Friday, August 8, 2014

Charlie Haden with Ornette: unforgettable

I had been looking for a place for this memory of hearing Charlie Haden with Ornette Coleman. It didn't seem to fit in my weekly music column, so it's here, adjacent to a reprint of the column.

Haden the agitator

Roughly 40 years ago, some time after I got my driver’s license and before I finished college, I saw the Ornette Coleman quartet at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

Coleman was wearing a full-length, bright blue robe covered with silvery stars and moons. Dewey Redman wore a dashiki. This was the mid-'70s — no coat and tie and starchy white shirts. Haden stood out in his ordinary walkaround pants and shirt.

Coleman played long fluid passages punctuated with jarring blasts and shrieks. Dewey Redman on tenor growled, burbled and ululated. Drummer Ed Blackwell held things together, driving the band in lively swing figures with New Orleans flavors.

Eyes squinted shut, the bass player agitated the others, spewing speedy, intricate walking lines, weaving rugged textures of brief repeating patterns that felt almost like strumming, mixing motifs and toggling back and forth.

I had never heard a bass played that way, and I had never heard a group stirring up so much tension. They were not exactly playing together; they were playing against each other. It was thrilling, a little scary, and widely ear-opening.

Haden’s post-Coleman work, especially with Quartet West, became decidedly gentler, but I think the overarching quality of his work was to bring to the music whatever he thought it needed.

Haden leaves city a jazz legacy with bright moments

Published in the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, August 8, 2014
This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.

Charlie Haden, the great bassist who died last month, made an impression in Springfield as part of his family's band back in the 1950's, but his recent contributions to the city's jazz community promise long-lasting rewards.

Randy Hamm, director of the Missouri State University Jazz Studies Program, came to know Haden during the conceptual stages of the MSU program and the first Springfield Jazz Festival, during the end of the last decade. Hamm also had a mind-blowing musical experience playing with Haden at that time.

Planners recruited Haden as guest artist for the inaugural festival and as artist in residence for the first year of the MSU Jazz Studies Program. Haden's presence was crucial to the launch of both efforts, Hamm said.

In Springfield in 2010 for the first festival, Haden said he was impressed with the renovation of the Gillioz Theatre and pleased to have the opportunity to perform there with his band, Quartet West.

In 2009, Haden appeared at an important fundraiser for scholarships and equipment for the new program. MSU jazz ensembles provided entertainment for the event at the Kentwood Ballroom on campus. In addition, Hamm on alto saxophone and faculty member Kyle Aho on piano played as a duo.

Haden wasn't planning on playing. He didn't have his bass, and he was uncomfortable using other people's equipment, Hamm said. However, after a couple of tunes by the duo, Haden stepped forward and joined Hamm and Aho.

"We let him call the tunes he wanted to play," Hamm said. "One of the tunes that he called, which he had recorded several times, was 'Body and Soul.' "

"I tell you, playing with Charlie Haden in that intimate setting, without a drummer — that Steinway in that room, the acoustics — it was one of the most rewarding musical experiences I've ever had."

The three musicians had never played together as a trio. It was a leap of faith. "Just to call a tune, there was immediate, deep trust all around," Hamm said.

He paused for a moment, looking for words:

"Playing with Charlie Haden must be what it feels like to ride on a magic carpet. His time, his intonation, his note choices, his rhythmic feel. It was gorgeous. I didn't want to stop."

The Jazz Studies Program has graduated its first group of musicians. The fifth annual Springfield Jazz Festival is Oct. 3.

Ed Peaco writes about locally grown Ozarks music for the News-Leader. Contact him at 417-413-9029 or

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Giant Amoeba emits semi-obscure CD

This is the jazz CDs section of Amoeba. The store also sells 33s, 45s and 78s.
During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I ventured into Amoeba, one of the last enduring record stores and one of the largest. My mind went back two decades when I spent hours in such places, flipping through the stacks. However, we had many sightseeing priorities in the Hollywood area, so I challenged myself to find a worthy CD in 10 minutes or so.

