April 29, 2012

Dr. Hulon E. Crayton was born December 31, 1969 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yet there’s lot more to Hulon’s dynamic emergence onto the urban jazz scene than simple chart stats and the support of some of the genre’s best players. At its heart, it’s the story of a musical dream long deferred and unique connections between the spiritual and emotional healing power of music and the physical healing that Dr. Hulon E. Crayton does as a rheumatologist and founder of The Arthritis and Infusion Center, which specializes in the treatment of Rheumatological diseases as well as sports related injuries. The title of one of the tracks on After Hours, the tropical flavored groove tune, “Second Opinion” is a playful ode to his longtime profession. 

Hulon was originally inspired to play the alto sax by his college roommate when he was an undergrad at Lincoln University in Missouri. He taught himself the instrument and it became a favorite hobby for a time, used as recreation and stress relief as Hulon played along to his favorite recordings. He put the horn aside for years as he went to medical school at the University of Wisconsin, started his first practice, got married and began raising a family. Hulon’s interest was rekindled when all three of his children showed an interest in music and served as first chair on their respective instruments in middle school. He had loaned his daughter his old sax and she wouldn’t give it back, so he bought a tenor at a local pawn shop (after moving to Florida) and that became his main voice as he began to pursue music professionally.

He started playing informally with some local musicians (enjoying cigars and martinis along the way) and then was hired to play at a festival by a promoter who heard him performing one Sunday at church; this prompted Hulon to start a band with a fellow doctor friend. Cleverly dubbing themselves On Call, the band began performing at numerous private functions, local Panama City jazz hotspots like the Boatyard, Firefly, Bonefish and large scale affairs at the Grand Panama Hotel. His incredible friendship and musical association with Jeff Kashiwa began when Hulon was in the audience at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival one year when the famed saxman was onstage playing the EWI, or Electronic Woodwind Instrument.

“He started introducing this cool looking instrument and I shouted out from the crowd that I’ve gotta get me one of those,” says Hulon. “Jeff responded from the stage, ‘Not only will I sell this to you, I will also teach you how to play it!’ After the show I met him and asked if he was serious. He gave me his address, I sent him a check and he sold me his EWI. He was down in Orlando with the Rippingtons two months later and I went to see him. He took me up to his hotel room and taught me how to play EWI. At a later gig in Atlanta, he invited me backstage to meet the Rippingtons. We started doing lessons on Skype, and about a year later, Jeff was playing at a fundraiser for the Anchorage Children’s Home, which takes care of disadvantaged youth, and my band opened for him. I was nervous at first but later in the show, when he invited me to play onstage with him and we traded solos while walking parallel up the aisle in the audience, I felt like this was a musical high I could get used to!”

Hulon’s later idea to hire the veteran saxman to compose a jingle for his practice inspired Kashiwa to write an extended version called “Dr. Goodfoot,” which ultimately became the first track they recorded on First Impressions. The title is a nod to James Brown’s classic “Get on the Good Foot.” Once Hulon received the blessing of his wife Dinah and the encouragement of his children, he enlisted Kashiwa to help him develop a full length album project. beginning with four demos that Kashiwa had sent him after “Dr. Goodfoot.” “The experience was surreal,” Hulon says, “as if I were suddenly on this fast track. A few years earlier, I wasn’t even playing the horn, and here I was in a studio recording with a world renowned saxophonist who believed in my potential as an artist. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

“Even as he was producing me,” he adds, “he was my teacher and mentor, telling me what I needed to do, helping make me a better player. The cool thing about Jeff is that he always has a goal for me inside his mind. He won’t always tell me what it is, but when I hit it, he tells me and then raising the bar. With constructive criticism, he knows how to get the best out of me. The experience became even more intense as we worked on After Hours. I am feeling more confident about myself as a player and artist than ever and am able to nail a song much faster. The first time we ever recorded, it took me eight hours to do the first song and four days to do three songs. This time we got almost the whole album done in three days”all thanks to Jeff’s encouragement and gentle push at the right times.”

