This week we feature a potpourri of music new and old. We begin by remembering two important figures from the jazz world who passed away recently. Veteran Columbia Records producer George Avakian, who brought Miles Davis to the label and launched Davis’s career as international superstar, has died in New York City at the age of 79. When the young Avakian heard Davis play Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, he signed Davis on the spot, even paying out the remainder of Davis’s contract with Prestige Records.
We also remember Jon Hendricks, master of vocalese—the art of singing based on following an instrumental solo. Critic Leonard Feather once called him “the poet laureate of jazz.” We hear him with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross on the track “Twisted,” and then with The Manhattan Transfer performing “Another Night in Tunisia” from the album Vocalese, which won a number of Grammy awards. Bobby McFerrin is vocalizing the drums and bass, vocal harmonies are by the Manhattan Transfer, and the short vocalese solo is by Hendricks, who died at 98.
We move on to revisit two Brazilian classics, beginning with Belgian-American guitarist/whistler/harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans with a cast of Brazilian musicians playing “Samba de Orfeu.” After that, Zé Keti & Nadinho Da Ilha celebrate iconic Brazilian musicians from days past with the song “Clementina De Jesus,” named after the Brazilian singer who started her professional career well into her 70’s. The lyrics also mention Elizete Cardoso, Pixinguinha, Orlando Silva, Francisco Alves, Dorival Caymmi, and other musical heavyweights.
The next group’s name, Buyepongo, means “to cause a ruckus.” The LA-based group mixes tropical Latin, funk, hip-hop, and other styles into its eclectic musical brew. I spun a cut from the new album, Túmbalo, on vinyl.
French musician Gerard Toto, Cameroonian bassist/singer Richard Bona, and Congolese singer Lokua Kanza are next, featured on a new album that showcases their vocal artistry. The trio has recorded several albums together and this latest one is stunning.
We wrap up the show with tracks by two female vocalists. Belgian jazz singer Melanie de Biasio first sings an interesting and edgy version of Mongo Santamaría’s classic song “Afro-Blue,” then we hear Sarah Elizabeth Charles’ song “Taller” from her new album Free of Form.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 12/1/17
- Miles Davis / “Round Midnight” /‘Round About Midnight/ Columbia Records
- Lambert, Hendricks & Ross / “Twisted” / Lambert, Hendricks & Ross / Rhino Records
- The Manhattan Transfer featuring Jon Hendricks / “Another Night in Tunisia” / Vocalese / Atlantic
- Toot Thielemans / “Samba de Orfeu” / The Brasil Project Vol. II / Blue Jacket
- Ze Keti & Nadinho Da IIha / “Clementina De Jesus” / Casa Da Mae Joana / Blue Jackel
- Buyepongo / “Amado” / Túmbalo / Buyangu Records
- Toto Bona Lokua / “Thitae” / Bondeko / No Format Records
- Melanie De Biasio / “Afro Blue” / Lilies / Pias
- Sarah Elizabeth Charles / “Taller” / Free of Form / Ropeadope
Banner image of Buyepongo by Edgar Robles.