Maria Muldaur, Real Deal, Newport preview
January 1, 1970A bunch of stuff ran in the Boston Globe this week, beginning with a cover preview of the 50th anniversary Newport Jazz Festival for the weekly Calendar section.
Two Friday pieces turned out to be a tad problematic. A new jazz club is being opened tonight in Cambridge by Fenton Hollander, the man who ran the Regattabar for the Charles Hotel for nearly 20 years and was forced out of that job in late May. So I profiled his opening act — Maria Muldaur, famous for her 1970s hit "Midnight at the Oasis" — and was asked to write a short sidebar about the new club and Hollander.
Unfortunately, my editor misread a sentence in the sidebar, and in trimming the story to fit the allotted space switched its meaning around completely. The Regattabar lacks a stage and has a noisy bar in the room; the Real Deal Jazz Club has neither of these problems. But that's not what the story that ran in the paper said. Hollander, needless to say, was pretty annoyed by this. He was further annoyed by the paper omitting the usual box with the main story — the Muldaur profile — containing basic info about show times, tickets prices, and a phone number for reservations ... a particularly irritating lapse when a brand new club is involved.
The lack of the info box turned out to be because of a very tight space squeeze in the paper. That limited space meant that some of the best stuff in the Muldaur profile — the anecdote about the jug band playing for Duke Ellington, the part of the quote from Jerry Wexler calling jazz an art form whereas rock 'n' roll (which made him and his Atlantic Records partners rich) is a craft — never saw print. My editor was as disppointed by this as I was, but felt she had no choice but to cut the piece to fit. (She might have just cut the Real Deal sidebar altogether, but her boss had specifically requested the sidebar.)
In any case, this whole lengthy preamble is to set up the fact that I'm breaking with tradition for this week's newsletter and sending you the versions of the Muldaur and Real Deal stories that I turned in, rather than those that ran in the paper. If you're curious about how the Muldaur story appeared in the paper, you can read it in that version on my website home page. (I think I'll just let the Real Deal story with the editing error die a quiet death and leave it off the website altogether.)
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Maria Muldaur is the real deal
By Bill Beuttler
It may, at first glance, seem a little incongruous for Cambridge's newest jazz club to feature Maria Muldaur when it opens for business tomorrow night. Muldaur, after all, is best known for her 1970s pop hit "Midnight at the Oasis," a still-golden oldie that no one was ever meant to mistake for jazz.
But Muldaur, 60, is a master of multiple genres (blues, folk, bluegrass, R&B, rock, and gospel among them), and two of her most recent CDs have been heavily - and authentically - jazz-inflected.
Tomorrow's Real Deal sets (another Muldaur jazz show will follow next Saturday at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley) are being billed as a tribute to Peggy Lee, a la Muldaur's delectable 2003 CD of Lee covers, "A Woman Alone with the Blues." Muldaur herself, on the phone from her home north of San Francisco, says she'll also be previewing her only slightly less jazzy follow-up CD, "Love Wants to Dance," due out next month, as well as singing a tune or two from her compilation CD from earlier this year, "I'm a Woman: 30 Years of Maria Muldaur."
"I'm touring with the Joshua Wolf trio," she says, "a very hot little jazz trio out of New York."
That Muldaur possesses the right sort of chops to do so might surprise those who've lost track of her post-"Oasis." Indeed, the legendary record producer Jerry Wexler calls her ability to sing jazz a well-kept secret.
"She's evolved into a highly sophisticated jazz singer," says Wexler. "She can sing ballads, she can sing standards. And there is no recognition of this - that is, no commercial recognition. But I hold her in the highest esteem. I think she's one of the great song interpreters of today, and I'm not talking rock and roll or folk. I'm talking about jazz, which is the more evolved discipline by far. If rock and roll is a craft, jazz is an art form."
Muldaur hasn't given up other types of music. "Sisters & Brothers," a CD collaboration with Eric Bibb and Rory Block mixing blues, folk, and gospel, also came out earlier this year. And just this past weekend Muldaur took her fiddle to longtime pal Linda Ronstadt's house to discuss doing a trio CD with the bluegrass artist Laurie Lewis.