Believing that “versatility is survivability,” Hulon (with Kashiwa’s guidance) breaks the mold of the typical urban jazz output these days by offering a wide variety of styles and grooves behind his rich emotional tenor melodies. That’s not surprising considering the wide variety of genres he listens to on his iPod” from hip hop and country to orchestral and classical music. Yet beyond simply providing musical pleasure to the genre’s adult audiences, he says, “I want to be inspiring to children and a good role model to them the way I have strived to be with my own kids. I’m really enjoying this journey every step of the way. As with medicine, I get great personal joy and satisfaction having people appreciate what I do. My time in the office is devoted to physical healing. But when I’m recording or playing live onstage, that’s when the spiritual healing begins.”

Over the past few years, Hulon has experienced the unique double blessing of performing for some of his patients, feeling joy and fulfillment as those who once could not even walk actually got up and danced and sang along” all thanks to him! Hulon has been practicing since 1986 and is a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and of the American Board of Rheumatology. He has a Master’s in Hospital Administration and has served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve, obtaining the rank of Captain. In an effort to give back to the community, Hulon and his wife Dinah created the Crayton Foundation to assist in providing minorities with a feasible way to attain the funding needed to attend college; they have given numerous scholarships to students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare related fields. The foundation gave the first ever scholarship at Florida State University for African American students.

Do visit Hulon's website CLICK HERE

April 15, 2012

Rarely does a musician emerge who dramatically changes the way we listen to music, but such a man is Ornette Coleman. Ever since the late 1950's when he burst on the New York scene, his artistic vision has helped to expand contemporary musical boundaries. Most people think of Ornette Coleman as the revolutionary saxophonist who created "free jazz", but in truth, his music and his approach to making music have always defied simple categorization.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930, Ornette Coleman bought his first saxophone at the age of 14. Having taught himself how to play the instrument, he performed with various rhythm and blues bands and by the time he was nineteen he left Fort Worth to hook up with Silas Green's traveling minstrel show. It was not until Coleman joined Pee Wee Crauton's band that he was able to make it out of the honky-tonks and blues bars of the South. Apparently, even then, the young saxophonist style was controversial, and rumor has it that by the time the band reached Los Angeles, Crayton was paying Coleman not to solo. Bebop ruled jazz in the 1950's and initially while in Los Angeles, Coleman, like everybody else, playing bebop at jam sessions. "I could play and sound like Charlie Parker note-for-note, but I was only playing it from method. So I tried to figure out where to go from there," Coleman said
As he started exploring musical possibilities of extending and fusing elements of honky-tonk, blues, funk, and bebop, Coleman created personal musical vocabulary free from the prevailing conventions of harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic structures. Coleman's musical style so alienated him from the jazz community that musicians literally walked off stage whenever Coleman showed up to play. In retrospect, Coleman's innovations, later to be known as "harmolodics", not only helped to revitalize jazz by pointing a new direction away from the rigid role of harmony in bebop, but also established his place in a select group of major 20th Century American composers, such as Charlie Parker, Harry Partch, Charles Ives and John Cage.

In Los Angeles during the early 50's Coleman had to support himself with menial jobs. However, he was fortunate enough to find a core of talented musicians, trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden, who embraced his musical concepts. Although the musicians rarely found opportunities to perform the music, they spent a great deal of time improvising and rehearsing.

Things changed dramatically for Coleman in 1958 with the release his debut album, Something Else, and while he could still be scorned, he could not be ignored. One year later a second album, Tomorrow is the Question, was released and the original quartet was firmly established: Coleman on alto sax, Don Cherry on trumpet, Billy Higgins on drums, and Charlie Haden on bass.

