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'Round Midnight: Chat-stained

Varied jazz flourishes amid the noise

An interesting field of jazz-related musicians takes the stage at the ever-chatty Chastain Park Amphitheater this month. First up is Jazz Explosion (July 12), an all-star band capable of garnering excitement despite its name being something of a misnomer. Explode they may, but the sounds emanating from the ensemble featuring saxophonist Gerald Albright, along with vocalists Will Downing and Chante; Moore, are heavily R&B flavored. Jazz or naught, the tone of Albright's bluesy horns (alto, soprano and tenor) in sync with soulful vocals promises a solid night of slow jams, Latin and funk. Downing's smooth rendition of "The Near-ness of You" is likely to be followed with an Albright tribute to the late, great funkmeister Grover Washington. So, light that candle and prepare to groove. Spyro Gyra (July 14) has the distinction of being one of the few smooth jazz bands on the scene prior to "smooth jazz" being coined. Their minor late-'70s hit, "Shaker's Dance," was greeted with open arms as an easily digestible alternative to the harder-hitting fusion of the day. Jay Beckenstein's trademark alto consistently sets an easy mood. There are plenty of hits from which to draw, including "Morning Dance," "Catching the Sun," plus more recent, albeit similar fare.

The musical style of guitarist Brian Setzer'(July 19) may seem to have come out of nowhere, but he would likely admit to jumping on the proverbial (big) bandwagon established long ago by the swing bands of yore. Hearing his energetic guitar wailing over top of all those horns produces plenty of excitement. The big bands aren't dead, they just have enigmatic, charismatic leaders ... wearing weird clothes and playing stock blues licks.

Nepotism: It stinks. Unless, of course, you're the uncle of an R&B diva, or the daughter of one of the greatest crooners of the past century. It's all in the genes. When Natalie and Freddy Cole hit front and center (July 28), one isn't sure exactly what to expect. Will Freddy sing back-up vocals and step while Natalie shouts "Sophisticated Lady?" Doubtful. More than likely, Atlanta resident Freddy will sub for late brother Nat through a night of standard duets on the order of "Unforgettable." Blessed with pipes that resonate from similar DNA, Freddy's baritone — along with Natalie's polished alto — has the goods to provide a very nostalgic evening, indeed.

Mind if I gripe? Theoretically, Chastain Park is a great venue for jazz, but the relaxed ambiance is a catalytic culprit, promoting a general disregard for any type of concert etiquette. If a category existed in CL's Best of Atlanta issue for "rudest audience," the chatty, sometimes shouting (to each other) hoards at Chastain would consistently seize the dubious honor. For those of us who regard a certain quantity of Chastain's lineup as bona fide artists (not necessarily all of those mentioned above), the situation is highly embarrassing. Watching the seats located directly below the stage (the "pit table" section for the borderline bourgeois) reveals conduct that is often disgraceful. They sit in plain view — candles lit, food served, champagne popped, talking loudly — right up under the musicians' noses.

This is not to mention the masses in the cheaper seats who feel even more inconspicuous, anonymous or, perhaps more accurately, aren't feeling much of anything with regard to the music.

This probably sounds stuffy and elitist, but the lack of respect for artists and listeners is typical of most other "jazz venues" in the Atlanta area (I refer to Chastain as a jazz venue since I am referring to the jazz-related concerts held there). Sadly, most patrons' conduct merely underscores the role in which music has come to play in most people's lives — that of incidental, background sounds conducive to gathering and socializing. Gone are the days of the active, astute, knowledgeable listener. Hence, jazz will never be very popular music (no news here). And unlike classical music, which continues to be performed most often in concert halls — and certainly not in nightclubs (although classical musicians too must bear Chastain) — jazz music will always be subject to the harsh reality of rudeness. Conversely, the sheer, enormous power of high-decibel amplification seems to be the key to true listening pleasure these days.

Moving on: The 7th biennial National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) runs July 28-Aug. 6, including performances in dance, film, spoken word/literary, theatre, visual arts and music. Jazz pianist Geri Allen is the festival's headliner as far as the music portion is concerned, performing at Spivey Hall July 29 at 8:15 p.m. and at the Renaissance Hotel midnight that same evening. Allen is a superb, colorful pianist with her own critically acclaimed releases on Blue Note, Verve, Minor, Soul Note, JMT and DIW. Her tasteful accompaniments have enhanced a wide range of recordings, including those of Betty Carter, Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman. Her most recent sideman effort is heard on Ravi Coltrane: From the Round Box (BMG/RCA). Allen's approach to the keyboard has developed gradually from the prickly, disjunct, outside playing of her early days to that of a mature and more lyrical stylist. She is capable of covering numerous genres while maintaining her own, easily identifiable musical identity.

Additional jazz concerts (all at the Renaissance) will be held August 1 featuring perennial favorites from New Orleans, the Dirty Dozed Brass Band (11 p.m.); and August 3 featuring Atlanta-based favorites vocalist Kathleen Bertrand (10 p.m.), saxophonist Joe Jennings & Life Force; and guitarist Jacques Lesure's Quartet (12 a.m.). For more information, check the NBAF's website at www.nbaf.org.

Incoming/Upcoming: Spivey Hall presents Kenny Barron Aug. 19. Eyedrum hosts the Arthur Doyle Trio (with James Linton-b; Scott Rodziczal-perc) July 22. The Variety Playhouse features Project/Object, performing the music of Frank Zappa Aug. 16. The Robert Ferst Center hosts Fattburger with Special EFX July 17, Gato Barbieri Aug. 4 and Earl Klugh Sept. 9. This summer's Classic Chastain series presents Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Aug. 12; BB King & Buddy Guy Aug. 19; Eddie Palmieri Aug. 9; Manhattan Transfer Aug. 11; and the Rippingtons Aug. 23.

Inside Info: Pianist Bill Anschell's trio plays Veni Vidi Vici Wednesdays and Sundays. Bassist Dennis Caiazza's trio performs at Cabernet Thursdays and Fridays. Trumpeter Lester Walker's quartet fills in Thursdays during July at Café 290. Churchill Grounds presents tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams' trio every Monday and guitarist Jacques Lesure's quartet with drummer Steve Ellington July 21-22. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays beginning in August at MJQ. Romero's debut release Cuban Jazz Funk has just been released. Atlanta-based Jam Master Records' premier fall release features trumpeter Eddie Davis. Atlanta-based vocalist Rita Graham is currently recording her long-awaited release. Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five & Seven Recordings (Columbia) is due out in mid-August. Ten additional 24-bit remastered RVG Blue Note reissues are set for release in September and October, including titles by Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham.

Speak Out: "The beginning of the end of my association with Dot [Records] was when I recorded Jack Kerouac reading his works with Steve Allen noodling on piano. The record was seen as obscene and pornographic, so they pulled it from the market." — producer Bob Thiele

Out There: Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Chastain (404-733-4800); Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); eyedrum (404-627-8436); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Veni Vidi Vici (404-875-8424); Cabernet (770-777-5955); Café 290 (404-256-3942); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030).

In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail: rozzi1625@aol.com or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.



More By This Writer

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  string(8111) "In its short history, jazz has functioned as marching music, brothel and honky-tonk music, dance music and music designed for intensive listening. That all four varieties developed during jazz's earliest New Orleans period alone is fascinating. Contemporary thinking, however, finds the principal phase of danceable jazz coinciding with the commercial big band era and jazz's progression to listening music occurring at its succession from swing to bop. If this latter timeline is agreeable, it appears that jazz musicians have been demanding a certain "listening etiquette" from their audiences since at least the early days of bop in the early to middle 1940s. Several issues ago, this writer did his share of chiding in a column titled "Chat-Stained," where I drew attention to the pervasive rudeness of Chastain Park Amphitheatre's chatty concert-goers. I appreciate numerous readers' e-mail responses and am relieved to think I'm not the only "stiff" in Atlanta. But since then, I've found myself contemplating a related topic, attempting to discern the reasons why jazz has such a difficult time thriving in this city of over 5 million — a city comprised of many residents who could (I won't say "should") derive a sense of ethnic pride at having contributed so admirably to a very sophisticated, internationally lauded, purely American artform.

Limited presentation of jazz occurs at several of the city's major concert venues, nearly all of its colleges, a very few nightclubs/restaurants and the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival. But this is minimal. The greater metro area receives an overall failing grade in its support of jazz. Of course, this statement begs the age-old question, "What is jazz?," but let it suffice to say that the jazz in discussion is not that of the smooth, fusion, funk, pop or avant-garde variety. While some people will undoubtedly take exception to these omissions, I refer strictly to mainstream-rooted jazz — jazz of the straight-ahead variety — the type of jazz depending most significantly upon the rhythmic intricacies of swing, with chordal and modal harmonies designed to foster improvised melodic development. This is true jazz, music that holds a specific, indelible charm and intense appeal. There is no substitute.

It seems odd that jazz music doesn't affect many more Atlantans in this way, but naturally — no matter the sublime attributes of any music, nor its history, nor the history of one's exposure to it — the old adage, "different strokes for different folks" will always apply. This is a given. Food for thought:

For several decades, an incredible quantity of mediocre or unquestionably poor instrumental music has been released, marketed aggressively, played on radio and subsequently purchased. This music demands nothing of listeners and is relegated to background sounds conducive to conversation. For many, this is "jazz," and this is how jazz is perceived to function.

Face it: straight-ahead jazz is too demanding for many. Never having had ample exposure, most Atlantans tend to shy away from the in-your-face aggression indigenous to much of its improvisation. The nonverbal musical language used to convey such a broad spectrum of high emotion is not interpretable by the masses.

Along the same lines, instrumental jazz demands the active participation of listeners, since there is no libretto for immediate relay of the song's intent. Full appreciation takes a great deal of open-mindedness, imagination and at least some familiarity.

A heavy detractor on the local level — one that many of us have griped about — is Atlanta's tightly held position as Trendy Town. Many Atlantans are eager to jump on the bandwagon of any faddish music being hyped. They seem unwilling to make artistic judgments, certainly non-discriminating in their tastes, and/or perhaps unwilling to risk their reputations by listening to music that is not particularly popular at the moment.

In summation, Atlanta's refusal to support jazz seems to stem from several sources, with the most pronounced being a lack of exposure — an ignorance for which few individuals can be blamed, yet must be shouldered by our community as a whole.

