I admire the tenor saxophonist Ted Brown immensely — for his quiet lyricism, his floating melodic improvisations that seem to come directly from his heart through the bell of his horn.
And Ted — soft-spoken, reticent, not a man to call attention to himself — reversed the usual practice in December 2012 when it came to celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday. Instead of sitting at a table surrounded by people who love and admire him, opening gifts and receiving congratulations, Ted gave us presents — as you will see and hear below.
This is the first of a three-part series celebrating Ted: the first two parts will present a divinely inspired evening at Michael Kanan’s Brooklyn studio, The Drawing Room (December 2); the third part will document an evening at Somethin’ Jazz (December 13) where Ted was joined by the energetically lyrical trumpeter Bob Arthurs.
Here’s the first part: music performed at The Drawing Room with tenor saxophonist Brad Linde and Michael Kanan as guiding spirits alongside Ted. For once, I will leave all commentary aside: Ted’s music really speaks deeply for itself, a mixture of lightness and deep feeling — conscious spiritual homage to Lester Young.
BROADWAY features Ted, Brad Linde, Michael Kanan, Murray Wall (string bass), Taro Okamoto (drums):
SMOG EYES adds alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes for a famous original line of Ted’s:
MY MELANCHOLY BABY was an amusing choice, given the broad smiles in the room:
317 EAST 32nd STREET belongs to Lennie Tristano — his line on OUT OF NOWHERE chord changes:
A second set paired Ted with the wonderful cornetist Kirk Knuffke, Chris Lightcap (dtring bass);, Matt Wilson (drums). It was my first in-person introduction to Kirk and Matt, and I am still amazed, three weeks later.
They began with BLIMEY (on the chords of LIMEHOUSE BLUES):
Then, three more famous Brown original lines — FEATHER BED:
JAZZ OF TWO CITIES:
Michael and Brad joined in for SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’ (on the chords of I FOUND A NEW BABY):’
What astonishing music! Happy birthday, Mr. Brown — with more music and more birthdays to come.
And for those who are inspired by these videos to want something musical they can carry around, Ted has released two new compact discs: one, TWO OF A KIND Bleebop 1202, pairs him with Brad; POUND CAKE, Steeplechase 31749, puts him alongside Kirk and Matt. I will have more to say about these discs in 2013, but you don’t need my permission to venture boldly into ownership. Delicious airs!
And for some of my more “traditionally-minded” readers who might be inclined to back away from this “modern” jazz . . . . listen deeply and you will hear Lester and Jo Jones — their swing, their lightness — brought into this century by warm gentle improvising men and women.
Thanks to the spirits — Lester, Jo, Lennie, Bird — and to the people in the room: Hyland and Ben, Stephanie and Lena . . . as well as to the heroes making the music.
May your happiness increase.