In November of 1959, the quartet made its legendary New York debut at the Five Spot in Greenwich Village. The music was unlike anything ever heard before. Since neither bassist or drummer functioned in a conventionally rhythmic sense and with the absence of a pianist providing chordal harmonies, the band members were given tremendous room in which to improvise and to interact. The music, termed "free jazz", upset many musicians and deeply polarized the jazz community. But the well publicized musical feuds, (Coleman was actually physically abused by an extremely irate, but notable, musician), caught the attention of the New York intelligencia and the initial two week engagement turned into six months. On one side of the controversy, leading jazz musicians were openly hostile, calling him a charlatan, and on the other side, people like composer- conductor Leonard Bernstein, composer Virgil Thompson and numerous writers and painters were heralding the artistic impact of his arrival.
By 1960, the quartet recorded two more albums, Free Jazz and The Shape of Jazz to Come, but by the mid 1960's, Atlantic Records decided to severe its contract with Coleman and he withdrew from the public eye. During this period, aside from teaching himself to play the trumpet and the violin, Coleman turned his attention to composing in different musical forms. He wrote several string quartets, woodwind quintets and symphonic works, and like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman helped to break down the bountries between "modern jazz" and "serious concert" music. The first public performance of his string quartet, "Dedicated to Poets and Writers", took place at New York's Town Hall in 1962, however, performances of his works were scarce and most of the material from this period has yet to be performed or recorded. RCA Red Seal did release Form and Sounds in 1968 which featured a woodwind quintet by the same title, performed by the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet and two symphonic chamber works entitled "Saints and Soldiers" and "Space Flight", performed by the string of the Philadelphia Orchestra. This release helped clear the way for the 1972 Columbia release of Coleman's Skies of America symphonic suite performed by the London Philharmonic. Although the work is scored jazz ensemble and orchestra, labor regulation in England would not permit the ensemble to play, and so the recording actually represents a concerto version of the work. The work received its New York debut, with the complete ensemble, at Lincoln Center on July 4th, 1972 with the American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Thompson.

During the 1970's Coleman's musical visions continued to expand. In 1975, Coleman formed his current band, Prime Time, and now the "free jazz/classical composer" was creating very danceable music that combined elements of jazz, funk, R & B, and rock with an unusual mix of instruments: two guitarists, two drummers, two bassists, and Coleman on sax, violin and trumpet. Prime Time's multi-layered melodies, polytonal, and polyrhythmic textures, defined by Coleman as "Harmolodics", continued to shape the music of the period, not only jazz. Coleman's influence affected many rock musicians of the '70's, most notably, Frank Zappa. Coleman and the Prime Time has since toured extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia and have recorded several albums on the A & M Horizon, Antilles, Artists House, and Caravan of Dreams labels.

Around the same period, Coleman became increasingly interested in music from diverse African cultures. He traveled throughout Africa and in 1977, A & M Records released Dancing in Your Head featuring, on one side, field recordings that Coleman made while playing with tribal musicians of Joujouka, Morocco, and on the other side, Prime Time's now legendary first offering. In the 1980's, Coleman continued to surprise the musical world with diverse projects. In 1983, Coleman was commssioned by Caravan of Dreams to revise and to complete Skies of America. The work premiered September 29th at the Civic Center in Fort Worth, Texas, his home town, with conductor John Giordano leading the Fort Worth Symphony and Prime Time.

The same year, Coleman was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy to write a chamber piece for their "Meet the Modern" series. The resulting piece was entitled "The Sacred Mind of Johnny Dolphin" and the work was performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic with Lucas Foss conducting. The work recently received its European debut at the Camden Jazz Festival in London.

In July 1985, in Hartford, Real Art Ways presented the most thorough examination of Coleman's work date. The week-long festival included performances by Prime Time, screenings of Shirley Clark's documentary film, Ornette: Made in America and of selections from Coleman's home video archives which included sessions in Morocco and Nigeria, concerts by former bandmembers James (Blood) Ulmer, Ed Blackwell and Don Cherry, and performances of Coleman's recently composed chamber music, including "The Sacred Mind of Johnny Dolphin", for double string quartet, trumpet and percussion, and "Time Design", a work for string quartet and percussion dedicated to the memory of Buckminster Fuller.
The critical success of the Hartford festival led to several subsequent commissions in 1986. For solo violin, Coleman wrote a work entitled "Trinity", for solo mandolin he wrote "Notes Talking", and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University commissioned "In Honor of NASA and Planetary Soloist", a work written for the Kronos Quartet and Joseph Celli on oboe, English horn, and Mukha Veena (an Indian Wind instrument). Coleman was also commissioned by Tuffts University to write "DNA Meets E=MC2", which was performed by Prime Time and his original Quartet.

