The Green Album

Peter Kogan

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Accessible main stream jazz including originals and jazz classics

Peter Kogan: The Green Album

Liner notes by David Schiff. David Schiff, R.P. Wallenberg Professor of Music at Reed College in Portland, Oregon is a celebrated composer and author of“The Ellington Century” and most recently, “Carter” (Oxford University Press, 2018 )

Let’s picture jazz as a towering oak with deep roots, well over a century old yet still sprouting lush greenery. How can we explain its continuing vitality? We can point to its fertile, resilient African origins, its musical DNA: the home soil. We can point to the great cultivators—performers and composers who re-shaped and renewed its genetic material to mirror and transcend the oppressive evils of slavery and racism: the branches. And we can point to new generations of musicians committed to sustaining its élan vital: the newest leaves. The essence of that élan, the driving force that connects the roots to the branches and enlivens the leaves has always been rhythm. And who better to demonstrate that rhythmic power than a master drummer: Peter Kogan?

For his third album with a marvelous group of fellow Minnesotan musicians, Kogan, as drummer, composer, arranger and curator, once again honors the giants of the jazz past: Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington (among others), and the boundless variety of jazz rhythm. Each track on this album has a distinctive groove, and each groove links these new songs and arrangements to distant places (West Africa, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Brazil, New Orleans, Harlem) and times (from the 1920s to the present day, with particular attention to the Bebop era of the 1940s and the Hardbop era of the 1960s.) Each groove demands a distinct style of percussion playing, and this album can be heard, and re-heard, as an encyclopedia of the jazz drummer’s art, or (to bring up the tree analogy for the last time) a rhythmic arboretum.

Kogan aficionados will decode the title of the first track, MLW BLUES EVOLUTION, as a sign that this is a reworking of the tribute to Mary Lou Williams, “Blues for Mary Lou,” from his first CD, Cornucopia. Williams’ album Zoning is a favorite of Kogan’s, and the oddly-grooved “Intermission” from that album serves here as an inspiration. The new version is more spacious and contemporary sounding than “Blues for Mary Lou,” with the stylish pianism of Sean Turner taking center stage, framed by the double drums of Kogan and Babatunde Lea.

The title SLIPPERY SLOPE fits all too well the political vertigo of the past two years, and indeed the music was composed in rapid response to the 2016 election results. Kogan puts his political cards on the table right away with the repeated iteration of a downward tritone, the melodic interval known since the Middle Ages as “the devil in music.” The devious off-beats of the theme convey an uncertainty on the verge of panic, a feeling amplified in Jake Baldwin’s out-to-lunch trumpet solo, but the Cannonball Adderley-like drive of Pete Whitman’s sax and Cory Wongs wild guitar solo suggest a spirit of resistance from the 1960s.

Kogan also composed MILES BACK in the aftershock of the election, but it radiates an inner calm—Kogan recalls that he heard it in a dream, woke up, wrote it down, and then went back to sleep. Baldwin’s Harmon-muted trumpet evokes the Miles Davis that Kogan first encountered in the late 1950s, but the expressive melody also recalls, aptly, Horace Silver’s 1959 classic, “Peace.”

The Bebop revolution of the 1940s expanded the expressive and rhythmic dimensions of jazz in irreversible ways, and at the core of this CD Kogan pays tribute to two its giants, Dizzy Gillepsie and Charlie Parker. Collaborating with Cuban musicians like the great drummer Chano Pozo, Gillespie helped instigate Afro-Cuban jazz in the US, and his tune CON ALMA, first heard in 1954, celebrates this fertile fusion with a wistful, harmonically elusive ballad that has served as a constantly reinterpreted jazz standard for well over half a century. Like Oscar Peterson before him, Kogan floats the melody on a subtle West African 12/8 clave rhythm. Kogan’s subtle interplay with bassist Jeff Bailey keeps the party going.

Charlie Parker recorded MY LITTLE SUEDE SHOES in 1951 with an emphatic, ecstatic Cuban percussion. Kogan repositions it slightly, from Cuba to St Thomas. He first heard its Virgin Islands groove played by a trio of steel drums, bass and high hat, when he performed on St Thomas with the touring Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra in 1973.

