Jazz Appreciation Month

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We started our Jazz Appreciation Month Song Of The Day posts with a tune from Miles Davis, but this was before I was including bonus tracks, so I thought I'd end with Miles as well. I doubt anyone will argue that Miles is one of the major figures in jazz and deserves the spotlight. 

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Horace Silver is another one of the true originals in jazz. All jazz musicians strive to have a unique, identifiable sound, and Horace achieved that early on in his career. His percussive, hard-driving style is recognizable within a few notes and his compositions are some of the most well crafted and beloved in jazz history. Few can match the number of compositions that have become standards, including "The Preacher," "Senor Blues," "Sister Sadie," and his most famous tune, "Song For My Father."

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Sam Rivers is another of those musicians who's profile is huge among musicians and almost non-existent among non-musicians. His contributions to jazz as a player, composer and host of jazz "loft" shows cannot be overstated. He was an early adopter of free jazz and combined very outside playing with compositions with structure in new ways in the '60s and '70s.

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It's a gorgeous sun-filled day here in Seattle, and I can feel summer coming! The weather put me in mind of one of the greatest jazz documentaries of all time, "Jazz On A Summer's Day." Bert Stern documented the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in a film that has incredible cinematography, amazing music, and no dialog of any kind!

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In the liner notes to the album "Blues' Moods," where you'll find today's song, trumpeter Blue Mitchell is referred to as the "middleweight champion of the trumpet." This was actually stolen from a line someone used about the tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, but I think it suits both men well. The gist of the comment is that while neither of these players were necessarily innovative or boundary-pushing, they could each play the heck out of their respective instruments!

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Ingrid Jensen, one of my favorite trumpet players, has one of the most distinctive sounds on the instrument today. I've described her approach to the horn as "vocal," and she's said she's just trying to sing her ideas through the instrument. This is not a new concept, but when I listen to her playing, I hear it in action.

Her technical command of trumpet is matched by her creative and emotional depth in ways that are thrilling to hear. Her compositions and improvisations take this listener on a journey, and any record with Ingrid on it is going to have moments of brilliance for sure.

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Sarah Vaughan, or "Sassy" as she was known, is one of the great singers of the last century. She got an early start as both a piano player and singer, and was discovered in a talent show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1942 at 18 years old. This led to stints in the big bands of Earl Hines and Billy Ecksten where she met and played with so many of the greats of the music, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Lucky Thompson, Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon, among others.

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Today we don't just have a song of the day, but a whole album! I was going to feature drummer Brian Blade and his Fellowship Band anyway, then noticed that NPR has his forthcoming album on its "First Listen" series today. So buckle in and prepare to be transported to another world. 

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Lionel Hampton is a towering figure in the world of jazz. He was one of the first people to play the vibraphone and make that instrument popular, he played in one of the first racially integrated bands in the world, and the list of people he played and recorded with reads like a who's who of jazz: Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Art Tatum, Stan Getz and on and on. It's also his birthday today, so I thought we'd fire up some of his best.

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Pianist Vijay Iyer is one of the most celebrated and talked-about musicians of his generation. His list of accomplishments and accolades is impressive, including Grammy Nominations, Jazz Musician of the Year awards, and even a MacArthur Genius Award. His body of work is as broad as it is creative, and he's a powerful piano player and a skillful composer. He was recently added to the music faculty at Harvard, so he must be a pretty good teacher, too!

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“I want to be connecting with the subconscious, if I can call it that, because there are not to many words to describe the real deep inner part of a human being…I want to be at that place where everything is blotted out and where creativity happens, and to get there I practice, you know I’m a prolific practicer, I still practice every day…You have to have the skills, then you want to not think when you’re playing, that’s when you let whatever deep level of creativity, spirituality, I mean, you know these words are so inadequate these days but you want to get to this place where they exi

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A "jazz standard" is defined as "a musical composition which is an important part of the musical repertoire of jazz musicians, in that they are widely known, performed, and recorded by jazz musicians, and widely known by listeners" (forgive me for quoting Wikipedia, but I think that's a pretty good description).

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Joe Henderson is one of those musicians that didn't gain huge recognition from the casual jazz lover, but every jazz musician and fanatic will sing his praises for days. He had awesome command of the tenor saxophone, a unique sound and harmonic conception, and composed some classics of the jazz idiom, including "Recorda Me" (which he wrote at 14 years old!), "Inner Urge" and "The Kicker." He was equally at home playing hard bop and more avant garde music, and had a real way with a ballad.

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"There are no natural barriers. It's all music. It's either hip or it ain't." - Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan is one of the most recorded and celebrated trumpeters in jazz, and one of my personal favorites. His playing is brash, assured, big-toned and has a swagger not matched by many other trumpeters of his day or since.

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“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being. When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups...I want to speak to their souls.” ― John Coltrane

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