"Tring-A-Ling" with the Amoeba price sticker.
I wanted a CD that was probably out of print and only available at Amoeba or from collectors online. I didn't achieve that level of obscurity, but I did find, within the self-imposed time constraint, "Tring-A-Ling" by Joanne Brackeen. The 1977 LP was reissued as a CD in 2009.

Michael Brecker appears on four of the seven tracks. While Brackeen and Brecker both are in the early stages of their careers, Brackeen sounds like the full arc of her artistry is already achieved, while Brecker is still in a developmental stage.

Brecker: He's running the tenor at high speed, but he's not negotiating the curves all that well. He's yippy in spots, and, on "Haiti-B," he's bending notes into howls like a mournful beagle. Two and three decades later — as heard on a couple of my favorites, "Tales from the Hudson" and his last album, "Pilgrimage" — he had become the master we all know, infusing emotional intensity where there was once just velocity.

Brackeen: The complex yet playful compositions are already here, as are the sprawling piano solos, roiling in crosscurrents. Many jazz musicians who find their path early and follow it through life usually are not very interesting to hear in their later years. However, Brackeen is an exception. As you go forward in her career, the work is just as absorbing even though the concept hasn't changed.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Anything from Heinrich, and other great finds

Now we're nicely stocked up, but we'll need more next year ...
Seven wineries in two days. I suppose we could have crammed in a few more. 

Personal favorites: 

Wonderful wines from nonstandard grapes: Peaceful Bend's Forché Renault and Traver's
Marechal Foch.

Belmont's Cayuga, the blackberry from Horst, the full-bodied Chardonel from Viandel, Whispering Oaks St. Vincent ...

... and anything from Heinrich.

Review of wineries featured in this year's wine tour:

Sweet sells, but there's more — such as Heinrichshaus

Belmont: Views, food paired with wine

Peaceful (but busy) Bend Winery

Horst Vineyards: Creative, competitive, surprising

Viandel Vineyard: From apples to grapes 

Traver Home Winery: Dog’s Breath, Bear’s Den and actual cats and dogs

Whispering Oaks St. Vincent runs the table at La Galette Berrichonne

Whispering Oaks St. Vincent runs the table at La Galette Berrichonne

Whispering Oaks owner Larry Green pours one of his reds. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco

Whispering Oaks Vineyard and Winery was the last stop on the 2014 wine tour. However, the biggest revelation came a few weeks later.

Some friendly folks we met at Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery invited us on an outing to the French restaurant in Fordland, La Galette Berrichonne. The expedition included a stop at Whispering Oaks, where we acquired another bottle of St. Vincent, made in a dry, supple style.

La Galette Berrichonne does not serve wine, but it welcomes diners to bring their own wine, no corking fee assessed.

We took the bottle of St. Vincent into the restaurant, not knowing whether it would be a good pairing for anything on the preset menu.

However, the Whispering Oaks St. Vincent stood up admirably to all seven courses!

  1. Seafood au gratin
  2. Coq au vin croustade (chicken)
  3. Quiche Lorraine with salad
  4. Pork tenderloin with port sauce
  5. Raspberry sorbet
  6. Brie with slices of strawberries
  7. Tarte aux cerises (cherries)
The touches of fruit and the emphasis on lighter meats helped the St. Vincent run the table. A great discovery. The US 60 Corridor is beginning to become a factor for The Good Life in southern Missouri.

By the way, Lisa Stacy, manager at Majestic Limousines, provided professional and congenial chauffeur service that was, for a big group, rather affordable.

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Vignoles: Best of the variety tasted on this tour: Crisp and not too sweet.

Traminette and Vidal (semi-sweet) have citrus notes.