  In 1986 and 1987 also saw two important record releases for Coleman: "Song X" recorded with guitarist Pat Metheny, and the Caravan of Dreams release of In All Languages, a double album featuring both Prime Time and the Original Quartet. Between these recordings and the chamber music festivals, Coleman's was again at the forefront of public attention. "Song X" was selected as the Down beat's "Records of the Year", Prime Time as top "Electric Jazz Group", and Coleman was chosen as top "Alto Sax" of the year and "Jazz Musician of the Year". In addition, Rolling Stones Magazine honored Coleman as "Jazz Artist of the Year".
Coleman's wide ranging musical contributions are not only reflected by the music represented on the more than forty albums, but also by the many bandmembers, inspired by Coleman's vision, who have gone on to develop indipendent careers, such as James (Blood) Ulmer, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins, and Charlie Haden. Ornette Coleman has always had an unusual ability to resurface at times when musical establishments were in need of revitalization. For more than thirty years, the multi-stylistic elements in Coleman's music have appealed to a wide range of people, and in today's age of changing demographic, his music offers programs that relate to culturally diverse audiences. Coleman's music has always reflected the richness and range of musical expression and today he speaks as a mature artist at the peak of his power.

To visit Ornette Coleman's website CLICK HERE.

April 01, 2012

NSide Out

Norman A. Woods aka jazz/poet N-Side is a performing jazz/poet, screenwriter and music publisher from the S.F. Bay area. A native of Berkeley, California, he has always had an aspiration to be an artist of some description and has always supported the arts in some way emotionally, financially and resourcefully.

Some say he has seen it all. From Jimi Hendrix plays Berkeley to the Silicon Valley explosion. In his own word he would say, “Seen a lot, heard a lot, done a lot, had fun a lot and everything in between!  From Vietnam anti-war protest to rainy days of homelessness

N-Side’s poetic work is done in a traditional style, which reflects his love of poetry from the “Harlem Renaissance” era. Most of his poetry is influenced by the writing of Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen and so on. His contemporary jazz influences include, but are not limited to, Red Garland, Donald Byrd, Gil Scott-Heron and his favorite poet, Kamau Da'aood.

N-Side's "reflective poetry" is said by some that " his simple words speak volumes of fundamental truths in a few stanzas, with smooth-up tempo jazz creating oceans of emotion", Mark States, Poetry Express. N-Side's poetry covers a variety of subjects such as, education, hope, and from healing to personal empowerment. His mission is to speak for the disregarded voices of the unheard, because everybody matters!

N-Side’s vision of the symbiotic relationship between jazz and poetry is built on his love of jazz and the philosophy that "sometimes the best place to find a good pair of hands, is to look down at the end of your arms!" and that "art unified in motion will create magic!"

An example of this is shown through his directing the film: A journey from the N-Side: an unscripted profile of a jazz/poet, of which he received (2) awards last year. One in the “Accolade Competition” and “The Best Short Film competition”. Adding to, a short film, “Mystic Dance”, (7) jazz CD recordings and has produced and directed (4) LIVE performance DVD. He has also produced recordings for a few artists on his record label, Shalamar Records, Three Alexander Music (BMI)

He is still writing poetry and has performed at various bay area jazz festivals with his band,” The Tribe” consisting of: Si Perkoff - piano, Mandy Flowers – upright bass, Mark Wright - Trumpet and Achytan – drums. As a bandleader, he performs for charitable organizations and causes committed to making hope reachable. His music CD’s, and performance DVD’s, are made available for fundraising events and non-profit organizations that he supports.  Welcome to the N-Side!  

To visit Norman Woods aka N-Side's CD Baby page CLICK HERE
To visit N-Side & The Tribe's Facebook Fan Page CLICK HERE
To visit N-Side & The Tribe on Youtube CLICK HERE