My journey with music never ends. What I listen to is a function of my age, my mood, the time of the year and, often, random occurrences and factors. I’d estimate that 85 percent of what I listen to is some form of jazz or the American Songbook, but I grew up with Motown on the radio so Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and the gang are always part of my jam.
Within the world of jazz, I float like a butterfly and then sting like a bee. I can listen to all types of jazz within a listening session but I am also prone to grabbing one type and diving deep. Hard Bop is my jazz du jour right now. I love the pulse and the explosiveness of the music. Individual performances seem to be more pronounced and simply listening to Hard Bop is a joyful experience.
And, though many of the more famous Hard Bop musicians branched to and from other types of jazz, Hard Bop can claim Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and many others. Some of our more renowned cruise participants, Herbie Hancock, Benny Golson, Lou Donaldson, McCoy Tyner, Phil Woods, Ron Carter, etc., were Hard Bop devotees. The names mentioned are formidable, for sure, so admiring Hard Bop is hardly a minority view. I never suggested that my taste in music was special!
If there is anything noteworthy about my likes and dislikes, it would be its eclectic nature. There are aspects of nearly every form of music that I like and, similarly, dislike. Recently, for no reason whatsoever, I have tried to understand if there are any common threads in my music tastes. Here is what I have learned:
First, I like a strong beat or groove. Feeling the music is important to me.
Second, at some point in the tune, there must be a melody that is repeatable and moving. The length of that melody is not important. Think about Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.” The melody is brief in length and narrowly repeated, but it is dynamic, catchy and memorable. Miles Davis’ “So What” and Marcus Miller’s “Maputo” have the same quality. Both tunes have strong bass intros, followed by amazing solos, one by Miles and one by David Sanborn. These melodies exist amidst a lot of other music, but those interludes are the most captivating, at least for me, portions of the tunes.
Third, I like beautiful instrumental music. It can be the piano, a saxophone or a trumpet leading the way, but when someone takes off and creates a riff or a solo that is special, I am enthralled. Kirk Whalum’s solo in “I Will Always Love You” or almost any Randy Brecker solo are cases in point. One musician, playing one instrument, in the context of a larger tune. That is magic to me.
I’m not sure how we got to this point. Oh, yeah, I was telling you that I am deep into Hard Bop. At some point my musical journey will focus on other types of music as well. But, that music will have a great beat, a lovely melody and will feature an amazing instrumental solo. That much is certain.
Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director – Jazz of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Note at Sea ’21 Lineup Update
Blue Note at Sea ’20 is now synonymous with amazing, once-in-a-lifetime performances by great players sharing the bandstand with other great players for the first time or in rare appearances. You can see and feel that magic in the new Blue Note at Seaphoto gallery now online.
To make sure that we continue this path, we are working hard to corral the sidemen of our headliners and add individual performers who can spice up any grouping. The Blue Note at Sea ’21 lineup now includes Sheila E. and her amazing band of stars; the one and only Joey DeFrancesco, who is a band all by himself; singer/drummer Jamison Ross and all-star drummer Bill Stewart.
There are several more slots to fill, but how about this lineup so far!
Trumpeter Christian Scott, who returns to Blue Note at Sea in 2021, is set for a six-night run starting March 10 at the legendary Blue Note in NYC.
Christian, the nephew of New Orleans jazz legend (and Big Chief) Donald Harrison, was playing professionally in brass bands before he was even a teenager. His most recent album was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year. Suffice to say, he’s come a long way, but he’s never lost touch with his roots in the Crescent City.
For several years, Gianni Valenti and Birdland have been great partners with us, hosting the late-night sessions each night on The Jazz Cruise. For the next two weeks, you can catch our friend John Pizzarelli at that beautiful club in NYC.
John will be performing at Birdland with Swing 7 from March 3-7 and with his quartet from March 10-14. Say hi to Gianni and John for us.