Catawba has progressed through several stages over more than a decade of development at Whispering Oaks. The current Catawba is sweet, bringing out the full fruit flavor but keeping that grape’s unruliness in check.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Traver Home Winery: Dog’s Breath, Bear’s Den and actual cats and dogs

Friendly critters stand ready to spread good will. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco

Jim Traver makes wine to suit customers' tastes as well as his own. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco
Smaller projects.
Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco
From a big slate of wines by Jim Traver, one selection was made with advice from customers. With this sweet red, made by committee as his website suggests, he intends to please crowds.
“Curl up on a winter’s night with a glass of Bear’s Den Red,” Traver says with a warm and persuasive tone.His top-selling wine also has an animal-inspired name. Dog’s Breath Red is lighter and sweeter than Bear’s Den Red.

Dogs and cats populate the winery and environs (no actual bears).

However, Traver’s work area, filled with big tanks and smaller projects in bulbous glass containers, produces wines across the spectrum of dry and sweet, often with uncompromising varietal flavors and earthy essence.

Missouri Wine Snob notes
Chardonel: Highly spicy with a touch of oak.

Eleven Point White: This blend of 70 percent Vidal and 30 percent Vignoles is assertively dry and fruity.

Vignoles choices: The semi-dry has some of the boldness of Eleven Point White. With the semi-sweet Vignoles, that edge is smoothed out.

Peach: Not too sweet, with a strong peach nose but lighter peach flavor, with an overall experience that sometimes suggests a semi-sweet grape wine.

UPDATE! Marechal Foch: Somehow I forgot to mention this lighter wine with the deep red color — one of the pleasant surprises of the trip. It's not as light as most St. Vincents, and it has darker fruit notes such as blackberry, while St. Vincent often has cherry. This is another great example of a successful wine made with a nonstandard grape variety. Cheers!
Down a gravel road through thick woods, you will find Traver Home Winery.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Viandel Vineyard: From apples to grapes

This vineyard used to be an apple orchard.
Roses figure widely on the grounds of Viandel.
The story begins with an apple orchard and starts moving along when Jon and Cathy Smith decided to plant six grapevines at the urging of David Horst, who owns a winery nearby in the Mountain View area.

The next year, the Smiths liked the idea of a vineyard so much that they yanked out all their apple trees and planted 200 more grapevines in their place. Their plan was to sell grapes to Horst, but they changed their mind and started their own winery.


Missouri Wine Snob notes

Bottles in the retail area at Viandel.
Norton: This one won a Missouri Wine and Grape Board bronze award. It has a moderate amount of French oak with a lean profile.

Chambourcins: The 2010 vintage is smoother and less spicy than a typical Chambourcin; 20 percent of the vintage was oaked and the rest was aged in stainless steel. All of the 2011 vintage was aged in Missouri oak for the strongest oak treatment of any Chambourcin sampled on the tour. Usually I back off of strongly oaked reds, but this one works for me. The oak somehow converts the spice into something rich and mellow.

Chardonel: Among all the Chardonels on the trip, this one has the fullest body.

Bee Bluff: This blend of 70 percent Chambourcin, 30 percent St. Vincent has a medium body with fruity notes and a touch of oak. Very pleasant and an ideal choice for a summer red.

A deck has space for dining and lounging.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Horst Vineyards: Creative, competitive, surprising

David Horst and his awards for his 2011 Norton and blackberry wine.
In a battle of Nortons, Horst Vineyards won a silver medal in the 2013 Missouri Wine Competition. The bronze medalist was Viandel Vineyard, less than five miles east on US 60. Stone Hill won the gold.

Owner David Horst’s 2011 Norton — leaner and a little more heavily oaked than Viandel’s — also won a silver award at the San Francisco Chronicle competition.

While he clearly has a competitive spirit, when it comes to the actual results of the wine, he says, “We don’t make the fighting kind; we make the loving kind.”

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Chardonel: A little oak and a lot of body.

Chambourcin: More oak, less spice than typical for this vartiety, with a smooth yet hearty body.

Country Road Red: Half Chambourcin, half St. Vincent — a bright, medium-bodied result.

And one of the best surprises of the tour —

Blackberry: This balanced wine with subtle fruit flavors tastes much less sweet than its sugar content would suggest. The experience is more like a grape wine than a fruit wine. For me, that’s a good thing.