Tag Archives: Jim McNeely

NANCY HARROW COMES BEARING GIFTS, AGAIN: “PARTNERS II”

There are many signs that 2021 will be a New and Improved Year: you can list your own.  A significant one is the appearance of a new Nancy Harrow CD, PARTNERS II: I Don’t Know What Kind of Blues I’ve Got.  For those of you who greet this news with delight — and for those of you who have the pleasure of discovering Nancy Harrow waiting for you — here’s her HAVIN’ MYSELF A TIME, with Clark Terry, Dick Katz, Ray Drummond, and Ben Riley:

One of the most beautiful things about that performance is that, hearing it again, I don’t think, “Oh, that’s a Billie Holiday song,” but rather, “How wonderful Nancy sounds!” For the moment, Billie has retired to another room.

This, to me, is testament to the strength — a winning strength — of Nancy’s artistic self.  The cliche is “She sounds like herself,” but it is not a cliche, especially when so many singers do not.

Singing should be easy — we are organisms capable of making all kinds of vocal sounds, from the pleased wordless sounds of delight when we meet, by chance, someone we haven’t seen for a long time, to the sound we might make when something falls on your bare foot.  But we know that singing is more than opening one’s mouth and — even knowing the melody and the words — letting our impulses take over.  So much is craft, simultaneously delicate and passionate, the way one phrases a particular word in a line, the tone one uses to surround that word, the timbre.

In HAVIN’ MYSELF A TIME, the placement of each syllable is the result of Nancy’s lifetime of on-the-job immersion; at the same time, it is improvised and fresh, a kind of emotion-driven speech set to music.  She has immersed herself in the song so that the sharp edges of where Song ends and where Nancy starts are happily erased, but her personality shines through in every choice she makes.  It’s not Acting in some melodramatic way but Nancy is having herself a time for those minutes it takes the performance to unfold.  I hear her smile, but it is a wise smile, not boundless enthusiasm, separate from craft.

Not for the first time, hearing Nancy, I think of the paradox she presents, evoking Whitman,

This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

where at once she leans forward to tell us a secret in her own quiet way, even as the secret is sung aloud to everyone in the room.  Her art is completely personal and completely universal.  I haven’t described the perfect tang of her singing voice, at once tender and salty, her emotional range, also moving from sly amusement to grief, her innate rhythmic pulse, her complete connection with the words as well as the melody line: you must hear these magics for yourself.  And you have a new opportunity in PARTNERS II.

This disc is an anthology of performances Nancy selected — from 1961 to 2016 — with two previously unissued performances.  Even if you have squirreled away all of Nancy’s CDs (a lovely shelf-full) as I have, it is thrilling to hear her own choices, arranged as if brilliant tiles in a mosaic or familiar poems in new contexts, each reflecting the sheen of its neighbor, seeming new because of it.  And PARTNERS II (there is a I, also available) speaks to Nancy’s sense of the buoyant jazz community, so we also hear Buck Clayton, Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Grady Tate, Frank Wess, Bob Brookmeyer, Roland Hanna, Jack Wilkins, Jim McNeely, Rufus Reid, John Lewis, Richard Davis, Connie Kay, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Mraz, and Bob Brookmeyer.

Here’s one more — Nancy’s own (yes! words and music) IF I WANT TO, with Chris Ziemba, Owen Broder, Alex Claffy, Dennis Mackrel:

PARTNERS II is available as a physical disc from Amazon, and in digital format at all the usual places.  More importantly, it is Nancy’s gift of her music, of her irreplaceable self — things told in confidence that we can treasure as our own.

May your happiness increase!

DAN MORGENSTERN’S CHICAGO DAYS (July 8, 2017)

Readers of JAZZ LIVES know the esteem that we who love this music hold Dan Morgenstern in, and I continue to be pleased and honored that he permits me to ask him questions in front of my camera.  We had another little session on July 8, 2017, and I asked Dan to tell us all about his days in Chicago.  Here are three interview segments, full of good stories.

First, stories about DOWN BEAT, Don DeMicheal, Robert Kaiser, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Harriet Choice, John Coltrane, Joe Segal, Dexter Gordon, Art Hodes, Gene Lees, and others:

and more, about Art Hodes, Jimmy McPartland, Pee Wee Russell, Norman Murphy, Marty Grosz, George Grosz, Wayne Jones, AACM, Muhal Richard Abrams, Jim McNeely, Harriet Choice, John Steiner, Edith Wilson, the Brecker Brothers:

and, finally, tales of Rush Street, Tiny Davis, the blues, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Harlem:

The warmth of Dan’s being comes through in every word.  And who else on the planet has had first-hand encounters with (let us say) both Edith Wilson and the AACM?  I have several more segments from this afternoon to share with you, and Dan and I have a return encounter planned for more.

And because a posting about Dan has to have some relevant music, here is the JUST JAZZ program he produced with Robert Kaiser, featuring Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Lou Forestieri, Frankyln Skeete, and Don DeMicheal:

May your happiness increase!

BIG BAND JAZZ — FREE! — IN NEW YORK CITY

(To my readers in the tristate area: there’s no JVC Jazz Festival this year, and free jazz events of this caliber don’t happen often, if at all . . . so consider this one!)

BIG BAND JAZZ CELEBRATED

AT ACCLAIMED BMI JAZZ COMPOSER WORKSHOP’S

21st ANNUAL SHOWCASE CONCERT

Darcy J. Argue, Dan Morgenstern, and Dennis Mackrel to Judge Tenth Annual Charlie Parker

Jazz Composition Prize

NEW YORK, June 2, 2009 — The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, a noted creative forum for musical exploration and development, will highlight the best new jazz compositions created during the last year at its 21st Annual Summer Showcase Concert.  The concert is free to the public, and will be held on Friday, June 26 at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church (120 West 69th Street) at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece modern repertory ensemble made up of leading New York musicians.  Seating is first-come, first-served; doors open at 7:00 p.m.   The evening will also feature a competition to choose the winner of the BMI Foundation’s tenth annual Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, which will be given to the writer of the best new work composed in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.  This year’s judges include noted jazz authority Dan Morgenstern; Secret Society bandleader and composer Darcy J. Argue; and noted jazz drummer and composer Dennis Mackrel.

The winning composer will receive a cash award and a $3,000 commission to compose a new piece for the following year’s concert.  Named in memory of the Workshop’s co-founder and longtime musical director, last year’s “Manny Albam Commission” winner, Jeff Fairbanks, will premiere his commissioned work.  The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop is led by internationally renowned composers Jim McNeely and offers a unique collaborative environment for professional jazz musicians with an emphasis on composition for the large jazz (big band) ensemble.  The Workshop – a well-known forum for creative excellence – provides an environment where composers are free to explore new avenues in the creative process, while at the same time honing their skills.  McNeely has performed with and written for Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, among others; is a six-time Grammy Award nominee; and The New York Times has called his writing “exhilarating.”

About BMI

BMI’s impressive roster of jazz artists includes such legends as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus, as well as today’s new jazz stars like Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Kevin Eubanks, Joshua Redman, Mark Whitfield and Bobby Watson. Broadcast Music, Inc.® (BMI) is an American performing right organization that represents more than 375,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works.

About the BMI Foundation, Inc.

The BMI Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985 to support the creation, performance, and study of music through awards, scholarships, commissions and grants. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation come primarily from songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI employees and members of the public with a special interest in music. Because both the Foundation staff and the distinguished members of the Advisory Panel serve without compensation, over 95% of all donations and income are used for charitable grants.