Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Brighter Dawn From Greece

There are good stories from Greece that won't make headlines.
Of course there is high unemployment and shocking financial corruption pervading Greek society. There is increased crime in some places. The marginalized, illegal, uneducated and otherwise poor immigrants in Greece seem to be a ticking time bomb. Then there is the horrible Nazi-sympathizer Golden Dawn political party that has captured votes.
The antidote is Christos Rafalides, a young vibraphonist from Kozani in Northern Greece. He loved music and studied it, getting a Bachelors in Boston and a Master's in New York. Now he's playing the smooth wooden xylophone, with its warm and wonderful tones, in some of the best jazz venues in Manhattan, and with the best orchestras and artists in Greece. Right now.
Young, successful people from Greece keep popping up in New York, working and adapting in ways that immigrants 100 years ago couldn't imagine. They are often smart and priveleged, but working hard -- especially in the arts.
It's fascinating how Rafalides, other instrumentalists and vocalists are interpreting familiar Greek songs with jazz compositions. But mostly, it's just cool to see someone make a career on vibes, which always was one of my favorite concert band instruments. Video below. Here's more on vibe player Rafalides.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Jazz @ Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola


The Onassis Foundation played host to a jazz show tonight: Dimitri Vassilakis Quartet Daedalus Project.
It was an interesting Jazz at Lincoln Center show: the accomplished Greek-born singer-saxophonist managed to deliver good jazz standards accompanied by sitar, bass, drums and a tap dancer.
Before the show, perched at the very edge of the bar to watch the sun set over Central Park, I started talking to a handsome man in a black shirt named Frank. We chatted about Chicago and segregation. As the lights dimmed and the stage lit up, I realized that my expected companion was a no-show. Frank grabbed a camera and disappeared into the dark.
Later, I discovered I was speaking with none other than Frank Stewart, whose photographs are in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is the senior photographer at Jazz at Lincoln Center and his biography details many adventures.
His photos are the subject of several books and this small gallery of his work online showcases his powerful, beautiful portraits.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RIP Abbey Lincoln

The great jazz singer Abbey Lincoln died Saturday on New York's Upper West Side. She was 80.  It was in Chicago, where she was born, that I first heard someone gush about her. Later, visiting Mahattan one hot summer to see a Byzantine exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I stumbled upon a listing in the New York Times arts section: Live tonight! Abbey Lincoln at the Iridium jazz club (then a dank basement venue across from Lincoln Center.) I was with my mom, and we sat just a few tables from the tiny stage, where we could watch Lincoln feel and phrase the music. Ron Carter was on bass. It was so amazing, so memorable. Ever since, her songs stops me in my tracks for the words she chose - pensive, hopeful and bold. No wonder. She told National Public Radio in 1986 that "a song is a prayer ... that I speak over and over ... It's amplified, and it goes into peoples' ears, and it'll manifest in my life ... so I am particular about the messages that come from me."
Her prolific career included movie roles, and these favorite albums: Abbey Sings Billie (as in Holiday, a queen, Lincoln says in this interview) and Wholly Earth. The latter offers a bitingly sweet duet, "It's Supposed to Be Love." (Also on YouTube is a video compliation including "First Song."
It's sobering to read in the NYTimes' obituary that she was derided in the 1960s for expressing Blacks' civil rights. Rest in Peace, Abbey Lincoln.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Savalas Jazz

Went to see Ariana Savalas (left), a child of Telly Savalas aka Kojak, sing some jazz downtown Thursday. It was her first time in New York, and what promise for a 20-something who wants to do acting too. She performed standards, but I was most moved when she sang La Vie En Rose in French, and she seemed most moved performing something she wrote, infused with pop-rock styling. (For the uninitiated, Kojak was a TV cop show and character who sucked on lollypops and called everybody "baby." Here's a classic Kojak episode, where he calls a Greek criminal a "Mediterranean fungus." The video has great scenes of 1970s New York, and imperfect acting and editing that are so refreshing. Richard Gere plays a two-bit criminal, and his partner utters some of the worst Greek pronunciations ever heard.) Nearly as entertaining was the company at my jazz club table: a long-haired Russian nut in sunglasses, lavender satin hanky in his breastpocket, who slugged several vodkas and made cat calls the whole show, and next to him a TV cameraman I know from NYC media circles who fell off a Greek island cliff while shooting "Blue Zones", went into a coma, was operated on in Greece, airlifed home, and lived to tell about it. New York life is never dull.