It is high time we devise a strategy. At the start of the new millennium, jazz is precariously poised in Atlanta, but it does not have to be so. The musicians and their supporters must take the time to devise an organized, carefully orchestrated plan of action aimed at salvaging Atlanta jazz from extinction — complete with mission statement, timely set of goals and specific actions. If ample participation, finely tuned organization and quality leadership of this movement is intact, locally based corporations will respond with funding.

Education must be a primary focus. This entails workshops aimed at developing an understanding among children and adults. Jazz concerts that are affordable — preferably free — must become readily accessible to diverse neighborhoods throughout the community. Let it be known: Jazz in Atlanta is down but not out. Suggestions and commentary are welcome.

Incoming/Upcoming: Spivey Hall presents vocalist Andy Bey's Quartet Oct. 14, saxophonist Jackie McLean's Quintet Dec. 2, pianist Brad Mehldau's Trio Jan. 27 and violinist Regina Carter March 10. The Variety Playhouse features saxophonist Sonny Rollins Oct. 6 and Cubanismo! Oct. 7. Churchill Grounds presents the Winard Harper Quintet Set. 29-30. The Robert Ferst Center hosts keyboardist Keiko Matsui Oct. 10, Patti Austin Nov. 11, Dave Koz's Christmas Show with Rick Braun, Peter White & Brenda Russell Dec. 9. The ASO presents trumpeter Doc Severinson Oct. 27-28 and guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli Dec. 21-22. The Tabernacle features saxophonist Maceo Parker Oct. 1 and the FunkJazzCafé Oct. 7. The Rialto Center features Buena Vista Social Club Sept. 15, Bale Folclorico Sept. 29, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13, Dianne Reeves Jan. 13, Ravi & Anoushka Shankar May 6 and Branford Marsalis with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra May 19 (www.rialtocenter.org).

Inside Info: The Atlanta International Jazz Society can be reached at 404-876-4725 (atlantajazz@artlover.com). Pianist Bill Anschell's Trio performs "Jazz on the Lawn" at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Churchill Grounds presents the Swing Association Sept. 15-16, vocalist Gwen Hughes Sept. 22 and the Ken Watters Group Sept. 23. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. Guitarist Mike Kelly's trio plays Saturdays at the 1848 Wine Loft in Alpharetta. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Café in MJQ. Pianist Ted Howe and Friends perform Thursdays & Saturdays at Arturo's Trattoria in Dunwoody. Earmail, led by pianist Walter Bland, performs Tuesdays at Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffle, Wednesdays at Sage in Decatur and Friday-Saturday at Cino's Grill in Marietta. Huey's on Peachtree has begun presenting jazz on Saturdays. Milestone Records has issued Bill Evans: The Last Waltz, an 8-CD box of the pianist's last stand at Keystone Korner in Sept. of 1980.

Speak Out: "Without naming a lot of people, I'd have to say that Rashied Ali and Nana Vasconcelos are two people who consistently inspire me. They draw upon so much history and accomplish such depth in what they're playing." — drummer/percussionist Woody Williams

Out There:Clubs/Restaurants/Venues:
 Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Symphony Hall (404/733-5000); Tabernacle (404-249-6400); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Arturo's Trattoria (770-396-0335); Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles (404/874-9393); Sage (404-373-5574); Cino's Grill (770-509-5522); Huey's (404-873-2037).

In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail:
rozzi1625@aol.com; or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives."
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Limited presentation of jazz occurs at several of the city's major concert venues, nearly all of its colleges, a very few nightclubs/restaurants and the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival. But this is minimal. The greater metro area receives an overall failing grade in its support of jazz. Of course, this statement begs the age-old question, "What is jazz?," but let it suffice to say that the jazz in discussion is not that of the smooth, fusion, funk, pop or avant-garde variety. While some people will undoubtedly take exception to these omissions, I refer strictly to mainstream-rooted jazz -- jazz of the straight-ahead variety -- the type of jazz depending most significantly upon the rhythmic intricacies of swing, with chordal and modal harmonies designed to foster improvised melodic development. This is true jazz, music that holds a specific, indelible charm and intense appeal. There is no substitute.

It seems odd that jazz music doesn't affect many more Atlantans in this way, but naturally -- no matter the sublime attributes of any music, nor its history, nor the history of one's exposure to it -- the old adage, "different strokes for different folks" will always apply. This is a given. Food for thought:

For several decades, an incredible quantity of mediocre or unquestionably poor instrumental music has been released, marketed aggressively, played on radio and subsequently purchased. This music demands nothing of listeners and is relegated to background sounds conducive to conversation. For many, this is "jazz," and this is how jazz is perceived to function.

Face it: straight-ahead jazz is too demanding for many. Never having had ample exposure, most Atlantans tend to shy away from the in-your-face aggression indigenous to much of its improvisation. The nonverbal musical language used to convey such a broad spectrum of high emotion is not interpretable by the masses.

Along the same lines, instrumental jazz demands the active participation of listeners, since there is no libretto for immediate relay of the song's intent. Full appreciation takes a great deal of open-mindedness, imagination and at least some familiarity.

A heavy detractor on the local level -- one that many of us have griped about -- is Atlanta's tightly held position as Trendy Town. Many Atlantans are eager to jump on the bandwagon of any faddish music being hyped. They seem unwilling to make artistic judgments, certainly non-discriminating in their tastes, and/or perhaps unwilling to risk their reputations by listening to music that is not particularly popular at the moment.

In summation, Atlanta's refusal to support jazz seems to stem from several sources, with the most pronounced being a lack of exposure -- an ignorance for which few individuals can be blamed, yet must be shouldered by our community as a whole.

It is high time we devise a strategy. At the start of the new millennium, jazz is precariously poised in Atlanta, but it does not have to be so. The musicians and their supporters must take the time to devise an organized, carefully orchestrated plan of action aimed at salvaging Atlanta jazz from extinction -- complete with mission statement, timely set of goals and specific actions. If ample participation, finely tuned organization and quality leadership of this movement is intact, locally based corporations will respond with funding.

Education must be a primary focus. This entails workshops aimed at developing an understanding among children and adults. Jazz concerts that are affordable -- preferably free -- must become readily accessible to diverse neighborhoods throughout the community. Let it be known: Jazz in Atlanta is down but not out. Suggestions and commentary are welcome.

Incoming/Upcoming: Spivey Hall presents vocalist Andy Bey's Quartet Oct. 14, saxophonist Jackie McLean's Quintet Dec. 2, pianist Brad Mehldau's Trio Jan. 27 and violinist Regina Carter March 10. The Variety Playhouse features saxophonist Sonny Rollins Oct. 6 and Cubanismo! Oct. 7. Churchill Grounds presents the Winard Harper Quintet Set. 29-30. The Robert Ferst Center hosts keyboardist Keiko Matsui Oct. 10, Patti Austin Nov. 11, Dave Koz's Christmas Show with Rick Braun, Peter White & Brenda Russell Dec. 9. The ASO presents trumpeter Doc Severinson Oct. 27-28 and guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli Dec. 21-22. The Tabernacle features saxophonist Maceo Parker Oct. 1 and the FunkJazzCafé Oct. 7. The Rialto Center features Buena Vista Social Club Sept. 15, Bale Folclorico Sept. 29, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13, Dianne Reeves Jan. 13, Ravi & Anoushka Shankar May 6 and Branford Marsalis with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra May 19 ([http://www.rialtocenter.org/|www.rialtocenter.org]).

Inside Info: The Atlanta International Jazz Society can be reached at 404-876-4725 ([mailto:atlantajazz@artlover.com|atlantajazz@artlover.com]). Pianist Bill Anschell's Trio performs "Jazz on the Lawn" at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Churchill Grounds presents the Swing Association Sept. 15-16, vocalist Gwen Hughes Sept. 22 and the Ken Watters Group Sept. 23. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. Guitarist Mike Kelly's trio plays Saturdays at the 1848 Wine Loft in Alpharetta. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Café in MJQ. Pianist Ted Howe and Friends perform Thursdays & Saturdays at Arturo's Trattoria in Dunwoody. Earmail, led by pianist Walter Bland, performs Tuesdays at Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffle, Wednesdays at Sage in Decatur and Friday-Saturday at Cino's Grill in Marietta. Huey's on Peachtree has begun presenting jazz on Saturdays. Milestone Records has issued ''Bill Evans: The Last Waltz'', an 8-CD box of the pianist's last stand at Keystone Korner in Sept. of 1980.

Speak Out: "Without naming a lot of people, I'd have to say that Rashied Ali and Nana Vasconcelos are two people who consistently inspire me. They draw upon so much history and accomplish such depth in what they're playing." -- drummer/percussionist Woody Williams

__Out There:__Clubs/Restaurants/Venues:
 Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Symphony Hall (404/733-5000); Tabernacle (404-249-6400); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Arturo's Trattoria (770-396-0335); Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles (404/874-9393); Sage (404-373-5574); Cino's Grill (770-509-5522); Huey's (404-873-2037).

__In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail:__
[mailto:rozzi1625@aol.com|rozzi1625@aol.com]; or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives."
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  string(8336) "    What's wrong here and how to make it right   2000-09-16T04:04:00+00:00 Atlanta jazz manifesto   James Rozzi 1223545 2000-09-16T04:04:00+00:00  In its short history, jazz has functioned as marching music, brothel and honky-tonk music, dance music and music designed for intensive listening. That all four varieties developed during jazz's earliest New Orleans period alone is fascinating. Contemporary thinking, however, finds the principal phase of danceable jazz coinciding with the commercial big band era and jazz's progression to listening music occurring at its succession from swing to bop. If this latter timeline is agreeable, it appears that jazz musicians have been demanding a certain "listening etiquette" from their audiences since at least the early days of bop in the early to middle 1940s. Several issues ago, this writer did his share of chiding in a column titled "Chat-Stained," where I drew attention to the pervasive rudeness of Chastain Park Amphitheatre's chatty concert-goers. I appreciate numerous readers' e-mail responses and am relieved to think I'm not the only "stiff" in Atlanta. But since then, I've found myself contemplating a related topic, attempting to discern the reasons why jazz has such a difficult time thriving in this city of over 5 million — a city comprised of many residents who could (I won't say "should") derive a sense of ethnic pride at having contributed so admirably to a very sophisticated, internationally lauded, purely American artform.

