by Thomas Staudter
Another year has passed during which I've interviewed dozens of musical artists, mostly from the jazz world, and, as always, from these conversations, I've learned a great deal about how artists create their work and manage to survive, even flourish in the music industry.
My last question during these interviews is usually this: What particular albums or CDs, or even just artists themselves, are you especially thankful for? I emphasized that this wasn't a question about "desert island" favorites or even necessarily an artist's best work, What I hoped to elicit were more thoughtful answers about what mattered most to these artists, what struck them, what, perhaps, they even felt was a gift from the cosmos.
So, here for the third consecutive year in the Weekly (the length, so far, of my tenure at this esteemed journal) is a list of thanks from a wide range of musicians. Particular songs are noted in quotation while albums are in italics. And I've also included some of the more interesting comments about why these musicians picked the musicians they did.
Jane Siberry, singer-songwriter and earth angel from Ontario, Canada, whose latest CD is Hush, a collection of her favorite songs from childhood. On her list of thanks: Frank Sinatra -"His voice carries old, old information that he didn't recognize but which people were conscious of: He guided the masses." Miles Davis, Van Morrison, Neil Young"These are people you can trust." Djivan Gasparyan's, I will Not Be Sad in This World
Jimmy Haslip, Yellowjackets' bassist and co-founder; his solo disc Red Heat was just released. On his list of thanks: Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Jaco Pastorius"He was my teacher." Thelonious Monk
Kitty Brazelton, iconoclastic leader of the "rockestra" Dadadah, rogue computer-music trio What Is It Like to Be a Bat? and the Hildegurls, a revisionist vocal ensemble. On her list of thanks: John Coltrane's Ascension John McLaughlin's Devotion Yes' "Roundabout" Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" Led Zeppelin I Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My Heart" David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London Thomas Binkley and the Studio der Fruhen Musik's Troubadours-Trouvères- Minstrels Cathy Berberian and Luciano Berio collaborations John Cage"His music for toy piano and for prepared piano, probably performed by David Tudor."
Pat Metheny, superstar jazz guitarist whose most recent recording is Trio 99>00. On his list of thanks: Wes Montgomery"His music sounds better and better each year." Herbie Hancock"My favorite living musician. When you hear this guy play live you realize he's the shit, with a capital S." Keith Jarrett"Famous but still seriously underrated by the general public. Like Herbie, he sets the standard for all the other jazz players." The Beatles
Herlin Riley, New Orleans native and stalwart drummer for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. On his list of thanks: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue Elvin Jones' Elvin! John Coltrane's A Love Supreme Cannonball Adderley's Arriving Soon The Max Roach/Clifford Brown sessions
Karen Kletter, grad student in medieval lit., who cut Dear Enemy with her sister Dana. On her list of thanks: David Bowie's Hunky Dory Jane Siberry's When I Was a Boy Joni Mitchell's Blue Alex Chilton's Sister Lover Nick Drake's Pink Moon Vic Chestnutt Stevie Wonder Donny Hathaway
Dana Kletter, former member of The Blackgirls and Dish, who supplied vocals for Courtney love on Hole's Live Through This. On her list of thanks: Pernice Brothers' Overcome By Happiness The Klezmatics and Havah Alberstine's The Well Pharaoh Sanders Donovan June Christie and Stan Kenton Mabel Mercer Nina Simone Roberta Flack
Frank Kiermyer, volcanic drummer guided by free jazz and Buddhism whose latest CD, on his own SunShip Records, is quartet project Sanctification. On his list of thanks: John Coltrane's Transition John Coltrane's Sun Ship John Coltrane's First Meditations Bela Bartok's 44 Duets for Violin and Concerto for Orchestra Bayaka's The Heart of the Forest
Diana Krall, seemingly insouciant jazz singer-pianist; her latest, When I Look in Your Eyes, was nominated for the Grammy Awards' Album of the Year. On her list of thanks: Nat King Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays Miles Davis' Kind of Blue The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans album plus their subsequent collaborations Together Again Art Tatum Fats Waller
Maura Kennedy, who, along with her husband Pete, tours and records as the jangle-pop group The Kennedys; their fourth CD, Evolver, came out last spring. On her list of thanks: Nanci Griffith Fountains of Wayne Fatboy Slim Beth Horton "And Pete would add Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Beck."