But Muldaur put out her first couple of jazz CDs, "Sweet and Slow" (with Dr. John) and "Transblucency" (with Kenny Barron, et al) in the 1980s, and she says that her ties to the music go back even farther.
She grew up in Greenwich Village listening to the country music of Kitty Wells and the R&B of Ruth Brown, spent some time in North Carolina learning to play fiddle and jamming with Doc Watson, and in 1963 moved to Cambridge, where she joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and met her husband, band mate Geoff Muldaur.
The Kweskin band's repertoire included covers of early jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and Duke Ellington.
"I'll never forget when the president of Warner Brothers brought Duke Ellington in to see the jug band at the Troubadour in L.A.," Muldaur recalls. "I mean, there was his unmistakable profile with the little pony tail sitting front row center as we walked in. The club was almost empty. We got there early, so we spotted him right away. And my ex-husband, Geoffrey, got so nervous he broke out in hives and diarrhea immediately. He pulled himself together, and we had a big debate, 'Should we do "Mood Indigo" for one of our numbers?' In the end we did, and [Ellington] was pleasantly amused, I'm sure."
The Kweskin band broke up in 1968, and the Muldaurs moved with their young daughter to Woodstock, N.Y., two years later, where they became part of a then-thriving music scene that included Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, and The Band. A couple of years later, the Muldaurs split up as a couple as well. Geoff joined Butterfield in a blues band. Maria soon afterward recorded the 1973 album "Maria Muldaur" and its hit single, "Midnight at the Oasis."
Her jazz connection became deeper with her next year's follow-up, "Waitress in a Donut Shop," which featured horn arrangements by Benny Carter on a few cuts, along with sidemen such as Shelly Manne, Ray Brown, and Harry "Sweets" Edison. It also featured what has become Muldaur's theme song, "I'm a Woman," a tune Muldaur had discovered years earlier on the jukebox in a Greenwich Village tavern, the B side of the Peggy Lee hit "Fever."
She thought of Peggy Lee again when producer Randy Labbe called a couple of years ago suggesting she do some sort of "Maria Muldaur does the songs of ..." album. And was happy enough with the result to want to do a follow-up. "Love Wants to Dance" features Muldaur's covers of songs associated with Blossom Dearie and Taj Mahal, as well as her take on a recent Bob Dylan tune she's particularly fond of.
"When I heard [Dylan's] song 'Moonlight,'" she says, "I just thought it was the most gorgeous song I'd ever heard, and so melodic and beautiful and romantic. I imagined Bing Crosby crooning under the balcony of some gal in a 1930s movie."
Don't be surprised, then, to hear a little Dylan at the Real Deal. Or, for that matter, a jazzed-up version of "Midnight at the Oasis."
"My roots in jazz go way back," says Muldaur, "but I'm just really an American singer of American songs. I always say that my career could be described as a long and rambling odyssey through various forms of American roots music. Stylistically my genre might change a little bit, but mostly when I do an album I'm trying to bring beautiful stories to people."
At: The Real Deal Jazz Club & Café, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge, tomorrow night, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., tickets $22. Call 617-876-7777.
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Real Deal Jazz Club
(Jazz Notes sidebar)
By Bill Beuttler
Cambridge is about to get another jazz club, beginning tomorrow night. Less than eight weeks after Fenton Hollander closed out a 19-year run booking jazz at the Regattabar, he is opening a competitor, the Real Deal Jazz Club, at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in East Cambridge.
Hollander, who was informed in late May that he had lost out in his bid to continue overseeing the Regattabar's jazz programming for the Charles Hotel, has already been replaced at the R-bar by the New York-based Blue Note Jazz Clubs, whose first shows at the Charles got underway two weeks ago.
Hollander, meanwhile, spent the past few months scrambling to find a new venue for his own operation, and putting up with a kind of sympathetic silence.
"A lot of people didn't want to call me up," he says, "because they didn't want to hear somebody as destroyed as [people assumed] I would be. They didn't want to hear whining, and I don't blame them — I wouldn't either."
Those who did brave phone calls were pleasantly surprised. "They would call me up and find out that I was buoyant," says Hollander. "I didn't have anything solid, but I was working on stuff."
