Between the Grooves with Philip Booth

Exploring Jazz, Rock, Americana, World Music and more

R.I.P., Idris Muhammad

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Sorry to hear about the passing of Idris Muhammad, the New Orleans-born drummer who provided reliable jazz, funk and R&B grooves to everyone from Fats Domino (“Blueberry Hill”) and Sam Cooke to Ahmad Jamal, Grant Green, John Scofield, and Nat Adderley.

Muhammad, 74, had recently been receiving dialysis treatment in New Orleans, where he had returned after leaving New York City in 2011.

See more in the New Orleans Times-Picayune obit.








Written by philipb1961

July 31, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Posted in jazz, New Orleans

Jimmy Cobb & Peter Erskine Talk Ride Cymbals

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(originally published in JazzTimes)

Jimmy Cobb & Peter Erskine On Ride Cymbals

What to look for in jazz’s essential cymbal

It begins from the inside out, explains Peter Erskine, the Weather Report veteran and noted bandleader and educator also recognized for his work with Steely Dan, Diana Krall, John Abercrombie and others. “What you hear in your head is what you’ll draw out of any instrument. I expect the cymbal to do something and I can usually draw that out,” Erskine said recently from Brooklyn, his home base while playing—in the pit and onstage—for the New York City Opera’s production of Anna Nicole.

A 22-inch Zildjian K Constantinople medium ride is Erskine’s go-to ride cymbal, but two other 22-inch rides have called his name. “The [K Constantinople] Renaissance model that was developed by Zildjian with Adam Nussbaum is a tremendous ride cymbal, not quite as dark as the [regular K] Constantinople. It’s remarkably versatile. And the [forthcoming Zildjian Kerope] is the closest thing to 1950s Ks that were played by all the drummers in the ’60s. … I’m pretty flipped by it.” The most important quality? “I look for clarity,” says Erskine.

Twenty-seven years ago, Erskine joined Elvin Jones on a memorable outing to the Zildjian factory in Istanbul. “Instead of going tip-tap and that kind of thing, Elvin took both sticks and just started roaring on the cymbal, playing on the edges with the shaft of the sticks for a good minute or two,” Erskine remembers. “There was this wash of white noise. Elvin was smiling and playing this thing and he got it moving. He really opened the cymbal up, got it warmed up and loose.

“That’s one of the important things, ultimately, when you’re trying out a cymbal: See how quickly it recovers from a crash or that roaring sound back to stick articulation. Any good cymbal should function as both a ride and a crash. Any of your drumming heroes, you’ll spot pretty easily that they’ll play that way. Tony [Williams] and Elvin and Mel Lewis said that, too.”

NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb, whose heartbeat ride playing and impeccable swing fueled Miles’ classic Kind of Blue album, is working with Sabian to find the right cymbals to replace a set stolen during an overseas gig. The latter cymbals, including 20-inch and 18-inch Zildjian rides, were loaned to him by Mel Lewis as a temporary replacement for another set that was stolen.

Cobb, recently heard leading his trio at the Village Vanguard and continuing to play with his “So What” Band, the 4 Generations of Miles group and Javon Jackson’s We Four: Celebrating John Coltrane project, concentrates on tonal aspects and decay rates: “One I had was between bright and dark—I could hear the beat on the cymbal, hear the wood on the cymbal and hear the quality of the cymbal. For me, I don’t want it to be overbearing. I want to be able to hear the beat and not have it resound too long. I want a quick, sharp beat to it.

“With Miles,” he continues, “one time I was using a Zildjian with a couple of tacks in it, a sizzle. My setup was a 20-inch ride [on the right] and an 18-inch ride on the left. So I would play the big one when I was playing with horns and trumpets and the little one when I was playing with the piano or the bass.”
The best ride cymbal, Cobb argues, is the most versatile. “I look for one that sounds good in all kinds of situations, a cymbal that can be substantial all the time—it fits most rooms you play in,” he says. “That’s hard to find. You have to go through a lot of cymbals.”

(A personal note: Some years ago I had the great privilege of playing bass in an entire concert with the great Jimmy Cobb, and a stage full of great players, including Larry Willis, Antonio Hart, Vincent Herring, Rob Bargad and Longineau Parsons. It was a memorial concert for Nat Adderley, at Branscomb Auditorium on the FSC campus in Lakeland, Fla. I had been asked to bring my bass for Walter Booker to play, as he had previously liked playing my bass at the Child of the Sun Jazz festivals in Lakeland. He was felled by asthma, and I was tapped to play at the last minute).

Tampa Jazz Calendar

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Here’s hoping some major jazz shows are announced soon for our area.

Upcoming jazz shows:

Saturday, Aug. 2 — Nate Najar Quartet with Chuck Redd, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 23 — A Hot & Saxxy Night: Eric Darius, Shawn Brown, BK Jackson, Tampa Theatre, 7 p.m.

Thursday, October 16 – Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Earth, Wind & Fire, “Changing Keys” Tribute, Buster Cooper Quartet, Coachman Park, Clearwater, 4 p.m.

Friday, October 17 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Spyro Gyra, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Theo Valentin, Al Downing Jazz All-Stars, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 18 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Dr. John, Marcia Ball/Terrance Simien, Belinda Womack, Julie Black, TomKats Jazz Orchestra with Katt Hefner, 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, October 19 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Trombone Shorty, Spirit Family Reunion, Crash, REH/CJH Youth Jazz Band, 2 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 12 — Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Straz Center, Tampa, 8 p.m.