Limited presentation of jazz occurs at several of the city's major concert venues, nearly all of its colleges, a very few nightclubs/restaurants and the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival. But this is minimal. The greater metro area receives an overall failing grade in its support of jazz. Of course, this statement begs the age-old question, "What is jazz?," but let it suffice to say that the jazz in discussion is not that of the smooth, fusion, funk, pop or avant-garde variety. While some people will undoubtedly take exception to these omissions, I refer strictly to mainstream-rooted jazz — jazz of the straight-ahead variety — the type of jazz depending most significantly upon the rhythmic intricacies of swing, with chordal and modal harmonies designed to foster improvised melodic development. This is true jazz, music that holds a specific, indelible charm and intense appeal. There is no substitute.

It seems odd that jazz music doesn't affect many more Atlantans in this way, but naturally — no matter the sublime attributes of any music, nor its history, nor the history of one's exposure to it — the old adage, "different strokes for different folks" will always apply. This is a given. Food for thought:

For several decades, an incredible quantity of mediocre or unquestionably poor instrumental music has been released, marketed aggressively, played on radio and subsequently purchased. This music demands nothing of listeners and is relegated to background sounds conducive to conversation. For many, this is "jazz," and this is how jazz is perceived to function.

Face it: straight-ahead jazz is too demanding for many. Never having had ample exposure, most Atlantans tend to shy away from the in-your-face aggression indigenous to much of its improvisation. The nonverbal musical language used to convey such a broad spectrum of high emotion is not interpretable by the masses.

Along the same lines, instrumental jazz demands the active participation of listeners, since there is no libretto for immediate relay of the song's intent. Full appreciation takes a great deal of open-mindedness, imagination and at least some familiarity.

A heavy detractor on the local level — one that many of us have griped about — is Atlanta's tightly held position as Trendy Town. Many Atlantans are eager to jump on the bandwagon of any faddish music being hyped. They seem unwilling to make artistic judgments, certainly non-discriminating in their tastes, and/or perhaps unwilling to risk their reputations by listening to music that is not particularly popular at the moment.

In summation, Atlanta's refusal to support jazz seems to stem from several sources, with the most pronounced being a lack of exposure — an ignorance for which few individuals can be blamed, yet must be shouldered by our community as a whole.

It is high time we devise a strategy. At the start of the new millennium, jazz is precariously poised in Atlanta, but it does not have to be so. The musicians and their supporters must take the time to devise an organized, carefully orchestrated plan of action aimed at salvaging Atlanta jazz from extinction — complete with mission statement, timely set of goals and specific actions. If ample participation, finely tuned organization and quality leadership of this movement is intact, locally based corporations will respond with funding.

Education must be a primary focus. This entails workshops aimed at developing an understanding among children and adults. Jazz concerts that are affordable — preferably free — must become readily accessible to diverse neighborhoods throughout the community. Let it be known: Jazz in Atlanta is down but not out. Suggestions and commentary are welcome.

Incoming/Upcoming: Spivey Hall presents vocalist Andy Bey's Quartet Oct. 14, saxophonist Jackie McLean's Quintet Dec. 2, pianist Brad Mehldau's Trio Jan. 27 and violinist Regina Carter March 10. The Variety Playhouse features saxophonist Sonny Rollins Oct. 6 and Cubanismo! Oct. 7. Churchill Grounds presents the Winard Harper Quintet Set. 29-30. The Robert Ferst Center hosts keyboardist Keiko Matsui Oct. 10, Patti Austin Nov. 11, Dave Koz's Christmas Show with Rick Braun, Peter White & Brenda Russell Dec. 9. The ASO presents trumpeter Doc Severinson Oct. 27-28 and guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli Dec. 21-22. The Tabernacle features saxophonist Maceo Parker Oct. 1 and the FunkJazzCafé Oct. 7. The Rialto Center features Buena Vista Social Club Sept. 15, Bale Folclorico Sept. 29, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13, Dianne Reeves Jan. 13, Ravi & Anoushka Shankar May 6 and Branford Marsalis with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra May 19 (www.rialtocenter.org).

Inside Info: The Atlanta International Jazz Society can be reached at 404-876-4725 (atlantajazz@artlover.com). Pianist Bill Anschell's Trio performs "Jazz on the Lawn" at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Churchill Grounds presents the Swing Association Sept. 15-16, vocalist Gwen Hughes Sept. 22 and the Ken Watters Group Sept. 23. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. Guitarist Mike Kelly's trio plays Saturdays at the 1848 Wine Loft in Alpharetta. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Café in MJQ. Pianist Ted Howe and Friends perform Thursdays & Saturdays at Arturo's Trattoria in Dunwoody. Earmail, led by pianist Walter Bland, performs Tuesdays at Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffle, Wednesdays at Sage in Decatur and Friday-Saturday at Cino's Grill in Marietta. Huey's on Peachtree has begun presenting jazz on Saturdays. Milestone Records has issued Bill Evans: The Last Waltz, an 8-CD box of the pianist's last stand at Keystone Korner in Sept. of 1980.

Speak Out: "Without naming a lot of people, I'd have to say that Rashied Ali and Nana Vasconcelos are two people who consistently inspire me. They draw upon so much history and accomplish such depth in what they're playing." — drummer/percussionist Woody Williams

Out There:Clubs/Restaurants/Venues:
 Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Symphony Hall (404/733-5000); Tabernacle (404-249-6400); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Arturo's Trattoria (770-396-0335); Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles (404/874-9393); Sage (404-373-5574); Cino's Grill (770-509-5522); Huey's (404-873-2037).

In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail:
rozzi1625@aol.com; or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.             13001139 1226312                          Atlanta jazz manifesto "
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Saturday September 16, 2000 12:04 am EDT
What's wrong here and how to make it right | more...
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  string(6335) "Depending on your vantage point, it was either inevitable or a complete surprise that electronic music — formerly considered the province of nerd engineers and nerd-like composers — would become sexy. The unlikely mix of hip-hoppers, electronica dweebs, free-thinking rockers, avant-jazzers and even easy listening buffs on the prowl for campy Moog LPs have sought out classic electronic recordings so eagerly that we're now experiencing a small flood of reissues. Despite a few earlier stabs at an overview, Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948-1980 (Ellipsis Arts) is easily a landmark. Compiled by Jason Gross of the Perfect Sound Forever website and Thomas Ziegler, Ohm takes a generous three CDs to cover the ground adequately while remaining listener-friendly. Most everything is here: electronic instruments such as the theremin and Moog synthesizer; sound collage and tape editing work; feedback and sine-wave pieces; mixes of electronics with more conventional instruments; all taken from the classical world (for lack of a better term) rather than from pop and dance music.

While that might seem scary or at least tedious, in the actual hearing Ohm doesn't sound like either a history lesson or  a physics experiment, at least not entirely. It certainly helps that bleep-and-swoop pieces are stuck up against more melodic ones, jittery musique concrete next to drones, with the whole set gaining from context. In fact, Ohm rarely sounds quaint or outdated, aside from, perhaps, the opening theremin-ized Tchaikovsky piece. Pierre Schaeffer used train sounds for his "Etude aux Chemins de Fer" and it isn't much more tame now than it must have in 1948. Joji Yuasa's 1964 piece for white noise could have been a blueprint for scores of industrial musicians that followed years later — the same with Bernard Parmegiani and techno.

Ohm comes with a thick booklet presenting brief essays on aspects of electronic music and notes on each track, often from other composers and critics. It's more enlightening than the usual point-to-point liner notes, though more nuts-and-bolts info would have been nice. Alas, the connections between wartime technology, the shift of Romanticism into Modernism and electronic music are probably best left for another day. Instead of a graveyard tour, Ohm presents a lively family reunion that nobody with an interest in electronics will want to skip.          — Lang Thompson

Raymond Scott was a musically frisky and sonically outre bandleader whose 1930s Quintette invented fake jazz decades before John Lurie or Squarepusher came along, a protean gizmo-tinkerer who  was screwing with rhythm machines and bassline generators when Kraftwerk were mere gleams in a test tube's eye. He was a prominent progenitor of modern ambient. And based on Columbia/ Legacy's 1993 Quintette collection, Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, 1964's three-volume Soothing Sounds for Baby and, now, Manhattan Research, Inc. (Basta), a wondrously packaged double-CD collection of radio jingles, sound-snippets and pops, clicks, wows and flutters, he could also be said to be the greatest children's-music composer in American history. Not that this was necessarily Scott's aim, since most of Manhattan Research is aimed either at adult consumers (advertisements for Sprite, Twinkies, Vicks cough drops, Ford, GM, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Ohio Bell and the Pygmy Taxi Corporation are included) or no one at all (much of the material is previously unreleased). But nearly everything here is so sparkly-bright, infectiously frisky and sci-fi-futurismo it's hard not to hear it as kids' music. This is in large part because hundreds of Saturday mornings' worth of Scott's ingenious co-optation by Carl Stalling and Jack Warner have made daffy sounds, oddball orchestration and willful rhythm shifts sound like, well, children's music. Still, Manhattan Research's peaks need no qualification at all. "Limbo: The Organized Mind" has Jim Henson giving the listener a guided tour around his capacious cranium. And the five-minute IBM mersh "The Paperwork Explosion" ("Machines should work — people should think") is genius, both as sound-sculpture and advertising. — Michaelangelo Matos

Detroit native Elvin Jones burst onto the New York scene in the late 1950s, quickly garnering a reputation as a drummer with a unique, energetic approach. His contributions to John Coltrane's famous 1960s quartet have proven indelible, but his subsequent bandleader endeavors — although perhaps less familiar — have resulted in several of jazz's most aggressive, cutting-edge ensembles. The well-annotated, carefully re-mastered, 8-CD boxed set The Complete Blue Note Elvin Sessions (Mosaic) documents Jones' greatest bands — from trio to tentet — recorded for Blue Note from 1968-73. The set's first recordings are trios with multi-reedman Joe Farrell and Coltrane sideman Jimmy Garrison. Considering the immediacy of Coltrane's death only one year prior, no situation has more closely resembled a saxophonist "substituting" for Coltrane, and Farrell fit the bill admirably. This 1968 material, along with the last two discs contained herein (from 1972) can safely be termed classic.