Among the callers was the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. Hollander paid the building a visit, and found the room being offered for jazz bookings more suitable than he'd remembered it, dimly, from a visit many years before.
"It used to have an acoustic problem," he says, "which they have thoroughly fixed, by hanging blankets extensively on the walls and a heavy drape around the stage."
The new club will seat 220, at cocktail tables. On balance, Hollander says he prefers the new room to his old one.
"I was talking to some people in the Bad Plus," says Hollander, who produced that trio's show at the Somerville Theatre three weeks ago and had booked them at the Regattabar in the past. "I was explaining the situation to them, and that we don't work there anymore. And they said they were kind of curious about the fact they'd heard so much about the Regattabar, and then when they got there, and this is a quote, 'It didn't have too much to recommend it, except who else had played there.' And they wondered what the fuss was about, because physically it's got many problems."
The Real Deal has few of those same problems — the view obstructing column in the middle of the room, the absence of an actual stage, the noisy proximity of the bar — and it does have theatrical lighting, which the Regattabar would be hard-pressed to add due to its low ceiling. Beer and wine will be available, as will appetizers and light entrees, but no hard liquor (advantage: Regattabar). The CMAC is a short walk from the Lechmere T stop and one block from the 1,100-car East Cambridge Garage, which will charge Real Deal patrons $3 for parking.
As for the music, Hollander is continuing to book some of the best jazz in town, and he's already announced a very rare duet performance by Jim Hall and Dave Holland for December.
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Newport celebrates its 50th by going back to its roots
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | August 5, 2004
The big news about this year's 50th anniversary Newport jazz festival may seem a trifle obvious to those unfamiliar with festivals past.
"I'm going back to jazz," says George Wein, the concert promoter who has been in charge of all of the Newport jazz festivals to date. "I want to see if there are enough jazz fans, without bringing in pop or crossover names."
Over the years, Wein, 78, has risked (and sometimes reaped) the ire of jazz purists by booking r&b, fusion, and other popular genres alongside the more straight-ahead stuff at his many jazz festivals around the world, including Newport. The idea was to broaden the tent, bring in more gate receipts, and maybe turn a few neophytes lured by the other acts into jazz fans themselves.
But there'll be no such comingling at this year's festival — now officially designated the JVC Jazz Festival-Newport — which starts Wednesday and runs through Aug. 15 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I.
"I decided to change the formula this year," says Wein. "It's jazz that has made the Newport jazz festival a great festival, so let's salute jazz in the 50th year."
Salute it they shall. Among this year's highlights are tributes to many of the greatest figures from jazz's past. The Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra will salute Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie on Saturday, followed by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra saluting Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Louis Armstrong on Sunday. Other small-group tributes will honor Monk (again), John Coltrane, Art Blakey, and Herbie Nichols.
Living blasts from festivals past include bassist Percy Heath and alto saxophonist Lee Kontiz, both of whom played at that first Newport Jazz Festival back in 1954; Dave Brubeck, whose Newport debut came the next year; and drummer Chico Hamilton, who was among the artists featured in the film documentary from the 1958 festival, "Jazz on a Summer's Day."
In addition, this year a third stage is being added to the usual two to feature mostly solo work from a dozen top jazz pianists.
All that extra talent costs money, which is why jazz fans will face higher ticket prices this year. "We don't seem to be getting any price resistance — our prices are still low compared to pop concerts," says Wein. "It's not that any one artist costs a fortune, but our budgets are maybe bigger than we've ever had, because there's 80 or 90 people I'm paying, and paying all of them well. You've got two big bands that cost us a lot of money, (plus) Herbie Hancock and Ornette Coleman and McCoy Tyner, an all-star band, and three tents and three stages."
That's a lot of jazz. Let the music begin.
"The Gates of Justice"
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Rogers High School, 15 Wickham Rd., Newport
Mr. "Take Five" himself will open this year's festivities at Newport's Rogers High School, joined by baritone Kevin Deas, cantor Alberto Mizrahi, and the Providence Singers, for his large-scale sacred compostion, "The Gates of Justice." Brubeck wrote the cantata in 1969, commissioned by the Union of Hebrew Congregations and the College Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, to celebrate the common struggles of Jews and African-Americans. Brubeck, 83, will also perform with his quartet Aug. 14 at the JVC Jazz Stage at Fort Adams State Park.