Dr. Ralph Stan1ey, legendary bluegrass banjo player, tenor vocalist and leader of the Clinch Mountain Boys. On his list of thanks: George Jones Patti Loveless Dolly Parton; Bill Monroe
Ralph Stanley II, guitarist-singer for the Clinch Mountain Boys, now out with the solo effort Pretty Girls, City Lights. On his list of thanks: Stanley Brothers' 20 Bluegrass Originals George Jones' Golden Hits Keith Whitley's Don't Close Your Eyes Hank Williams' 24 Greatest His Buck Owens' Greatest Hits Volume II
Jimmy Heath, pioneering jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger. On his list of thanks: Art Tatum Charlie Parker Jay McShann Duke Ellington Louis Armstrong Dizzy Gillespie Miles Davis John Coltrane Sarah Vaughan In closing, Heath quipped: "What a stupid question! I'm thankful for everyone who has made great music."
David Berkman, highly regarded jazz pianist and composer whose second CD, Communication Theory, featured saxmen Steve Wilson, Chris Cheek and Sam Newsome. On his list of thanks: Brian Blade [drummer on Berkman's albums] Louis Armstrong"because he represents the tradition and was not blinded by anyone' else's style." Sonny Rollins' 1960s recordings Branford Marsalis' Bloomington Kenny Kirkland"a. tremendous influence on my practicing." Kurt Rosenwinkel's The Enemies of Energy
Iris Dement, one of the great singer-songwriters of our time, she dueted with John Prine last year on his In Spite of Ourselves. On her list of thanks: Loretta Lynn's The Hymns Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison" Merle Haggard's Big City Emmylou Harris Tom T Hall
Brian Blade, drummer extraordinaire, he has been a session man for Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois, while also leading his dreamweaving jazz ensemble, The Brian Blade Fellowship His most recent CD is Perceptual. On his list of thanks: 'Joni Mitchell's Hejira"one of the most important musical statements of our time." Wayne Shorter Bjork'There's so much ecstasy in her voice. 'Tony Williams' Believe It"I don't want to ever shake his influence on me."
Darrell Grant, jazz pianist now based in Portland, Ore.; his recent CD, Smokin' Java, is the soundtrack of sorts for a short story he wrote. On his list of thanks: Horace Silver's Finger Poppin' with the Horace Silver Quintet Herbie Hancock's Empyrean Isles ' Billy Childs' Twilight Is Upon Us
Jim Weider, old-school guitar ace who replaced Robbie Robertson in The Band; his new CD with the Honky Tonk Gurus is called Big Foot. On his list of thanks: Pharaoh Sanders Bob Dylan Roy Buchanan Jimi Hendrix Scotty Moore
Freedy Johnston, singer-songwriter from Kansas now based in Hoboken, NJ.; his Can You Fly and This Perfect World were two of the top pop-rock albums of the 199Os. On his list of thanks: Frank Sinatra's Only the lonely Led Zeppelins Physical' Graffiti Stevie Wonder's Inner Visions Bob Dylan's Desire The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds
Tom Russell, veteran Texas-based troubadour whose 1999 album, The Man from God Knows Where, tells the story of America's immigrants better than any high school history lesson. On his list of thanks: Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row"-" It opened up my mind to the possibilities of songwriting." Johnny Pacheco * Lucinda Williams"She's carrying the mantle of 20th century songwriting." Ian and Sylvia-"They cut 13, 14 albums of great, great music." Randy Newman Merle Haggard Johnny Cash
Michael Wolff, keyboardist and former Arsenio Hall Show bandleader whose new album, Impure Thoughts, is an amalgam of jazz, funk and worldbeat grooves. On his list of thanks: Miles Davis' The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert, 1964 Miles Davis' Nefertiti Miles Davis' In a Silent Way Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer The Beatles' Abbey Road. Steely Dan's Aja Earth, Wind & Fire
John B. Williams, poetry-prone bassist and long-time band-mate of Michael Wolff's. On his list of thanks: Miles Davis' Bitches Brew Henry Purcell's The Gordian Knot Untied Bassist Scott LeFaro's work with Bill Evans Bassist Paul Chambers work with Miles Davis on the hornman's 1950s Prestige recordings Stan Kenton's A Concert in ProgressiveJazz Stan Kenton's City of Glass for those great arrangements by Bob Graettinger."