The years in between found Jones experimenting with various, less effective formats, including the use of multiple percussionists, mini-Moog synthesizer, quasi-rock beats and electric guitar. In retrospect, his most effective combinations were those with no chordal instrument — simply bass, drums and horns. Jones' imaginatively colorful, "surround sound" drumming was so complete as to suffice.

The box's final two discs — recorded live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach in 1972 — are now legendary, particularly among saxophonists. Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman were leaders of a pack of young, high-energy saxophonists very much influenced by Coltrane. Here, in quartet with Gene Perla on bass, the two extroverts unleash cascades of exciting, harmonically advanced improvisations. Their techniques are mind-boggling, but it is always Jones' superb, nonverbal leadership from behind his traps that prompts an amazingly cohesive, state-of-the-art ensemble. (Available solely through Mosaic Records; 203-327-7111; www.mosaicrecords.com)"
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  string(6366) "Depending on your vantage point, it was either inevitable or a complete surprise that electronic music -- formerly considered the province of nerd engineers and nerd-like composers -- would become sexy. The unlikely mix of hip-hoppers, electronica dweebs, free-thinking rockers, avant-jazzers and even easy listening buffs on the prowl for campy Moog LPs have sought out classic electronic recordings so eagerly that we're now experiencing a small flood of reissues. Despite a few earlier stabs at an overview, __''Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948-1980''__ (Ellipsis Arts) is easily a landmark. Compiled by Jason Gross of the Perfect Sound Forever website and Thomas Ziegler, ''Ohm'' takes a generous three CDs to cover the ground adequately while remaining listener-friendly. Most everything is here: electronic instruments such as the theremin and Moog synthesizer; sound collage and tape editing work; feedback and sine-wave pieces; mixes of electronics with more conventional instruments; all taken from the classical world (for lack of a better term) rather than from pop and dance music.

While that might seem scary or at least tedious, in the actual hearing ''Ohm'' doesn't sound like either a history lesson or  a physics experiment, at least not entirely. It certainly helps that bleep-and-swoop pieces are stuck up against more melodic ones, jittery musique concrete next to drones, with the whole set gaining from context. In fact, ''Ohm'' rarely sounds quaint or outdated, aside from, perhaps, the opening theremin-ized Tchaikovsky piece. Pierre Schaeffer used train sounds for his "Etude aux Chemins de Fer" and it isn't much more tame now than it must have in 1948. Joji Yuasa's 1964 piece for white noise could have been a blueprint for scores of industrial musicians that followed years later -- the same with Bernard Parmegiani and techno.

''Ohm'' comes with a thick booklet presenting brief essays on aspects of electronic music and notes on each track, often from other composers and critics. It's more enlightening than the usual point-to-point liner notes, though more nuts-and-bolts info would have been nice. Alas, the connections between wartime technology, the shift of Romanticism into Modernism and electronic music are probably best left for another day. Instead of a graveyard tour, ''Ohm'' presents a lively family reunion that nobody with an interest in electronics will want to skip.          -- ''Lang Thompson''

Raymond Scott was a musically frisky and sonically outre bandleader whose 1930s Quintette invented fake jazz decades before John Lurie or Squarepusher came along, a protean gizmo-tinkerer who  was screwing with rhythm machines and bassline generators when Kraftwerk were mere gleams in a test tube's eye. He was a prominent progenitor of modern ambient. And based on Columbia/ Legacy's 1993 Quintette collection, ''Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights'', 1964's three-volume ''Soothing Sounds for Baby'' and, now, ''Manhattan Research, Inc.'' (Basta), a wondrously packaged double-CD collection of radio jingles, sound-snippets and pops, clicks, wows and flutters, he could also be said to be the greatest children's-music composer in American history. Not that this was necessarily Scott's aim, since most of ''Manhattan Research'' is aimed either at adult consumers (advertisements for Sprite, Twinkies, Vicks cough drops, Ford, GM, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Ohio Bell and the Pygmy Taxi Corporation are included) or no one at all (much of the material is previously unreleased). But nearly everything here is so sparkly-bright, infectiously frisky and sci-fi-futurismo it's hard not to hear it as kids' music. This is in large part because hundreds of Saturday mornings' worth of Scott's ingenious co-optation by Carl Stalling and Jack Warner have made daffy sounds, oddball orchestration and willful rhythm shifts sound like, well, children's music. Still, ''Manhattan Research'''s peaks need no qualification at all. "Limbo: The Organized Mind" has Jim Henson giving the listener a guided tour around his capacious cranium. And the five-minute IBM mersh "The Paperwork Explosion" ("Machines should work -- people should think") is genius, both as sound-sculpture and advertising. -- ''Michaelangelo Matos''

Detroit native __Elvin Jones__ burst onto the New York scene in the late 1950s, quickly garnering a reputation as a drummer with a unique, energetic approach. His contributions to John Coltrane's famous 1960s quartet have proven indelible, but his subsequent bandleader endeavors -- although perhaps less familiar -- have resulted in several of jazz's most aggressive, cutting-edge ensembles. The well-annotated, carefully re-mastered, 8-CD boxed set ''The Complete Blue Note Elvin Sessions'' (Mosaic) documents Jones' greatest bands -- from trio to tentet -- recorded for Blue Note from 1968-73. The set's first recordings are trios with multi-reedman Joe Farrell and Coltrane sideman Jimmy Garrison. Considering the immediacy of Coltrane's death only one year prior, no situation has more closely resembled a saxophonist "substituting" for Coltrane, and Farrell fit the bill admirably. This 1968 material, along with the last two discs contained herein (from 1972) can safely be termed classic.

The years in between found Jones experimenting with various, less effective formats, including the use of multiple percussionists, mini-Moog synthesizer, quasi-rock beats and electric guitar. In retrospect, his most effective combinations were those with no chordal instrument -- simply bass, drums and horns. Jones' imaginatively colorful, "surround sound" drumming was so complete as to suffice.

The box's final two discs -- recorded live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach in 1972 -- are now legendary, particularly among saxophonists. Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman were leaders of a pack of young, high-energy saxophonists very much influenced by Coltrane. Here, in quartet with Gene Perla on bass, the two extroverts unleash cascades of exciting, harmonically advanced improvisations. Their techniques are mind-boggling, but it is always Jones' superb, nonverbal leadership from behind his traps that prompts an amazingly cohesive, state-of-the-art ensemble. (Available solely through Mosaic Records; 203-327-7111; [http://www.mosaicrecords.com/|www.mosaicrecords.com])"
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While that might seem scary or at least tedious, in the actual hearing Ohm doesn't sound like either a history lesson or  a physics experiment, at least not entirely. It certainly helps that bleep-and-swoop pieces are stuck up against more melodic ones, jittery musique concrete next to drones, with the whole set gaining from context. In fact, Ohm rarely sounds quaint or outdated, aside from, perhaps, the opening theremin-ized Tchaikovsky piece. Pierre Schaeffer used train sounds for his "Etude aux Chemins de Fer" and it isn't much more tame now than it must have in 1948. Joji Yuasa's 1964 piece for white noise could have been a blueprint for scores of industrial musicians that followed years later — the same with Bernard Parmegiani and techno.

Ohm comes with a thick booklet presenting brief essays on aspects of electronic music and notes on each track, often from other composers and critics. It's more enlightening than the usual point-to-point liner notes, though more nuts-and-bolts info would have been nice. Alas, the connections between wartime technology, the shift of Romanticism into Modernism and electronic music are probably best left for another day. Instead of a graveyard tour, Ohm presents a lively family reunion that nobody with an interest in electronics will want to skip.          — Lang Thompson

Raymond Scott was a musically frisky and sonically outre bandleader whose 1930s Quintette invented fake jazz decades before John Lurie or Squarepusher came along, a protean gizmo-tinkerer who  was screwing with rhythm machines and bassline generators when Kraftwerk were mere gleams in a test tube's eye. He was a prominent progenitor of modern ambient. And based on Columbia/ Legacy's 1993 Quintette collection, Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, 1964's three-volume Soothing Sounds for Baby and, now, Manhattan Research, Inc. (Basta), a wondrously packaged double-CD collection of radio jingles, sound-snippets and pops, clicks, wows and flutters, he could also be said to be the greatest children's-music composer in American history. Not that this was necessarily Scott's aim, since most of Manhattan Research is aimed either at adult consumers (advertisements for Sprite, Twinkies, Vicks cough drops, Ford, GM, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Ohio Bell and the Pygmy Taxi Corporation are included) or no one at all (much of the material is previously unreleased). But nearly everything here is so sparkly-bright, infectiously frisky and sci-fi-futurismo it's hard not to hear it as kids' music. This is in large part because hundreds of Saturday mornings' worth of Scott's ingenious co-optation by Carl Stalling and Jack Warner have made daffy sounds, oddball orchestration and willful rhythm shifts sound like, well, children's music. Still, Manhattan Research's peaks need no qualification at all. "Limbo: The Organized Mind" has Jim Henson giving the listener a guided tour around his capacious cranium. And the five-minute IBM mersh "The Paperwork Explosion" ("Machines should work — people should think") is genius, both as sound-sculpture and advertising. — Michaelangelo Matos

Detroit native Elvin Jones burst onto the New York scene in the late 1950s, quickly garnering a reputation as a drummer with a unique, energetic approach. His contributions to John Coltrane's famous 1960s quartet have proven indelible, but his subsequent bandleader endeavors — although perhaps less familiar — have resulted in several of jazz's most aggressive, cutting-edge ensembles. The well-annotated, carefully re-mastered, 8-CD boxed set The Complete Blue Note Elvin Sessions (Mosaic) documents Jones' greatest bands — from trio to tentet — recorded for Blue Note from 1968-73. The set's first recordings are trios with multi-reedman Joe Farrell and Coltrane sideman Jimmy Garrison. Considering the immediacy of Coltrane's death only one year prior, no situation has more closely resembled a saxophonist "substituting" for Coltrane, and Farrell fit the bill admirably. This 1968 material, along with the last two discs contained herein (from 1972) can safely be termed classic.

