New discoveries in sound and literature

Have you been out lately and heard some inspiring music that made you select your Shazam app to find out who’s playing? That happened to me recently and I learned something new as a result.

I discovered American jazz pianist Horace Parlan. The song that showed up on my phone featuring Parlan was “Fugee” from his Blue Note album “Up & Down.”

He was also a composer known for his work in the jazz styles of hard bop and post-bop. Parlan collaborated with such musicians as Dexter Gordon and Charles Mingus. Parlan must have stood out to these fine musicians, too. I knew there was a reason that he stood out for me. I’m a big fan of hard bop.

Parlan was born in Pittsburgh and was exposed to church music during his youth. He studied with James Miller who also taught famed Pittsburgh jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.

According to a Washington Post article by Matt Schudel, at the age of five Parlan had polio and was partially paralyzed on his right side. Because his parents encouraged him, he took up playing piano as a form of therapy.

He appears on two of Mingus’s greatest albums, “Mingus Ah Um” and “Blues and Roots.” Parlan plays on Mingus’s best-known songs, “Better Git It in Your Soul,” “Fables of Faubus,” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”

Parlan was 86 when he died on Feb 23, 2017. He lived an interesting life and worked in Europe in the 1970s.

Speaking of interesting lives, legendary saxophonist Ornette Coleman also lived one. I am certain of this as I interviewed him back in 2005. The widely praised book “Ornette Coleman: Territory and the Adventures” by Maria Golia, published in May 2020, is one that I’m interested in reading. 

Courtesy of Rocket 88

Another upcoming book of note is “Lady Day: Body and Soul.” It celebrates Billie Holiday’s glamour and legacy. The book is created in cooperation with the estate of Billie Holiday and edited by Nichelle Gainer with a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg. Other contributions come from Corinne Bailey Rae, Nile Rodgers, and Billie’s goddaughter Lorraine Feather.

“Lady Day: Body and Soul” also includes quotes from friends, critics, artists, musicians, poets, and authors that include William P. Gottlieb and Carl van Vechten, among others. The book is being published by Rocket 88 and will be out in April 2022.

Besides exciting new books to choose from, there’s some soulful music out now, too. At age 84, Detroit-born drummer Louis Hayes is still making great music. He has played and recorded with John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Grant Green, Woody Shaw, Cedar Walton and Oscar Peterson, among many more jazz giants of modern music.

His latest from Savant Records is entitled “Crisis.” Bassist Dezron Douglas produced the new album, which features Abraham Burton on tenor saxophone, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, David Hazeltine on piano, Douglas on bass, and multi-instrumentalist and composer Camille Thurman on vocals.

The set-list features works by Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, one track apiece from bandmates Nelson and Douglas, and one original song by Hayes. Hayes and I share the same birthday, so I never forget him. You shouldn’t either.

Congrats go out to the living legend, saxophonist, composer Wayne Shorter and bassist Esperanza Spalding for their recent performance of the opera Iphigenia. It was performed at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston earlier this November.

After the work premiered in Boston, it traveled to Washington D.C. and will go on to Berkeley and Santa Monica, California. For Shorter, the creation of Iphigenia is a dream come true. The opera defies what an opera is thought to be.

“Our Iphigenia has at its core a sense of autonomy—in this adventure of life, you have freedom of choice. All cards are on the table and Iphigenia gets to choose, free of everything,” said Spalding.

 “Through her example, we can learn how to take a creative approach to everything, using the power of spontaneous engagement,” continued Spalding. “The overarching sentiment is one of humanistic love, of wanting to reawaken the dreams of youth free of the pressures of adulthood.”