January 1, 1970A first this week — the weekly Jazz Notes column was held for lack of space, and will run early next week instead. Maybe some jazz buffs will notice the absence from yesterday's paper and complain to the Globe, and help make sure it doesn't happen again. It's not something the paper should make a habit of if it wants to appear serious about covering jazz.
In any case, that means a thin newsletter this week. The only story in it is today's review of a Wednesday night concert by Joe Sample of Crusaders fame. By the time Sample's first set was over, the Red Sox had a 6-0 lead in the second inning of Game 7. Go Sox!
* * * * *
Jazz-funk pianist presents history with class
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | October 23, 2004
Joe Sample told the audience at the first of his two engaging and educational solo piano sets at Scullers on Wednesday that he came of age musically during a time after World War II that marked the end of the swing era and the beginnings of rhythm and blues.
Sample went on to bring R&B elements to the popular jazz-funk ensemble the Crusaders. Lately, though, he has been looking back in jazz history to the swing era and all that preceded it. His new CD, "Soul Shadows," pays solo-piano homage to Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and other bygone greats.
It was this old-time music that Sample emphasized Wednesday, though he began by launching into something of his own, "Free Yourself," from his album "Old Places, Old Faces." As with all that would follow, Sample made greater use of his left hand than do most post-bebop pianists, but the tune served mainly as a warm-up for the show, which consisted of Sample interspersing short, personal histories of the songs he would play with the music itself.
He started by saluting James Reese Europe for introducing jazz overseas during World War I and popularizing the music's first civil rights song, "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?" Next up was Al Jolson's "Avalon." For that song, Sample recounted hearing Benny Goodman's quartet on his car radio once and noted that the left hand of Goodman's piano player, Teddy Wilson, functioned as the group's bass. Sample's playing on both of those pieces was solid but somewhat mechanical.
Announcing he'd have liked to raise hell with Fats Waller and stride great James P. Johnson, Sample then played credible versions of Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Johnson's "Carolina Shout." A lovely medley of his own "Spellbound" and Ellington's "I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good" followed, but the set peaked with Sample's imagined foray into a bawdy house for rollicking renditions of Morton's "Shreveport Stomp," Joplin's "The Entertainer," and a Waller-inspired version of "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie."
Scrutinizing these pieces as art music in a modern jazz club felt slightly disorienting — this music was originally played at dance halls, rent parties, and bordellos. So, too, did the sight of this old jazz funk pioneer so earnestly playing it. But Sample's disarming and informative stage patter helped offset that. It was, in the end, a show worth missing a couple of innings of Game 7 for.
At: Scullers,Wednesday night, first set
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company