The years in between found Jones experimenting with various, less effective formats, including the use of multiple percussionists, mini-Moog synthesizer, quasi-rock beats and electric guitar. In retrospect, his most effective combinations were those with no chordal instrument — simply bass, drums and horns. Jones' imaginatively colorful, "surround sound" drumming was so complete as to suffice.

The box's final two discs — recorded live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach in 1972 — are now legendary, particularly among saxophonists. Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman were leaders of a pack of young, high-energy saxophonists very much influenced by Coltrane. Here, in quartet with Gene Perla on bass, the two extroverts unleash cascades of exciting, harmonically advanced improvisations. Their techniques are mind-boggling, but it is always Jones' superb, nonverbal leadership from behind his traps that prompts an amazingly cohesive, state-of-the-art ensemble. (Available solely through Mosaic Records; 203-327-7111; www.mosaicrecords.com)             13001001 1226080        /mediaserver/atlanta/2015-17/vibes_feature-1000.jpeg                  Avant sounds "
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Article

Saturday September 2, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Composers, drummers and ad men on the edge | more...
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  string(8134) "Musicians have  taken a stronger role in finding places to play instead of getting bitter about limited opportunities. This statement, echoing the do-or-die attitude of Atlanta's straight-ahead and free-jazz talent, was in fact made in reference to Chicago's plight by saxophonist and MacArthur Grant recipient Ken Vandermark (Downbeat, Aug. 2000). "There is a willingness on my part to think it possible to play the kind of music I play in the city that I live in on a regular basis," he adds.Thanks to a small, zealous group of Atlanta promoters (e.g. Euphonic Productions) and active venues (e.g. eyedrum), freely improvised music has taken a solid foothold here. The packed house at the Variety Playhouse for the Peter Brotzmann/Chicago Tentet concert of June 28 (which included Vandermark) gives indication that a sizable audience is already in place. Their responsiveness is a positive development for Atlanta — a city notorious for playing it close to the vest. As with the more straight-ahead element of Atlanta's jazz community, any restaurant or club remains fair game for pursuance of a playing engagement. It's a lot of toil and trouble, but it boils down to this: to gig or not to gig.While this column tends to focus primarily on straight-ahead jazz, I genuinely appreciate freer areas of music. But the fact remains: Creative improvised music — whether "free" or based on standard tunes — shall remain forever outside the mainstream. As pianist Horace Silver said, "We've always been the unwanted stepchild" — this despite (or perhaps because of) the incomparable virtuosity of the music's practitioners. Alas, another topic for another column.At this point, tiny Churchill Grounds is Atlanta's only regular jazz club — a sad indication of the overall attitude toward the fine arts in our city of five million-plus. While we're thankful for the sporadic jazz emanating from other venues such as Cafe 290 and Sambuca, CG obviously could use some downtown/hometown competition. What about Paschal's La Carrousel? The Black Arts Festival's peripheral activity, "Nine Naughty Nights of Jazz" — recently held there — showed the potential for presenting jazz on a regular, weekly basis. At least some consolation for CG's near-monopoly lies in the fact that proprietor Sam Yi has good taste, as this month's lineup confirms.Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison performed admirably at CG with the Swing Association some months back, but his upcoming Aug. 25 visit will feature his own heavy-hitting New York quartet of Glen Patcha (p), Vicente Archer (b) and John Lamkin (d). Harrison's most recent recording, Free to Be (Impulse), displays a hard bop-oriented foray with several deviations into Latin, semi-smooth jazz and even rap. Endowed with a beautiful, lush tone and ideas to spare, Donald Harrison will come to play.The Atlanta International Jazz Society (404-876-4725 / Atlantajazz@artlover.com) continues to increase its presence by beginning its monthly concert series at CG Aug. 12. Atlanta-based saxophonist Dennis Springer began turning heads several decades ago with fiery solos on Jeff Lorber's excellent Soft Space album. Expounding upon the traditions of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Springer's quintet of Danny Harper (tp), Ojeda Penn (p), Ramon Pooser (b) and Eddie Langston III (d) promises exciting sets displaying well-crafted, high-energy original material.Atlanta-based guitarist Mike Kelly holds the distinction of being one of the finest improvisers in town, having honed his craft during nine years in NYC backing the likes of Al Gey and Junior Cook. Kelly also deserves kudos for creating gigs where none exist. When New York trumpet legend Richie Vitale blows into town, he and Kelly's trio of Tim Aucoin (b) and Clay Hulet (d) will hit not only CG on Aug. 11 and Sambuca on Aug. 14, but also Alpharetta's Cabernet on Aug. 10 and 1848 Wine Loft on Aug. 12. Vitale is highly regarded among knowledgeable brass players, but remains an unsung hero due to lengthy road time spent with Frank Sinatra. His most recent CD, Dreamsville (TCB), recorded live at Smalls, is both startlingly virtuosic and blatantly evocative.Spivey Hall's Summer Jazz Series ends Aug. 19 on the highest of notes with Kenny Barron's illustrious trio of Ray Drummond (b) and Ben Riley (d). For these ears, no pianist today — jazz or otherwise — is finer than Barron. Although his latest, richly orchestrated release, Spirit Song (Verve) has received great acclaim since its January release, Barron's improvisations are such things of beauty that only the uncluttered sounds of a trio present appropriate backing. For some really sweet ear candy, check out Wanton Spirit (Verve) with Charlie Haden (b) and Roy Haynes (d). Barron's tone and dynamic approach are superlative, not unlike those of Bill Evans during Evans' prime. This will undoubtedly be one of the best jazz concerts of the year in Atlanta.The amphitheater may be chat-stained, but plenty of great music has yet to rise above the din before the Classic Chastain Series draws to a close. Pianist Eddie Palmieri's band squares off with the Tito Puente Orchestra Aug. 9, despite Puente's recent passing. The vocal quartet known as the Manhattan Transfer, which has garnered no fewer than eight Grammys in their 26 years together, will combine material from both the pop and jazz/vocalese idioms at its Aug. 11 Chastain show, probably including, "Boy From New York City," "Birdland," "Until I Met You" and "Another Night in Tunisia." In sync with Louis Armstrong's 100th birth year, MT is currently recording a tribute album of songs associated with the seminal trumpeter/vocalist.Last and probably least on Chastain's "jazz" stage, the Rippingtons perform their perfunctory pop-oriented stuff Aug. 23. Pumping out more CDs than IHOP serves pancakes, the Ripps have saturated the smooth jazz airwaves for longer than we care to realize. Their latest, Topaz (Peak/Windham Hill) virtually drops us off in Taos, N.M. — a sultry, dry place dear to bandleader Russ Freeman's heart. As the Rippingtons are not shy with regard to amplification, the musical results will be easily heard in spite of Chastain's conversing crowd — a most appropriate musical act for those acting up.Incoming/Upcoming:  The Georgia Theatre in Athens hosts guitarist Charlie Hunter with opener Squat Aug. 22 (www.georgiatheatre.com). The Variety Playhouse presents Project/Object, performing the music of Frank Zappa, Aug. 16. The Montreux Atlanta Music Festival presents Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, and George Duke Aug. 27 at Chastain Park Amphitheater (www.atlantafestivals.com). The Robert Ferst Center hosts Earl Klugh Sept. 9 and Keiko Matsui Oct. 10. This summer's Classic Chastain series presents Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Aug. 12. The Rialto Center features Bale Folclorico Sept. 29 and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13.Inside Info:  Churchill Grounds presents drummer Bernard Linnette's Quartet featuring saxophonist Howard Nicholson and bassist Rodney Jordan Aug. 18-19. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Cafe in MJQ. Atlanta-based vocalist Rita Graham is currently mixing her long-awaited release.Speak Out:  "I've made thousands of LP masters, and I'm glad to see the LP go. Good riddance." — recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder.Out There:  Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Eyedrum (404-627-8436); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Cafe 290 (404-256-3942); Sambuca Jazz Cafe (404-237-5299); Paschal's La Carrousel (404-523-4800); Cabernet (770-777-5955); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Chastain (404-733-4800); The Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449).In Here:  Your direct line to this column by e-mail: rozzi1625@aol.com--or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.