Badal Roy, Indian tabla player who can be heard on Miles Davis' 1970s albums and who is featured on Michael Wolff's Impure Thoughts. On his list of thanks: John McLaughlin's My Goals Beyond David Liebman Ornette Coleman's recordings since 1988 Miles Davis' Bitches Brew John Coltrane Ravi Shankar Viayat Khat
Chico Hamilton, drummer and progenitor of the West Coast's cool jazz sound in the 1950s; his bands helped spawn the careers of Keith Jarrett, Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd. On his list of thanks: Duke Ellington Count Basie Jimmie Lunceford Dizzy Gillespie Miles Davis and Gil Evans The Modern Jazz Quartet Lester Young
George Cables, one of the top jazz pianists and a former sideman for Sonny Rollins, Art Pepper and Dexter Gordon. On his list of thanks: Herbie Hancock's Empyrean Isles Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin Miles Davis' The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert 1964 Bill Evans' Waltz for Debb. Bill Evans' Conversations with Myself
Sonny Fortune, tenor saxophonist riding high on his recent album, In the Spirit of John Coltrane. On his list of thanks: Miles Davis'Kind of Blue John Coltrane's Live at Birdland"A beautiful, dedicated, sincere artist: one of the most real personalities ever to live on the planet. Most people weren't ready for him." Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus Sonny Stitt's For Musicians Only Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch
Houston Person, smooth-as-silk tenor saxophonist often paired with vocalist Etta Jones. On his list of thanks: Lou Donaldson and Clifford Brown's performance of "You Got My Head," found on The Lou Donaldson Quartet/Quintet/Sextet Charlie Parker's "Lover Man" Gene Ammons Lester Young's "These Foolish Things" Illinois Jacque Dinah Washington Bud Johnson
Joan Baez, forever young queen of American folk music. On her list of thanks: Early Jackson Browne Van Morrison Leonard Cohen's last studio efforts, I'm Your Man and The Future Joni Mitchell's Turbulent Indigo Jussi Bjoerling Andrea Bocelli
Stacey Earle, Texas-bred singer-songwriter (and younger sister of country rock renegade Steve Earle) whose second CD, Dancin' With Them That Brung Me, was released this summer. On her list of thanks: Catie Curtis' From Years to Hours Paul McCartney's Flaming Pie Tracy Chapman Greg Brown Malcolm Holcomb
Dar Williams, wise-beyond-years folk-rocker and champion of underdogs everywhere; her latest CD is The Green World. On her list of thanks: XTC's Skylarking Wilco's Summerteeth The Nields' If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman The Mamas & The Papas' If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
Randy Newman, oft acerbic poet laureate of America's dark truths, who wishes more people had bought his 1999 album Bad Love. On his list of thanks: The Phillips CD series of great pianists of the 20th century Wagner's The Ring Cycle conducted by George Schultze Steely Dan's Aja The Genius of Ray Charles Beethoven's late string quartets
Leroy Thomas, accordian-pumping singer and leader of the Zydeco Road Runners; he has just released two new CDsGreatest Hits, and Monkey and the Baboon. On his list of thanks: Leo Thomas' "Why You Want to Make Me Cry" Clifton Chenier's "I'm a Hog For You, Baby" John Delafose's "Gotta Find My Woman" Rockin' Sidney's "Don't Mess with My Toot Toot" Buckwheat Zydeco's "Troubles"
Bob Baldwin, smooth jazz keyboardist-composer and Peekskill native whose new BobBaldwin.com is climbing up the charts. On his list of thanks: Miles Davis Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? Stevie Wonder"Any of the records he cut in the early and mid-1970s, but especially Fulfillingness's First Finale; he gets so much emotion from the right chords." Herbie Hancock's Thrust"I love his solos on the Fender Rhodes piano; he always knows when and when not to play" George Duke's Brazilian Love Affair Eliane Elias So Far So Close. Patrice Rushen"Another great electric piano vibe." Joe Sample's Ashes to Ashes
Winifred Horan, Irish-American fiddle queen and mainstay of Solas; their new CD is The Hour Before Dawn. On her list of thanks: Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' Drive Bill Evans' Conversations With Myself. John Coltrane-"For his pure sensuality" David Oistrank"An amazing Russian violinist who played from the 1930s through the 1950s." Seamus Egan (her bandmate in Solas)"A huge influence on me and one of my favorite musicians ever."
Jason Vieaux, 27-year-old classical virtuoso now on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. On his list of thanks: Julian Bream's Classical Guitar Ahmad Jamal's Live at the Pershing Julian Bream's The Music of Spain, Volume 5 John Williams' The Rodrigo Concerto with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra The Beatles' Rubber Soul The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles' The White Album
Chris Smither, bluesy, New Orleans guitarist-singer now living in Boston; his latest CD is Live as I'll Ever Be. On his list of thanks: Lightnin' Hopkins' Blues in My Bottle Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms Paul Simon's Graceland Randy Travis' Greatest Hits
A sincere thank you to all of these musicians for being so generous with their time and for their good will and great music.