No album of tributes to the great jazz masters would be complete without an Ellington composition at the very center. “The Mooche” (written in 1928) exemplifies the no-apologies “jungle music” swagger that Ellington developed for the Cotton Club in the late 1920s, a style that blended the “primitive” growling trumpet style of “Bubber” Miley with Ellington’s sophisticated, modernistic harmonies and chromatic melodies. Kogan’s horn section, Jake Baldwin, Brian Grivna and Scott Agster perfectly evoke the sound of early Ellington—a sound that remains evergreen—and Kogan pays tribute to the under-appreciated Sonny Greer on temple blocks, with the banjo of Chris Olson immediately transporting the listener back to the era of Prohibition when gentlemen wore spats.

Kogan returns as composer on FOOLS BLUES. Listen closely to his short introductory drum solo and you can hear the melody even before the horns enter. Kogan says that the tune has a Monk-ish attitude, and it is a bit reminiscent of Monk’s Brilliant Corners, but he also notes the influence of Wayne Shorter.

DON’T STOP LOVIN’ ME BABE, dedicated to his wife, Julia Bogorad-Kogan, is a mellow bossa nova ballad that Kogan has been refining over the last thirty years. Here it provides a showcase for the artistry of trombonist Scott Agster.

Ever since Charlie Parker recorded MOOSE THE MOOCHE in 1946 it has served jazz musicians as a perfect framework for enjoying each other’s company by trading improvised choruses. Here Jake Baldwin, Pete Whitman, Phil Aaron and Jeff Bailey do the honors. Kogan enhances the casual festivities with a beat inspired by the second line processions of New Orleans, an infectious groove that summons whole neighborhoods out on the street to celebrate.

Ready for some guilty pleasure? Kogan admits to indulging in his soft side from time to time. Like “Live to Learn” on Some Monsterful Wonderthing, HONOLULU (GREEN THEME SONG) stems from a tune Kogan first wrote when he was playing in the Honolulu Symphony in 1980. It evokes memories of 70s sitcoms like MAS*H and Mary Tyler Moore. You can almost feel the warm surf splashing over your toes.

Like several other songs on this album EL RANCHO has its roots in the past but has the fresh sound of the present. It began as a piano composition that Kogan wrote in New York in the 1980s. Because its chords were unconventional it did not seem suited to improvisation—until recently when Kogan reconstructed the harmonies for solos. He describes the piece as a rancher’s workday in the Southwest, followed by an evening serenade to his favored señorita. El Rancho beautifully balances nervous energy with relaxation over a lilting Latin beat.

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Some Monsterful Wonderthing

Peter Kogan

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Original compositions written to take us on a tour of the jazz universe with stops in Rio, Harlem, New Orleans and Chicago.