"
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  string(8317) "[Musicians] have  taken a stronger role in finding places to play instead of getting bitter about limited opportunities. This statement, echoing the do-or-die attitude of Atlanta's straight-ahead and free-jazz talent, was in fact made in reference to Chicago's plight by saxophonist and MacArthur Grant recipient Ken Vandermark (''Downbeat'', Aug. 2000). "There is a willingness on my part to think it possible to play the kind of music I play in the city that I live in on a regular basis," he adds.%%%%%%Thanks to a small, zealous group of Atlanta promoters (e.g. Euphonic Productions) and active venues (e.g. eyedrum), freely improvised music has taken a solid foothold here. The packed house at the Variety Playhouse for the Peter Brotzmann/Chicago Tentet concert of June 28 (which included Vandermark) gives indication that a sizable audience is already in place. Their responsiveness is a positive development for Atlanta -- a city notorious for playing it close to the vest. As with the more straight-ahead element of Atlanta's jazz community, any restaurant or club remains fair game for pursuance of a playing engagement. It's a lot of toil and trouble, but it boils down to this: to gig or not to gig.%%%%%%While this column tends to focus primarily on straight-ahead jazz, I genuinely appreciate freer areas of music. But the fact remains: Creative improvised music -- whether "free" or based on standard tunes -- shall remain forever outside the mainstream. As pianist Horace Silver said, "We've always been the unwanted stepchild" -- this despite (or perhaps because of) the incomparable virtuosity of the music's practitioners. Alas, another topic for another column.%%%%%%At this point, tiny Churchill Grounds is Atlanta's only regular jazz club -- a sad indication of the overall attitude toward the fine arts in our city of five million-plus. While we're thankful for the sporadic jazz emanating from other venues such as Cafe 290 and Sambuca, CG obviously could use some downtown/hometown competition. What about Paschal's La Carrousel? The Black Arts Festival's peripheral activity, "Nine Naughty Nights of Jazz" -- recently held there -- showed the potential for presenting jazz on a regular, weekly basis. At least some consolation for CG's near-monopoly lies in the fact that proprietor Sam Yi has good taste, as this month's lineup confirms.%%%%%%Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison performed admirably at CG with the Swing Association some months back, but his upcoming Aug. 25 visit will feature his own heavy-hitting New York quartet of Glen Patcha (p), Vicente Archer (b) and John Lamkin (d). Harrison's most recent recording, ''Free to Be'' (Impulse), displays a hard bop-oriented foray with several deviations into Latin, semi-smooth jazz and even rap. Endowed with a beautiful, lush tone and ideas to spare, Donald Harrison will come to play.%%%%%%The Atlanta International Jazz Society (404-876-4725 / [mailto:Atlantajazz@artlover.com|Atlantajazz@artlover.com]) continues to increase its presence by beginning its monthly concert series at CG Aug. 12. Atlanta-based saxophonist Dennis Springer began turning heads several decades ago with fiery solos on Jeff Lorber's excellent ''Soft Space'' album. Expounding upon the traditions of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Springer's quintet of Danny Harper (tp), Ojeda Penn (p), Ramon Pooser (b) and Eddie Langston III (d) promises exciting sets displaying well-crafted, high-energy original material.%%%%%%Atlanta-based guitarist Mike Kelly holds the distinction of being one of the finest improvisers in town, having honed his craft during nine years in NYC backing the likes of Al Gey and Junior Cook. Kelly also deserves kudos for creating gigs where none exist. When New York trumpet legend Richie Vitale blows into town, he and Kelly's trio of Tim Aucoin (b) and Clay Hulet (d) will hit not only CG on Aug. 11 and Sambuca on Aug. 14, but also Alpharetta's Cabernet on Aug. 10 and 1848 Wine Loft on Aug. 12. Vitale is highly regarded among knowledgeable brass players, but remains an unsung hero due to lengthy road time spent with Frank Sinatra. His most recent CD, ''Dreamsville'' (TCB), recorded live at Smalls, is both startlingly virtuosic and blatantly evocative.%%%%%%Spivey Hall's Summer Jazz Series ends Aug. 19 on the highest of notes with Kenny Barron's illustrious trio of Ray Drummond (b) and Ben Riley (d). For these ears, no pianist today -- jazz or otherwise -- is finer than Barron. Although his latest, richly orchestrated release, ''Spirit Song'' (Verve) has received great acclaim since its January release, Barron's improvisations are such things of beauty that only the uncluttered sounds of a trio present appropriate backing. For some really sweet ear candy, check out ''Wanton Spirit'' (Verve) with Charlie Haden (b) and Roy Haynes (d). Barron's tone and dynamic approach are superlative, not unlike those of Bill Evans during Evans' prime. This will undoubtedly be one of the best jazz concerts of the year in Atlanta.%%%%%%The amphitheater may be chat-stained, but plenty of great music has yet to rise above the din before the Classic Chastain Series draws to a close. Pianist Eddie Palmieri's band squares off with the Tito Puente Orchestra Aug. 9, despite Puente's recent passing. The vocal quartet known as the Manhattan Transfer, which has garnered no fewer than eight Grammys in their 26 years together, will combine material from both the pop and jazz/vocalese idioms at its Aug. 11 Chastain show, probably including, "Boy From New York City," "Birdland," "Until I Met You" and "Another Night in Tunisia." In sync with Louis Armstrong's 100th birth year, MT is currently recording a tribute album of songs associated with the seminal trumpeter/vocalist.%%%%%%Last and probably least on Chastain's "jazz" stage, the Rippingtons perform their perfunctory pop-oriented stuff Aug. 23. Pumping out more CDs than IHOP serves pancakes, the Ripps have saturated the smooth jazz airwaves for longer than we care to realize. Their latest, ''Topaz'' (Peak/Windham Hill) virtually drops us off in Taos, N.M. -- a sultry, dry place dear to bandleader Russ Freeman's heart. As the Rippingtons are not shy with regard to amplification, the musical results will be easily heard in spite of Chastain's conversing crowd -- a most appropriate musical act for those acting up.%%%%%%Incoming/Upcoming:  The Georgia Theatre in Athens hosts guitarist Charlie Hunter with opener Squat Aug. 22 ([http://www.georgiatheatre.com/|www.georgiatheatre.com]). The Variety Playhouse presents Project/Object, performing the music of Frank Zappa, Aug. 16. The Montreux Atlanta Music Festival presents Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, and George Duke Aug. 27 at Chastain Park Amphitheater ([http://www.atlantafestivals.com/|www.atlantafestivals.com]). The Robert Ferst Center hosts Earl Klugh Sept. 9 and Keiko Matsui Oct. 10. This summer's Classic Chastain series presents Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Aug. 12. The Rialto Center features Bale Folclorico Sept. 29 and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13.%%%%%%Inside Info:  Churchill Grounds presents drummer Bernard Linnette's Quartet featuring saxophonist Howard Nicholson and bassist Rodney Jordan Aug. 18-19. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Cafe in MJQ. Atlanta-based vocalist Rita Graham is currently mixing her long-awaited release.%%%%%%Speak Out:  "I've made thousands of LP masters, and I'm glad to see the LP go. Good riddance." -- recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder.%%%%%%Out There:  Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Eyedrum (404-627-8436); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Cafe 290 (404-256-3942); Sambuca Jazz Cafe (404-237-5299); Paschal's La Carrousel (404-523-4800); Cabernet (770-777-5955); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Chastain (404-733-4800); The Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449).%%%%%%In Here:  Your direct line to this column by e-mail: [mailto:rozzi1625@aol.com|rozzi1625@aol.com]--or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.


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  string(8334) "    To gig or not to gig in Atlanta   2000-08-12T04:04:00+00:00 Suitable venues   James Rozzi 1223545 2000-08-12T04:04:00+00:00  Musicians have  taken a stronger role in finding places to play instead of getting bitter about limited opportunities. This statement, echoing the do-or-die attitude of Atlanta's straight-ahead and free-jazz talent, was in fact made in reference to Chicago's plight by saxophonist and MacArthur Grant recipient Ken Vandermark (Downbeat, Aug. 2000). "There is a willingness on my part to think it possible to play the kind of music I play in the city that I live in on a regular basis," he adds.Thanks to a small, zealous group of Atlanta promoters (e.g. Euphonic Productions) and active venues (e.g. eyedrum), freely improvised music has taken a solid foothold here. The packed house at the Variety Playhouse for the Peter Brotzmann/Chicago Tentet concert of June 28 (which included Vandermark) gives indication that a sizable audience is already in place. Their responsiveness is a positive development for Atlanta — a city notorious for playing it close to the vest. As with the more straight-ahead element of Atlanta's jazz community, any restaurant or club remains fair game for pursuance of a playing engagement. It's a lot of toil and trouble, but it boils down to this: to gig or not to gig.While this column tends to focus primarily on straight-ahead jazz, I genuinely appreciate freer areas of music. But the fact remains: Creative improvised music — whether "free" or based on standard tunes — shall remain forever outside the mainstream. As pianist Horace Silver said, "We've always been the unwanted stepchild" — this despite (or perhaps because of) the incomparable virtuosity of the music's practitioners. Alas, another topic for another column.At this point, tiny Churchill Grounds is Atlanta's only regular jazz club — a sad indication of the overall attitude toward the fine arts in our city of five million-plus. While we're thankful for the sporadic jazz emanating from other venues such as Cafe 290 and Sambuca, CG obviously could use some downtown/hometown competition. What about Paschal's La Carrousel? The Black Arts Festival's peripheral activity, "Nine Naughty Nights of Jazz" — recently held there — showed the potential for presenting jazz on a regular, weekly basis. At least some consolation for CG's near-monopoly lies in the fact that proprietor Sam Yi has good taste, as this month's lineup confirms.Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison performed admirably at CG with the Swing Association some months back, but his upcoming Aug. 25 visit will feature his own heavy-hitting New York quartet of Glen Patcha (p), Vicente Archer (b) and John Lamkin (d). Harrison's most recent recording, Free to Be (Impulse), displays a hard bop-oriented foray with several deviations into Latin, semi-smooth jazz and even rap. Endowed with a beautiful, lush tone and ideas to spare, Donald Harrison will come to play.The Atlanta International Jazz Society (404-876-4725 / Atlantajazz@artlover.com) continues to increase its presence by beginning its monthly concert series at CG Aug. 12. Atlanta-based saxophonist Dennis Springer began turning heads several decades ago with fiery solos on Jeff Lorber's excellent Soft Space album. Expounding upon the traditions of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Springer's quintet of Danny Harper (tp), Ojeda Penn (p), Ramon Pooser (b) and Eddie Langston III (d) promises exciting sets displaying well-crafted, high-energy original material.Atlanta-based guitarist Mike Kelly holds the distinction of being one of the finest improvisers in town, having honed his craft during nine years in NYC backing the likes of Al Gey and Junior Cook. Kelly also deserves kudos for creating gigs where none exist. When New York trumpet legend Richie Vitale blows into town, he and Kelly's trio of Tim Aucoin (b) and Clay Hulet (d) will hit not only CG on Aug. 11 and Sambuca on Aug. 14, but also Alpharetta's Cabernet on Aug. 10 and 1848 Wine Loft on Aug. 12. Vitale is highly regarded among knowledgeable brass players, but remains an unsung hero due to lengthy road time spent with Frank Sinatra. His most recent CD, Dreamsville (TCB), recorded live at Smalls, is both startlingly virtuosic and blatantly evocative.Spivey Hall's Summer Jazz Series ends Aug. 19 on the highest of notes with Kenny Barron's illustrious trio of Ray Drummond (b) and Ben Riley (d). For these ears, no pianist today — jazz or otherwise — is finer than Barron. Although his latest, richly orchestrated release, Spirit Song (Verve) has received great acclaim since its January release, Barron's improvisations are such things of beauty that only the uncluttered sounds of a trio present appropriate backing. For some really sweet ear candy, check out Wanton Spirit (Verve) with Charlie Haden (b) and Roy Haynes (d). Barron's tone and dynamic approach are superlative, not unlike those of Bill Evans during Evans' prime. This will undoubtedly be one of the best jazz concerts of the year in Atlanta.The amphitheater may be chat-stained, but plenty of great music has yet to rise above the din before the Classic Chastain Series draws to a close. Pianist Eddie Palmieri's band squares off with the Tito Puente Orchestra Aug. 9, despite Puente's recent passing. The vocal quartet known as the Manhattan Transfer, which has garnered no fewer than eight Grammys in their 26 years together, will combine material from both the pop and jazz/vocalese idioms at its Aug. 11 Chastain show, probably including, "Boy From New York City," "Birdland," "Until I Met You" and "Another Night in Tunisia." In sync with Louis Armstrong's 100th birth year, MT is currently recording a tribute album of songs associated with the seminal trumpeter/vocalist.Last and probably least on Chastain's "jazz" stage, the Rippingtons perform their perfunctory pop-oriented stuff Aug. 23. Pumping out more CDs than IHOP serves pancakes, the Ripps have saturated the smooth jazz airwaves for longer than we care to realize. Their latest, Topaz (Peak/Windham Hill) virtually drops us off in Taos, N.M. — a sultry, dry place dear to bandleader Russ Freeman's heart. As the Rippingtons are not shy with regard to amplification, the musical results will be easily heard in spite of Chastain's conversing crowd — a most appropriate musical act for those acting up.Incoming/Upcoming:  The Georgia Theatre in Athens hosts guitarist Charlie Hunter with opener Squat Aug. 22 (www.georgiatheatre.com). The Variety Playhouse presents Project/Object, performing the music of Frank Zappa, Aug. 16. The Montreux Atlanta Music Festival presents Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, and George Duke Aug. 27 at Chastain Park Amphitheater (www.atlantafestivals.com). The Robert Ferst Center hosts Earl Klugh Sept. 9 and Keiko Matsui Oct. 10. This summer's Classic Chastain series presents Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Aug. 12. The Rialto Center features Bale Folclorico Sept. 29 and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Oct. 13.Inside Info:  Churchill Grounds presents drummer Bernard Linnette's Quartet featuring saxophonist Howard Nicholson and bassist Rodney Jordan Aug. 18-19. Vocalist Kim Rushing appears every Wednesday and Friday at Eclipse di Luna. The Woody Williams Duo performs Wednesdays at the Cafe in MJQ. Atlanta-based vocalist Rita Graham is currently mixing her long-awaited release.Speak Out:  "I've made thousands of LP masters, and I'm glad to see the LP go. Good riddance." — recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder.Out There:  Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Eyedrum (404-627-8436); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Cafe 290 (404-256-3942); Sambuca Jazz Cafe (404-237-5299); Paschal's La Carrousel (404-523-4800); Cabernet (770-777-5955); 1848 Wine Loft (770-428-1848); Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Chastain (404-733-4800); The Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Eclipse di Luna (404-846-0449).In Here:  Your direct line to this column by e-mail: rozzi1625@aol.com--or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.


