clearly, they were all young and talented. But the gig he saw of Dave Holland’s at Ronnie Scott’s in London was a relatively conservative affair with a singer. They were on the same bill as Bill Evans with Jack DeJohnette. Similarly, he saw most of his future band members at clubs playing in their current gigs. Just like Herbie Hancock with Donald Byrd, and Wayne Shorter with Art Blakey. Chick Corea came as a recommendation from Tony Williams, I believe.

“What the chemistry would be like between these folks is hard to have predicted. I think he probably thought they were creative and would figure things out when placed in a situation where they would have to spontaneously develop new creative thoughts. And his intuition about musicians has always been remarkable.”

(4) What do you consider that group’s finest music?

“That’s really hard to pin down, it was such a work in process at all stages. I think that Sony has released some wonderful examples, from the two “Live At The Fillmore” gigs as the band was becoming more electric and expansive in its sound and collective improvisation. The unedited box set from around 2014 is just remarkable. Then the set from the fall 1969 European tour is fabulous as well. There is some wonderful video of Chick Corea reaching the edge of what he could play on the Fender Rhodes and moving to a second drum kit, and Chick and Jack trading instruments. They are excellent players on both instruments. Any band that was free to generate their music by this intuitive collective improvisational process would have great moments and weaker ones during gigs, so listening all the way through these gigs is quite a fascinating process,”

(5) How would you rate the Lost group’s music as compared to his other great ensembles, and do you think it holds up favorably?

“I don’t think comparing the Lost Quintet to Miles’ other ensembles is unfair, but it don’t think it is possible. They are all so different. While working on this book I had to really look closely at their process orientation; how the sense of ensemble unfolded over time, so the pairings first of Chick and Jack, then Chick and Dave, which was a tremendous musical highlight of Miles’ bands. And Wayne Shorter was always sailing in fascinating ways. But I’ve really come to appreciate the Lost Quintet, particularly as it makes its transition towards more collective, intuitive music and close listening structures. My particular favorites are the first sections in “Live at The Plugged Nickel” (“Do I Hear A Bell”) and the 1967 Pans concert as Wayne Shorter’s solo begins on “Masquarelo,” and you can hear each musician thinking on their feet, testing out ideas that then shape each other’s next move.”

“I think this is one of the greatest moments ever recorded by any of his groups. Of course I love the 1950s quintet, that goes without saying. But the 1965-67 period of the second quintet, the 1969-70 Lost, the band with Pete Cosey and Dave Liebman, all are my favorites. I have listened to a lot of the 1971 band with Keith Jarrett and Michael Henderson and love the groove alongside the complexity and looseness of things. Jarrett’s solo interludes on the 1970 box set from D.C. are such a trip.”

(Part 2 next month)

Side 3 – Feature Review

Eight O’Five Jive
“Swing Set”
One of the hottest bands around, as well as one of the few able to effectively blend swing, jump blues and R&B into a distinctive and personalized 21st century sound is Nashville’s Eight O’Five Jive. Their newest release “Swing Set,” which was recorded at the Jive Hive in Music City, offers 10 super originals plus a dazzling recasting of Rudy Green’s “My Mumblin’ Baby.” the band pivots off Lee Shropshire’s exuberant, sensual and appealing vocals, with a super tight rhythm section section of bassist Bill Bois, drummer Duane Spencer and guitarist Andy Scheinman fortified by robust saxophonist Patrick Mosser, and some additional horns recruited for this excellent set.There are no throwaway or forgettable numbers, but personal favorites include the fiery lead-off work “Make Mine A Double,” as well as “Put It Back,” “Watch Out for their Wives” and “I Won’t Wear Flats (To Your Funeral).” They can be hilarious, intense or freewheeling, depending on the circumstances, but they are never imitative or dull. Anyone who enjoys hearing traditional music done with a contemporary edge will greatly enjoy “Swing Set,” and the highly enjoyable, appealing sound of Eight O’Five Jive.