Some Monsterful Wonderthing— we might paraphrase the album title as: Sometimes beautiful things arise from ugly situations. From October 2012 to January 2014, the management of the Minnesota orchestra locked out the orchestra’s musicians and cancelled concerts. It was a hard time for the musicians, but they found support in the community through the organization called Save Our Symphony (SOS—later changed to SOSMN after similar groups formed in other cities). During the long dispute some musicians would resign from the orchestra. For Peter Kogan, the orchestra’s timpanist, however, the unplanned and anxiety-ridden time off became an opportunity to rekindle his jazz side—composing new tunes and arrangements, putting together a septet and recording two inventive and—given the circumstances—surprisingly celebratory albums: Cornucopia, released in 2013 and now Some Monsterful Wonderthing (the mouth-twisting monicker will be explained more fully below). Peter describes this second album as a series of tributes, beginning with the title of the first track—“SOS Samba”— in appreciation of all the efforts of Save Our Symphony; the lock-out also figures in the title of the second track: “LOMoMO Mojo Jump”; “LOMoMO” is an acronym for Locked-Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. These expressions of support and solidarity with his fellow musicians are part of Kogan’s wider tribute, begun on his previous album, to predecessors from all over the jazz tradition. The tracks on the album take us on a tour of the jazz universe with stops in Rio, Harlem, New Orleans and Chicago. As composer, arranger and drummer Kogan displays his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz styles, grooves and tone-colors. SOS Samba honors the harmonic language of Antônio Carlos Jobim that influenced so much of the jazz of the 1960s. It features the Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Baccata and a lyrically sunny guitar solo by Cory Wong. In “LOMoMO Mojo Jump”, Kogan and company pay homage to the growling style perfected by Duke Ellington’s brass players like trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams and trombonist Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton—and also, more generally, to the “jungle style” that Ellington brought to the Cotton Club in the late 1920s. That style had two different aspects—the primitive (a stereotype that Ellington could either undercut with irony or celebrate) and the modern (think of the importance of African masks to Picasso’s cubism). Kogan mirrors the dualism here by a contrast in tempo. The tune opens Ellington style with a bouncy bass solo a la Jimmy Blanton played by Brian Courage. Kogan’s temple blocks, echoing Ellington’s longtime drummer, Sonny Greer, are followed by a big band shout. In each solo chorus a walking bass alternates with African-inspired and up tempo grooves. Scott Agster’s trombone stylings recall the full range of Ellington’s famous trombone section: Nanton’s blues-inflected plunger mute growl, Lawrence Brown’s seductive cantabile and Juan Tizol’s Latin tinge (most famous from his tune, “Caravan”.) According to Kogan, “Some Monsterful Wonderthing” is a savage tribute in reverse—“an exorcism”—of a song from The King and I whose title is appropriately re-shuffled. I hear in its wild and crazy coruscations the clash of two formative decades: the button-downed fifties which often seemed to drip with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s sentimentality and complacency (the song mocked here celebrates female suffering) and the rebellious sixties as exemplified by the anarchic spirits of Charles Mingus (heard in the blistering opening solo by Brian Courage) and Frank Zappa. Again Kogan gives dualism a musical shape with two contrasting tempos. Pete Whitman, on soprano sax, Cory Wong, on electronically extended guitar and pianist Sean Turner take the music as far out of Broadway as possible. “Nola Joe” honors the spirit of the late pianist Joe Sample, founder of the Jazz Crusaders, with a groove that captures the spirit of a New Orleans Second Line procession. The sequence of blowing choruses includes the one extended drum solo of the album. The next track, “Gospel Tune” brings jazz back to its church roots with an original melody that pays tribute to “This Little Light of Mine” and features a call and response dialogue between the guitar and horns. “McKinley Morganfield’s Forever” is a tribute to the artist better known as Muddy Waters, father of Chicago Blues (with a nod to the blues infused music of pianists Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant). This track features Scott Agster as Muddy’s voice and fittingly soulful solos by guitarist Wong, pianist Sean Turner and, on tenor sax, Pete Whitman. “Live to Learn” features Charles Lazarus on flugelhorn. It’s a memorable, mellow tune that Peter composed many years ago with beautiful lyrics recently written by Jonathan Kalb: As a traveller I must find what to save or leave behind and to greet another day on my way. From the cradle to the grave these are choices that are made to learn to change and lighten up your way, and live to learn and love another day. Before you came into my life I was filled with pain and strife - There were changes I knew I had to make. Now it fills my heart to say that I smile for another day ‘cause I know that in your arms I can stay, and live to learn and love another day. (When my thoughts start sinking low, I know you’ll shine on me wherever I go.) As the years they come and go in my heart I really know that the winds of change have somehow blown my way. With you there by my side I can finally learn to ride through the darkest times and find the brightest rays, and live to learn and love another day. ©2014 Jonathan Kalb “Question Monk?” is a tune Kogan has been carrying around for many years; he found it, fortunately for us, in an old notebook. Like such Monk standards as “Straight, No Chaser” and “Evidence”, Kogan’s homage to Monk arranges and re-arranges pitches so that we are left to ask where the bar lines are—at times the tune sounds like it’s in three, then it morphs into four—and back. Joining in the tribute, Pete Whitman sounds like he is channeling Monk’s longtime saxophonist Charles Rouse. Now that the Minnesota Orchestra is back in business we can hope that the wonderful somethings of Kogan and company can continue to flourish even in happy circumstances. By David Schiff David Schiff, R.P. Wallenberg Professor of Music at Reed College in Portland, Oregon is a celebrated composer and author whose most recent book is “The Ellington Century” copyright 2012

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Peter Kogan

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Jazz is beautiful! Original compositions written in tribute to jazz greats Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, Mary Lou Williams and Wayne Shorter. Performed by an octet of some of the finest Twin Cities jazz musicians