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Saturday August 5, 2000 12:04 am EDT
New York-based drummer Franklin Kiermyer has recorded with luminaries such as Pharoah Sanders, Dave Douglas and John Stubblefield. His latest efforts include the inauguration of his own label, SunShip, via deliverance of two disparate, heartfelt recordings. One release finds Kiermyer's propulsive drumming underpinning Buddhist chants, while this quartet outing uses the mid-'60s John Coltrane... | more...
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  string(7453) "In one of the tiny music studios off a winding hallway below Georgia State's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, Woody Williams teaches drums with discernible patience and quietude. The walls of his diminutive room are pristine with several rectangular swatches of dark acoustic absorbent material mounted almost as paintings. No windows look out over the busy downtown street where pedestrians careen and enormous buildings hover. The undertakings within could not have less to do with the bustling world of commerce. Kept inside is only a drum set and percussion of different sizes and shapes — arranged meticulously on the floor to allow tight passage for one or two people. And yet, as the stranger to Williams' compact lair develops even a surface understanding of the man who is Atlanta's premier jazz drummer, the setting takes on a different proportion. With a life so completely immersed in music, the battery within may well be all that Williams needs — really needs — to exist. If Woody Williams has a credo, it surely must read, "Music first; all else will wait."

"I structure my life so that music has first priority and everything else orbits that," Williams offers succinctly. "I spend a great deal of time thinking about music. Sure, I have other interests. I've been a vegetarian for eight years, and I enjoy cooking. Lately, I've gotten into following basketball again, something I used to be into. Studying Spanish is something I really enjoy." Then switching back, "I think the way one lives one's life reflects itself in the music."

Williams' propulsive drumming has been gaining worldwide acclaim for some time now. He has cut several exceptional albums as a sideman with locally connected trumpeters Marcus Printup and Russell Gunn. His tenure with vocalist Nnenna Freelon has produced two fine albums. In fact, Gunn's Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1 on Atlantic, and Freelon's Shaking Free on Concord (the latter also featuring local pianist Bill Anschell) have received Grammy nominations. Woody has traveled to Europe 15 times in the past six years, as well as to Africa and Brazil with various groups. "I've been very fortunate," he concedes. "I really enjoy the musicians I travel and record with."

A steady Wednesday night gig beginning August 2 at MJQ Concourse's newly added Café has finally granted Williams an outlet for exploring his own music in depth. "I'll be doing different configurations of things," he says, obviously delighted. "The percussion will be the springboard for horn players, bassists, poets, story tellers, dancers, other percussionists. There will be a rotating cast. I don't want it to be a jazz thing only," he clarifies. "I want it to encompass all styles. We'll play for an hour, then I'll spin for an hour. The Café is a great place for listening."

Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Williams has been attracted to the sound of drums for as long as he can remember. "My dad worked at Alabama State (where Woody eventually received his bachelor's degree), and some of my earliest memories revolve around being excited about the school's marching band." Williams' older brother was also "into the drums" and helped forge a connection for his younger sibling.

Rudimental snare drum lessons began at age 5. Woody taught himself drum set while in junior high, using his father's Miles Davis and James Brown records as early models. He began commuting to Atlanta for gigs and eventually enrolled in Georgia State, where he received his Master's of Music in Jazz Studies in 1996. Woody lives sparingly, with an admirable lifestyle on and off the stage. Bill Anschell relays, "Woody lives and breathes music. He is the most serious, dedicated musician I've ever known, period. He has impeccable time. Because his playing is so organic — and he often appears in relatively free settings — most people don't know he's a monster sight-reader. He's so creative with grooves — freely incorporating ideas from different idioms into his playing." For an exemplary auditory reference, check out Woody's drumming on Bill Anschell: A Different Note All Together (Accurate).

"Woody and I played together in New York a couple of times backing Nnenna Freelon," continues Anschell, "and when he went to the late-night sessions at Smalls afterwards, people were lining up to get his phone number. If he wanted to move to New York he could rise to the top in the straight-ahead or experimental jazz scenes. The only reason he's not more of a national name is because he stays in Atlanta."

On the local front, Williams performs often at venues such as Churchill Grounds, where straight-ahead jazz is the main course. His drum solos are things of beauty — highly rhythmic melodies relying on the song's intent and form for inspiration, yet flowing impulsively with ideas. Although he knows the history of hard bop as well as anyone, Williams' aspirations run more deeply. For example, his freely improvised "Drum Dialogues" with Andrew Barker (of the Gold Sparkle Band) have become much-anticipated affairs. But Williams' own all-percussion group, La Diaspora Folklorica, is by far closest to his heart and most aligned with his ambitions.

While touring with other groups, Woody has made it a priority to study with the master percussionists of Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean. Passing this knowledge on to La Diaspora Folklorica's percussionists, his long-term goal is to present stylized musical representations of every country once involved in the slave trade.

"Diaspora is a root word that means 'to be dispersed,'" Williams explains. "The African slaves were taken to Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, the United States. Every culture plays different kinds of percussion. My intention is to have a core group of drummers learn these different instruments and rhythms, and still maintain who we are here in America. It's an ongoing process, a synthesis with what we know, more so than true folklorica music." The band's current study combines the bata drum rhythms of the Cuban Santeria religion with the high-energy horn improvisations of American jazz, producing a spiritually rooted, very artistic hybrid.

Unlike most jazz musicians who seek portrayal of themselves through their instruments, Williams sees the transcending of self through music as the epitome of expression. He cites the omnipotent mid-'60s music of John Coltrane as a very strong inspiration. "First of all," Williams relates, "that can be a true sign of greatness — a person who, every time he or she picks up an instrument, is able to go into that space. But that starts with the person away from the instrument. All that great stuff Trane did leading up to the '60s still didn't have the impact of the music he played when he was clean — when he was living a particular kind of lifestyle, with a particular kind of focus.

"I have always been around drums, and have always been drawn to them," Williams sums up quietly. "Some musicians hear melodies or harmony, I've always heard rhythm. In some cultures — not in the West — drums are the most important things in the whole society." In the self-styled existence in which Woody Williams immerses himself daily, the drum remains his fulcrum. His practice, contemplation and performances are very nearly his daily bread.

Woody Williams' regular Wednesday night residency at MJQ Concourse's Café begins August 2.


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  string(7422) "In one of the tiny music studios off a winding hallway below Georgia State's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, Woody Williams teaches drums with discernible patience and quietude. The walls of his diminutive room are pristine with several rectangular swatches of dark acoustic absorbent material mounted almost as paintings. No windows look out over the busy downtown street where pedestrians careen and enormous buildings hover. The undertakings within could not have less to do with the bustling world of commerce. Kept inside is only a drum set and percussion of different sizes and shapes -- arranged meticulously on the floor to allow tight passage for one or two people. And yet, as the stranger to Williams' compact lair develops even a surface understanding of the man who is Atlanta's premier jazz drummer, the setting takes on a different proportion. With a life so completely immersed in music, the battery within may well be all that Williams needs -- ''really'' needs -- to exist. If Woody Williams has a credo, it surely must read, "Music first; all else will wait."

"I structure my life so that music has first priority and everything else orbits that," Williams offers succinctly. "I spend a great deal of time thinking about music. Sure, I have other interests. I've been a vegetarian for eight years, and I enjoy cooking. Lately, I've gotten into following basketball again, something I used to be into. Studying Spanish is something I really enjoy." Then switching back, "I think the way one lives one's life reflects itself in the music."

Williams' propulsive drumming has been gaining worldwide acclaim for some time now. He has cut several exceptional albums as a sideman with locally connected trumpeters Marcus Printup and Russell Gunn. His tenure with vocalist Nnenna Freelon has produced two fine albums. In fact, Gunn's ''Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1'' on Atlantic, and Freelon's ''Shaking Free'' on Concord (the latter also featuring local pianist Bill Anschell) have received Grammy nominations. Woody has traveled to Europe 15 times in the past six years, as well as to Africa and Brazil with various groups. "I've been very fortunate," he concedes. "I really enjoy the musicians I travel and record with."