Harry Connick Jr.
Dunkin' Donuts Stage
The closest thing to a pop star at this year's festival, Connick's big-band performance Friday night at the Newport Casino is long-since sold out. That's not to say he's not jazz, as anyone who caught him at FleetBoston Pavilion a few weeks ago can attest. It's also not to say you can't see him at Newport this year. On Aug. 14, Connick plays straight-ahead piano with his quartet at the JVC main stage, touting his vocal-less, small-group CD from last year, "Other
John Coltrane Remembered
JVC Jazz Stage
Trane and his legendary early 1960s quartet will be honored at the JVC stage on Saturday, with a leading Coltrane tenor-sax disciple, Michael Brecker, and Coltrane's son, Ravi Coltrane, sharing the saxophone duties. McCoy Tyner will play himself on piano, Christian McBride will stand in for the late Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Roy Haynes will replace the recently departed Elvin Jones on drums. It's a lineup that promises to make this a memorable set.
Branford Marsalis Quartet
JVC Jazz Stage
Branford Marsalis's Cambridge-based record label, Marsalis Music, will make quite a splash in Newport this year. Labelmates Connick and Doug Wamble have been granted slots at the Dunkin' Donuts Stage on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. And when Branford himself takes the JVC stage with his quartet and guest Miguel Zenón on Saturday, three more of the label's artists will be represented: Zenón, pianist Joey Calderazzo (whose solo piano CD, "Haiku," was released this week), and the Branford Marsalis Quartet itself, whose CD of melancholic ballads, "Eternal," is due out Sept. 14. The quartet — Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxes, Calderazzo on piano, Eric Reavis on bass, and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums — is among the finest working combos in jazz.
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
JVC Jazz Stage
On Sunday, Branford's brother Wynton leads a salute to three great creators from the jazz pantheon: Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Louis Armstrong. Joining the trumpet-playing Marsalis and his orchestra as special guests are saxophonist James Carter, violinist Regina Carter, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and the venerabletrumpeter/ fluegelhornist Clark Terry, who himself logged nearly a decade in the Ellington orchestra's trumpet section.
Ornette Coleman Quartet
JVC Jazz Stage
Alto saxophonist Coleman burst onto the jazz scene in a big, controversial way in 1959, five years after the first Newport festival, and didn't make his first Newport appearance until 1971. He may not have single-handedly altered the shape of jazz since then, but he is undeniably among the music's most innovative composers. These days, Coleman's quartet is rounded out by his son, Denardo Coleman, on drums, and by dual bassists, Tony Falanga and Greg Cohen.
Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, and Brian Blade
JVC Jazz Stage
This super-group offsets the curious omission of Miles Davis from the jazz greats singled out for salutes at this year's Newport bash. Pianist Hancock and saxophonist Shorter played together in Davis's famous 1960s quintet, along with bassist Ron Carter (who make a couple of appearances himself at Newport this year) and the late drummer Tony Williams. Holland replaced Carter in the quintet, and like the others went on to decades of subsequent stardom in lead roles. The new kid in this bunch is drummer Blade, a fast-rising star who has already backed everyone from Joshua Redman to Joni Mitchell.
Cos of Good Music
JVC Jazz Stage
Taking a break from shaming inner-city parents into getting their sons to pull their pants up and quit cussing, comedian Bill Cosby tries his hand at conducting a band made up of trumpeter Wallace Roney, saxophonist James Carter, pianist Geri Allen, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Ndugu Chancler. Cosby played a little jazz drums himself way back when, and phoned Down Beat magazine with a funny story about his inadequacy in that capacity when Philly Joe Jones died in 1985. Cosby had once sat in on drums with Jones in the audience, and had played the best set of his life. "So," Cosby recalled, "feeling good about myself, I went over and I sat down. And Philly Joe said, 'Yeah, Bill, you know what?' I said, 'What?' He said, 'If you take me on the road with you for about three months, I could clean all that up for you.'"
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