Recorded! Jazz Guitarist Sam Ahia in Maui

ahia-sam-02No, I’d never heard of Sam, either. He’s one of those gems, hiding on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Maui (Hawaii), to be specific. You might think of the local musicians as tourist attractions, but there are plenty of great performers there and Sam is one of them. Continue reading

Heard Live! Vince Lateano, Joshua Breakstone & Peter Barshay at Cafe Pinkhouse

2016-11-17-lateano-breakstone-barshay-006I’m lucky to live in Silicon Valley, there are several venues that play live jazz pretty often. One of the newest is Cafe Pinkhouse in Saratoga, Calif. The place holds maybe 50-60 people, all facing an oddly shaped stage that sort of measures 25 feet by 10 feet. In fact, the whole room is oddly shaped to begin with. There’s a piano squeezed into the front corner. Continue reading

See It! W. Eugene Smith and the Sound of New York Jazz

You don’t know W. Eugene Smith…but he is generally considered to be the greatest American photojournalist. From 1957-1965, he opened his New York city loft to the jazz musicians of the era and shot stills pictures, 40,000 of them!

Plus, he recorded 4000 hours of audio (not all of it is music). It was just released as a documentary movie called The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith.

Back when I was in photojournalism school in the late 1980s, my instructor at San Jose State University, Jim McNay, had me read a book about Smith.  McNay’s contention was that many of our greatest artists are essentially crazy. Smith could certainly be seen in that light. Continue reading

Found! Guitar/Guitar by Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd

55-ellis-byrd-guitarMy favorite jazz guitar record might be this relatively obscure LP, Guitar/Guitar (Columbia CS 9130, stereo) by Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis. It isn’t flashy or fast. No fretboard fireworks. Just two pros, playing together and making great music. I can listen to this quite a bit and not tire of it.

Byrd is not my favorite guitarist. He and Ellis also played together with Barney Kessel on a few LPs on the Concord label in the 1970s. Continue reading

Heard Live! Trumpeter Mark Inouye

WP- Inouye, MarkMark Inouye is the best kept secret in jazz in the San Francisco Bay Area. Heck, maybe the world.

“I only play jazz once a year, and tonight is it!” he said to me. “Tonight” was a concert to raise funds for the Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah. Topaz is the site where Inouye’s father, Takara, was incarcerated during World War II. Long story short is that his efforts to learn more about his father’s journey led him to play before a packed house at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco on July 10.

The Conservatory of Music…hmm. Doesn’t sound like a jazz club, and that’s because it’s not. It’s where you would hear symphonic music. “Classical music” you might say. But not jazz. Inouye is one of the few musicians who can do both, and both are spectacular. He occupies the first trumpet chair for the San Francisco Symphony and he has been cited as among the world’s best at his craft. Continue reading

Found! Stanley Wilson’s “Music From The M Squad”

M Squad-WP2As a fan of 1950s American television, I was intrigued by this record, from a show I had never heard of, M Squad (RCA LPM 2062, mono). The cover told me all I needed to know about it, however. A hard boiled Lee Marvin, with pistol in hand, blasting away at some unseen criminal. Marvin, a terrific actor, could play a role like this easily, so I bought the LP and hoped for the best. The music, like Marvin, was excellent.

It reminded me of a more famous TV show from the same time period, Peter Gunn. Dark, smoky jazz, set in a simpler time. There were criminals, sure, but most of them were small time hoods, looking for a quick buck. Continue reading

Found! Hank Mobley’s Thinking Of Home

mobley, hank-thinking of home-WPAwhile back I was at the radio station KCSM vinyl record swap and came across an oddity. A Hank Mobley LP, Thinking Of Home (Blue Note LT 1045, stereo, 1970) in a hand made cover. Well, hand made is putting it nicely. The original cover must have been lost and someone took a Milt Jackson cover, turned it inside-out and hand wrote the LP title and song list on the ‘new’ outside cover. I had not heard of this LP, but what intrigued me was a note on the cover, “Perfect Blue Note with ears.Continue reading