JAZZ IS BEAUTIFUL. Just in case you have forgotten this fact, or despaired you would ever feel that way again, sit down and savor the tracks on this album, all composed and arranged by Peter Kogan aka the much-esteemed Timpanist of the Minnesota Orchestra. Kogan’s interest in jazz goes back to his early years; I remember him turning me on to Art Blakey, Max Roach and Joe Morello when we were both in seventh grade. (Peter was already studying timpani with the legendary Saul Goodman, of the New York Philharmonic.) Just a few years later we caught Ornette Coleman’s Town Hall debut—Town Hall being one of the few jazz venues open to the underage set. While pursuing classical percussion at Juilliard, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Kogan remained a double agent, devoting himself whenever possible to jazz and blues drumming. You can hear Peter’s life-long devotion to jazz in every note of his compositions. Stylistically, they span the history of the idiom from the 1930’s to the present. His tributes to Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Milt Jackson, are not pastiches, but fully contemporary meditations on their distinctive styles refracted through Kogan’s own sensibilities. The timpani may be one of the loudest members of the symphony orchestra, but the great orchestral timpanists, and Kogan in particular, play it with the greatest possible finesse and attention to nuances of intonation and color. Peter has surrounded himself with a masterful group of soloists, their versatile talents bound together by his exquisitely deployed drum kit sonorities and endlessly inventive rhythms. And the swing is never in doubt. The album kicks off with Kogan’s latest composition, Frenchy Dog. The name, he tells us, comes from the featured item (frankfurter on baguette) on the bar menu at the Vincent A Restaurant across the street from Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall. Kogan performed there with Le Jazz Cool All Stars after concerts with the symphony. He describes the piece as “bop blues...out of the Monk/Parker/Gillespie mold.” I also hear a good dose of 50s funk à la Horace Silver, especially in the steamy solo work of Charles Lazarus, Brian Grivna, Tom Ashworth and Mary Louise Knutson. Kogan composed Fats Is Beautiful as a tribute to Fats Waller. “It melds Honeysuckle Rose and Jitterbug Waltz with some T. Monk like interruptions”. Defying expectation the music, a slow and sumptuous waltz, portrays the mellow Fats rather than the comedian of Your Feet’s Too Big. This Fats must have gone to school with Erik Satie and fallen in love with the flugelhorn along the way—as you will too as you listen to Charles Lazarus lay down the tune. Jump ahead fifty years in jazz history. The working title for Jones Jam, Kogan tells us, was WORKJONESMCWAYNE “in reference to Wayne Shorter’s albums JuJu and Night Dreamer (with his incredibly great writing), with Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, the colossus of the drums”. The tune rides on Kogan’s subtle West African groove, a cross cultural hint beautifully echoed in Cory Wong’s guitar solo. The infectious tune does not appear in its entirety until the end after all the soloists have had their say, an effect of delayed gratification which Kogan borrows from Sibelius—in his other life Kogan has spent a lot of time with the Finnish master. Now for a lateral move—to Brazil with the title Cornucopia. Kogan describes the song as a “pop samba with harmonic influences from Joe Sample and Stevie Wonder”. A breezy pentatonic melody with a warmingly chromatic bridge, Cornucopia is a perfect vehicle for the atmospheric arabesques of soloists Kenni Holmen (soprano sax), Tommy Barbarella and Cory Wong. Back to the past. Kogan penned the slow ballad Blue Duke as an “homage to Ellington influenced by his 1930’s versions of Mood Indigo and Sophisticated Lady.” I hear the intermediary presence of another Ellington adherent, Charles Mingus. Here Brian Grivna channels Johnny Hodges, Tom Ashworth summons up the spirit of Lawrence Brown and Tommy Barbarella plays the Duke. And once again, jump ahead. Kogan tells me he was knocked out by Mary Lou Williams’ album Zoning from the ‘70’s and in Blues for Mary Lou, he returns the favor with a funk tinged chart in an unusual slow three groove that gives his soloists plenty of room. Kogan also says that “the tune is an attempt to reconstruct the blues form but retain some of the feeling and formal pull of the ‘turnaround’...the melody is primarily in the hands of Dave Williamson on the bass”. Bags Check brings the album full circle, returning us to the Blue Note/hard bop phase of Kogan’s formative years. Like Cornucopia and Fats is Beautiful it dates from Kogan’s jazz interregnum between his classical gigs in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, when he played jazz and blues in New York. He originally wrote it for the blues band “Uncle Boogie and the Boogiemen.” He says that he carried some of the ideas for this disc in his head for the long time between those New York days and the present—a Mozartian feat of memory for which we can all be grateful. Dedicated to Milt Jackson, Bags Check is an extended blues with a bebop blues pattern interrupting the minor blues. DAVID SCHIFF Portland, Oregon (Composer and author David Schiff is R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College, Portland, Oregon.)

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