A steady Wednesday night gig beginning August 2 at MJQ Concourse's newly added Café has finally granted Williams an outlet for exploring his own music in depth. "I'll be doing different configurations of things," he says, obviously delighted. "The percussion will be the springboard for horn players, bassists, poets, story tellers, dancers, other percussionists. There will be a rotating cast. I don't want it to be a jazz thing only," he clarifies. "I want it to encompass all styles. We'll play for an hour, then I'll spin for an hour. The Café is a great place for listening."

Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Williams has been attracted to the sound of drums for as long as he can remember. "My dad worked at Alabama State (where Woody eventually received his bachelor's degree), and some of my earliest memories revolve around being excited about the school's marching band." Williams' older brother was also "into the drums" and helped forge a connection for his younger sibling.

Rudimental snare drum lessons began at age 5. Woody taught himself drum set while in junior high, using his father's Miles Davis and James Brown records as early models. He began commuting to Atlanta for gigs and eventually enrolled in Georgia State, where he received his Master's of Music in Jazz Studies in 1996. Woody lives sparingly, with an admirable lifestyle on and off the stage. Bill Anschell relays, "Woody lives and breathes music. He is the most serious, dedicated musician I've ever known, period. He has impeccable time. Because his playing is so organic -- and he often appears in relatively free settings -- most people don't know he's a monster sight-reader. He's so creative with grooves -- freely incorporating ideas from different idioms into his playing." For an exemplary auditory reference, check out Woody's drumming on ''Bill Anschell: A Different Note All Together'' (Accurate).

"Woody and I played together in New York a couple of times backing Nnenna Freelon," continues Anschell, "and when he went to the late-night sessions at Smalls afterwards, people were lining up to get his phone number. If he wanted to move to New York he could rise to the top in the straight-ahead ''or'' experimental jazz scenes. The only reason he's not more of a national name is because he stays in Atlanta."

On the local front, Williams performs often at venues such as Churchill Grounds, where straight-ahead jazz is the main course. His drum solos are things of beauty -- highly rhythmic melodies relying on the song's intent and form for inspiration, yet flowing impulsively with ideas. Although he knows the history of hard bop as well as anyone, Williams' aspirations run more deeply. For example, his freely improvised "Drum Dialogues" with Andrew Barker (of the Gold Sparkle Band) have become much-anticipated affairs. But Williams' own all-percussion group, La Diaspora Folklorica, is by far closest to his heart and most aligned with his ambitions.

While touring with other groups, Woody has made it a priority to study with the master percussionists of Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean. Passing this knowledge on to La Diaspora Folklorica's percussionists, his long-term goal is to present stylized musical representations of every country once involved in the slave trade.

"Diaspora is a root word that means 'to be dispersed,'" Williams explains. "The African slaves were taken to Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, the United States. Every culture plays different kinds of percussion. My intention is to have a core group of drummers learn these different instruments and rhythms, and still maintain who we are here in America. It's an ongoing process, a synthesis with what we know, more so than true folklorica music." The band's current study combines the bata drum rhythms of the Cuban Santeria religion with the high-energy horn improvisations of American jazz, producing a spiritually rooted, very artistic hybrid.

Unlike most jazz musicians who seek portrayal of themselves through their instruments, Williams sees the transcending of self through music as the epitome of expression. He cites the omnipotent mid-'60s music of John Coltrane as a very strong inspiration. "First of all," Williams relates, "that can be a true sign of greatness -- a person who, every time he or she picks up an instrument, is able to go into that space. But that starts with the person away from the instrument. All that great stuff Trane did leading up to the '60s still didn't have the impact of the music he played when he was clean -- when he was living a particular kind of lifestyle, with a particular kind of focus.

"I have always been around drums, and have always been drawn to them," Williams sums up quietly. "Some musicians hear melodies or harmony, I've always heard rhythm. In some cultures -- not in the West -- drums are the most important things in the whole society." In the self-styled existence in which Woody Williams immerses himself daily, the drum remains his fulcrum. His practice, contemplation and performances are very nearly his daily bread.

''Woody Williams' regular Wednesday night residency at MJQ Concourse's Café begins August 2.''


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  string(7805) "    Drummer Woody Williams lives to the beat   2000-08-05T04:04:00+00:00 body + mind + spirit   James Rozzi  2000-08-05T04:04:00+00:00  In one of the tiny music studios off a winding hallway below Georgia State's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, Woody Williams teaches drums with discernible patience and quietude. The walls of his diminutive room are pristine with several rectangular swatches of dark acoustic absorbent material mounted almost as paintings. No windows look out over the busy downtown street where pedestrians careen and enormous buildings hover. The undertakings within could not have less to do with the bustling world of commerce. Kept inside is only a drum set and percussion of different sizes and shapes — arranged meticulously on the floor to allow tight passage for one or two people. And yet, as the stranger to Williams' compact lair develops even a surface understanding of the man who is Atlanta's premier jazz drummer, the setting takes on a different proportion. With a life so completely immersed in music, the battery within may well be all that Williams needs — really needs — to exist. If Woody Williams has a credo, it surely must read, "Music first; all else will wait."

"I structure my life so that music has first priority and everything else orbits that," Williams offers succinctly. "I spend a great deal of time thinking about music. Sure, I have other interests. I've been a vegetarian for eight years, and I enjoy cooking. Lately, I've gotten into following basketball again, something I used to be into. Studying Spanish is something I really enjoy." Then switching back, "I think the way one lives one's life reflects itself in the music."

Williams' propulsive drumming has been gaining worldwide acclaim for some time now. He has cut several exceptional albums as a sideman with locally connected trumpeters Marcus Printup and Russell Gunn. His tenure with vocalist Nnenna Freelon has produced two fine albums. In fact, Gunn's Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1 on Atlantic, and Freelon's Shaking Free on Concord (the latter also featuring local pianist Bill Anschell) have received Grammy nominations. Woody has traveled to Europe 15 times in the past six years, as well as to Africa and Brazil with various groups. "I've been very fortunate," he concedes. "I really enjoy the musicians I travel and record with."

A steady Wednesday night gig beginning August 2 at MJQ Concourse's newly added Café has finally granted Williams an outlet for exploring his own music in depth. "I'll be doing different configurations of things," he says, obviously delighted. "The percussion will be the springboard for horn players, bassists, poets, story tellers, dancers, other percussionists. There will be a rotating cast. I don't want it to be a jazz thing only," he clarifies. "I want it to encompass all styles. We'll play for an hour, then I'll spin for an hour. The Café is a great place for listening."

Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Williams has been attracted to the sound of drums for as long as he can remember. "My dad worked at Alabama State (where Woody eventually received his bachelor's degree), and some of my earliest memories revolve around being excited about the school's marching band." Williams' older brother was also "into the drums" and helped forge a connection for his younger sibling.

Rudimental snare drum lessons began at age 5. Woody taught himself drum set while in junior high, using his father's Miles Davis and James Brown records as early models. He began commuting to Atlanta for gigs and eventually enrolled in Georgia State, where he received his Master's of Music in Jazz Studies in 1996. Woody lives sparingly, with an admirable lifestyle on and off the stage. Bill Anschell relays, "Woody lives and breathes music. He is the most serious, dedicated musician I've ever known, period. He has impeccable time. Because his playing is so organic — and he often appears in relatively free settings — most people don't know he's a monster sight-reader. He's so creative with grooves — freely incorporating ideas from different idioms into his playing." For an exemplary auditory reference, check out Woody's drumming on Bill Anschell: A Different Note All Together (Accurate).

"Woody and I played together in New York a couple of times backing Nnenna Freelon," continues Anschell, "and when he went to the late-night sessions at Smalls afterwards, people were lining up to get his phone number. If he wanted to move to New York he could rise to the top in the straight-ahead or experimental jazz scenes. The only reason he's not more of a national name is because he stays in Atlanta."

On the local front, Williams performs often at venues such as Churchill Grounds, where straight-ahead jazz is the main course. His drum solos are things of beauty — highly rhythmic melodies relying on the song's intent and form for inspiration, yet flowing impulsively with ideas. Although he knows the history of hard bop as well as anyone, Williams' aspirations run more deeply. For example, his freely improvised "Drum Dialogues" with Andrew Barker (of the Gold Sparkle Band) have become much-anticipated affairs. But Williams' own all-percussion group, La Diaspora Folklorica, is by far closest to his heart and most aligned with his ambitions.

While touring with other groups, Woody has made it a priority to study with the master percussionists of Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean. Passing this knowledge on to La Diaspora Folklorica's percussionists, his long-term goal is to present stylized musical representations of every country once involved in the slave trade.

"Diaspora is a root word that means 'to be dispersed,'" Williams explains. "The African slaves were taken to Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, the United States. Every culture plays different kinds of percussion. My intention is to have a core group of drummers learn these different instruments and rhythms, and still maintain who we are here in America. It's an ongoing process, a synthesis with what we know, more so than true folklorica music." The band's current study combines the bata drum rhythms of the Cuban Santeria religion with the high-energy horn improvisations of American jazz, producing a spiritually rooted, very artistic hybrid.

Unlike most jazz musicians who seek portrayal of themselves through their instruments, Williams sees the transcending of self through music as the epitome of expression. He cites the omnipotent mid-'60s music of John Coltrane as a very strong inspiration. "First of all," Williams relates, "that can be a true sign of greatness — a person who, every time he or she picks up an instrument, is able to go into that space. But that starts with the person away from the instrument. All that great stuff Trane did leading up to the '60s still didn't have the impact of the music he played when he was clean — when he was living a particular kind of lifestyle, with a particular kind of focus.

"I have always been around drums, and have always been drawn to them," Williams sums up quietly. "Some musicians hear melodies or harmony, I've always heard rhythm. In some cultures — not in the West — drums are the most important things in the whole society." In the self-styled existence in which Woody Williams immerses himself daily, the drum remains his fulcrum. His practice, contemplation and performances are very nearly his daily bread.

Woody Williams' regular Wednesday night residency at MJQ Concourse's Café begins August 2.


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Saturday August 5, 2000 12:04 am EDT
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