Have info on jazz shows? Send details on concerts (not club listings) to

Written by philipb1961

July 31, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Amos Lee, “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song” (CD review)

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(originally published in Relix)

Amos Lee, “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song” (Blue Note)

Soulful Americana, with smart folk and jazz shadings, is Amos Lee’s thing, and he keeps to that path with the first album recorded by producer Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris) at his new East Nashville studio housed in a former church.

The home-brewed sound of these tales of nostalgia, longing and love benefit from the guests, with Griffin providing harmonies on the reflective, mellow title track, inspired by the singer/songwriter’s trip to play Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, and Alison Krauss’ appearance on “Chill in the Air,” further blessed with Jerry Douglas’ handy dobro work.

There’s also the swamp funk of “The Man Who Wants You,” with its clavinets, chicken-picking guitars and honky keys, and the banjo and thumping upright bass of “Scamps,” a story of tricksters, hucksters and crooked politicians.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, “I’ll Find a Way” (CD review)

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(originally published in Relix)

The Blind Boys of Alabama, “I’ll Find a Way” (Sony Masterworks)

After the Crescent City soul of Down in New Orleans and country gospel roots of Take the High Road, The Blind Boys of Alabama enlisted Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon to produce their latest album.

The durable group, led by Jimmy Carter, and including founding bass singer Clarence Fountain, still offer joyful expressions of Christian faith. That’s demonstrated by the rousing, churning opener “God Put a Rainbow in the Cloud,” which is spiked with bluesy guitar, trombone and piano declarations, the faith-forward “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and the molasses-slow “Take Me to the Water” and “My God Is Real.”

Fountain and Carter lead a moody, drums-tumbling take on Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand,” while Merrill Garbus (tUneyArDs) joins the bouncy “I’ve Been Searching,” Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) gets emotive on “I’ll Find a Way (To Carry It All)” and Sam Amidon fronts the brass-spiked “I Am Not Waiting Anymore.” Sweet salvation music.



Suwanee Springfest (concert review)

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(originally published at

Suwannee Springfest, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, FL- 3/20-23

For its 18th edition, Springfest, the annual cornucopia of Americana, bluegrass and roots music in woodsy, moss-fest

ooned Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, seemed to attract a larger group of younger listeners than in previous years. At least, that’s what it felt like when festival favorites the Avett Brothers – who impressed Live Oak crowds long before Scott and Seth ascended to arena tours – packed the Amphitheater for two hours’ worth of stomping acoustic-electric music that had fans pushing to the front and singing along with every word of every song.

The North Carolina-born siblings and their four bandmates again demonstrated infectious high-energy joie de vivre, showcasing some material from the last two years’ “Magpie and the Dandelion” and “The Carpenter” releases. They also turned in stirring versions of the title track from “I and Love and You” and that 2009 album’s “Kick Drum Heart” and “Laundry Room,” as well as a moving “Amazing Grace.” There were also rowdy covers of Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time,” John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and traditional mountain song “Old Joe Clark” – the last two with a little help from Sam Bush, on fiddle.

The old guard and the younger crowd, though, on stage and off, handily mixed and matched in nearly 70 performances spread across four stages, with some acts playing twice. The Punch Brothers, whose leader, singer and mandolin wizard Chris Thile, has played the fest with Nickel Creek, turned in another of the weekend’s most impressive performances. The quintet excelled with airtight multipart harmonies, imaginative arrangements and locked-in acoustic synchronicity on “This Girl,” “New York City,” Seldom Scene favorite “Through the Bottom of the Glass,” a Debussy piece and, on the encore, a stunning, extended a cappella version of Dominic Behan’s “The Auld Triangle.”

This year’s Springfest was rangier than in the past, with a program encompassing the top-shelf bluegrass of Steep Canyon Rangers; the stomping country rock of Willie Sugarcapps, featuring singers-songwriters-instrumentalists Will Kimbrough and Grayson Capps; the laidback grooves of fest favorites Donna the Buffalo; the jaw-dropping mandolin work of Sam Bush, and his covers of Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, and Little Feat; and the songwriting brilliance and rugged twang-edged roots rock of Jason Isbell. Isbell’s bracing set included “Decoration Day,” “Traveling Alone,” “Stockholm,” and “Cover Me Up,” and shut down with a slamming “Super 8.”

Also making strong impressions were Tallahassee family group The New ‘76ers, featuring the Southern-fried soulful singing of Kelly Goddard; Asheville, N.C. newfangled string band Town Mountain, which dipped into jamgrass; Greensboro, N.C.’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival, its brass-edged rock ‘n’ roll played by young musicians perpetually in motion; prolific singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale; and Beartoe, with the Central Florida group’s three female backup singers echoing and engaging in call-and-response with front man Beartoe Aguilar on swampy blues and gospel-tinted rave-ups.

Tampa Jazz Calendar — Branford Marsalis; Maria Schneider w/ USF Jazz Ensemble; Jazz Songbirds

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Upcoming jazz shows:

Sunday, March 23 — Jazz Songbirds: Denise Moore, Karen Benjey, Valerie Gillespie (plus Alejandro Arena and Stephen Bucholtz), Palladium Theater (Side Door), St. Petersburg, 3 p.m.; $18 advance, $20 day of show

Monday, March 31 — Monday Night Jazz Series: Maria Schneider with the USF Jazz Ensemble, USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 p.m.; $8 and $12 advance; $10 and $15 day of show

Branford Marsalis

Thursday, April 3 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.; $39, $49, and $59

Tuesday, May 7 — Rhapsody on Fifth: Wycliffe Gordon, Mark Markham, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.; $25 and $50

Have info on jazz shows? Send details on concerts (not club listings) to


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