Side 4 – Jazz Plus Review

Dennis Coffey – “Hot Coffey In the D: Burnin’ At Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge” (Resonance)
The premier reissue label Resonance veers into the soul/jazz lane with this new release featuring red-hot guitarist Dennis Coffey doing some side work outside his prolific studio output for multiple Detroit labels of that period (late ’60s). He teams with dynamic organist Lyman Woodard and steady, resourceful groove supplier and bottom end filler drummer (and occasional vocalist) Melvin Davis.Coffey displays both the mastery of funk lines and backgrounds as well as a solo artistry he didn’t often get the space to show in the studio. The trio were in the midst of a residency at what was then a pillar of the Detroit jazz and soul scene, and they had a comfort level that enabled them to play in a disciplined, yet also earthy and soulful fashion. It’s instructive to hear them on such numbers as “Maiden Voyage” and “Fuzz,” where Coffey could cut loose and soar, as well as Woodard, without ever losing a song’s rhythmic edge or focus. They also extend familiar numbers like “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “The Look of Love,” neatly supplying the standard melodic presentation before weaving away from it for flashy solo statements, then coming back at the end to successfully cap off the performances.This is another side of Coffey, the one where he’s able to reveal the full extent of his musical prowess as well as show at times the influence of other styles. It’s beautifully played, expertly remastered and a disc that also includes a 56-page book of liner notes, wonderful photos and instructive essays with producers Zev Feldman and Kevin Goins, plus bonus interviews with stars ranging from Bettye LaVette to industry icon Clarence Avant and co-producer Mike Theodore along with Coffey and Davis.
An essential and vital release.

Side 5 – Commentary

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on Greg Pogue’s highly enjoyable Acme Radio program, where we had two  hours of wonderful conversation, musical exchanges and interaction. The only sour note of the night came when Greg asked me my feelings about the recent conversion of WMOT-FM from jazz to Americana. As someone who enjoys all types of music, my initial response was that while I was glad to see Americana get a forum, I hated to see it at the expense of jazz.But this keeps happening across the country. Jazz is increasingly being pushed aside for either talk or some other idiom. There is no shortage of jazz on the Internet and satellite radio. But there is still a sizeable segment of the jazz audience that doesn’t have broadband access and thus can’t take advantage of the numerous great jazz stations available online. That same constituency doesn’t have the disposable income to buy a fancy radio receiver with HD access, nor can afford paying $20 a month for satellite radio.What little jazz still remains on terrestrial radio needs to be treasured and protected. It is not essential that you like everything played on a smooth jazz station like WFSK (88.1FM in Nashville) for example to understand that the jazz public needs to support the station and make sure it stays on the air. The big excuse I’ve heard at many NPR stations who discontinued or cut back on jazz was that jazz fans didn’t participate in the pledge drives and didn’t make their presence known.Now in the case of WMOT, that wasn’t the situation. I attended jazz rallies, remember many events that were held to raise money for them, and know plenty of disappointed folks who gave them money for years, only to now feel abandoned. I understand that WMOT has some new frequency (92.3) and is also supposed to be getting a frequency in Brentwood. I hope this is true. At the present time I don’t know anyone who can get it in either Nashville or Murfreesboro other than on the Internet.More importantly, the jazz audience MUST rally around the few on-air stations that still play the music. They need support every bit as much as the musicians who are playing in live venues around town.
“Giant Steps” for the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society marks the third incarnation and home for this feature. It began as a blog for the now departed Nashville City Paper, then returned as an online column for the Nashville Scene. Now it’s intended to become a monthly feature for the TJBS. This version will resemble the second version with a couple more features. The goal is to make it a monthly sort of one-stop guide for jazz and blues, as well as related idioms, fans. It will combine reviews, interviews, and commentary, and hopefully offer something of value along with reflecting the opinions and experiences of both great musicians and a long-time music follower, fan and advocate.Ron Wynn is a music critic, author and editor. His features, reviews and articles have run locally in the Nashville SceneCity Paper, and the Tennessee Tribune, and nationally in Jazz Times.Ron is former editor of the New Memphis Star, and was chief jazz and pop music critic for the Bridgeport Post-Telegram and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He has contributed to such publications such as BillboardThe Village VoiceCreemRock & Roll DiscLiving BluesThe Boston Phoenix, and Rejoice. He was the editor of the first edition of The All Music Guide to Jazz (1994), and from 1993 to 1994 served as the jazz and rap editor of the All Music Guide. Wynn is the author of The Tina Turner Story. He has contributed liner notes for numerous albums; his liner notes for “The Soul of Country Music” received a 1998 Grammy nomination.