Coming January 20th, 2020
New Album by John Bailey
The first to be released on John's new record label:
Stacy Dillard-Tenor/Soprano Sax
Janet Axelrod-Flute/Alto Flute/Bass Flute
Earl McIntyre-Bass Trombone/Tuba
I.The Humanitarian Candidate
II.Road To The Blues House (Feat. Earl McIntyre)
III.President Gillespie’s Birthday Song
Veteran trumpeter John Bailey imagines a world inherited from a President Dizzy Gillespie administration on his celebratory second album
Can You Imagine?, due out January 20, 2020 via Freedom Road Records, reflects on the jazz icon’s tongue-in-cheek 1964 campaign with a swinging all-star group featuring Stacy Dillard, Stafford Hunter, Edsel Gomez, Mike Karn and Victor Lewis, with special guests Janet Axelrod and Earl McIntyre
NYC album release concerts Friday and Saturday, January 24 & 25 at Smalls
“John Bailey is a great improviser. Since we met as teenagers I've been taken with how natural a musician he is and how deeply his roots go into the tradition of jazz music. He's a joy to listen to!”
– Donny McCaslin, saxophonist
"Bailey's Playing is full of passion and fire, and he brings that energy to several musical styles. – Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz
In 1964, Dizzy Gillespie announced his candidacy for President of the United States. The campaign was, in the iconic trumpeter’s wry fashion, in large part satirical – particularly his proposed cabinet, which included Duke Ellington as Secretary of State, Louis Armstrong as Secretary of Agriculture, and Miles Davis as CIA Director among others. But the issues that Gillespie raised on the campaign trail, during one of the most heated periods of the Civil Rights movement, were serious, and resonate with the conflicts we still face today.
On his new album, Can You Imagine?, veteran trumpeter/composer John Bailey posits an alternate reality half a century on from a President Gillespie administration. (This is no passing fancy for Bailey; as Allen Morrison points out in his liner notes, the trumpeter’s license plate reads “DIZ4PREZ.”)
Due out, appropriately enough, on January 20, 2020 – Inauguration Day – through Bailey’s own Freedom Road Records, Can You Imagine? is also offered as a rhetorical question, a stunned response to the fact that too many of us seem not to have learned the lessons on empathy and human decency offered by our country’s artistic giants.
“It’s an open question,” Bailey says. “Here we are in 2019 and there’s a lack of compassion and basic decency in our leadership and in our culture. I’m just asking: where would our culture be today if someone like Dizzy had actually occupied the White House in 1965? Can you imagine?”
The modern world that Bailey imagines is built on a foundation of joyful swing, a melting pot of influences from throughout the jazz tradition and Latin America. It’s a celebration of fellow feeling among a knockout group of musicians well versed in making bold individual statements while melding their sounds into a harmonious whole. The core sextet includes saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trombonist Stafford Hunter, pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Victor Lewis, along with guest appearances by bass trombonist and tuba master Earl McIntyre and flutist Janet Axelrod.
Leading the band is John Bailey, whose distinctive trumpet sound graced countless concert stages and record dates before he made his long overdue recording debut in 2018 with In Real Time. Over more than three decades as an in-demand sideman, Bailey enjoyed long-running relationships with Ray Charles, Ray Barretto, The Woody Herman Orchestra and Frank Sinatra, Jr., and contributed to a pair of Grammy-winning albums by Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.
The centerpiece of the album is the three-part, 12-minute “President Gillespie Suite,” which traces the candidate along the road to what he promised to rechristen “The Blues House.” While he half-jokingly relates the idea of a “concept record” to the influence of Jethro Tull’s Thick As a Brick, Bailey traces frontman Ian Anderson’s classic rock flute sound to the influence of one of his own key inspirations, Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The jazz eccentric’s 1969 album Volunteered Slavery is a touchstone for Can You Imagine?. McIntyre’s classic plunger solo style is featured over its theme and others, including Stevie Wonder’s “Do Yourself a Favor” in the suite’s second movement.
Kirk was also the inspiration for Victor Lewis’ “From the Heart,” one of two compositions from the legendary percussionist/composer, the other being the soulful “The Touch of Her Vibe.” Dillard contributed “Elite State of Mind,” its lilting melody beautifully voiced by virtuoso flutist Janet Axelrod.
Can You Imagine? opens with “Pebbles in the Pocket,” which Bailey says references the “pebbles of wisdom” that we each carry around with us from loved ones, mentors, or anyone who’s gone before and left behind those crucial nuggets of knowledge that it would behoove us to heed. “Ballad from Oro, Incienso y Mirra” is an excerpt from a suite that showcased Bailey with Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra at the Apollo Theater in 2016, an evening that also featured Dr. Cornel West.
Bailey describes Chico Buarque’s “Valsa Rancho,” with Axelrod on bass and alto flute, as “an iconic selection from the Elis Regina songbook,” another of the trumpeter’s wide-ranging passions. The album ends with a wistful rendition of the classic “People,” in which Bailey’s warm, embracing tone reminds us of our shared humanity.
Ultimately, that message is what Bailey hopes listeners come away with from Can You Imagine? The album is not meant to bemoan our current turmoil but to offer a better alternative, one in which we rise to our better natures. “Positive change is an important theme in this album,” he concludes. “I’m a patriot. I love my country. I want to enlighten people, to have them contemplate not just Dizzy for President in 1964 but any number of opportunities we’ve had, and will have, to champion compassion, dignity and civility. I’m a little frustrated that we’re not there yet, but I believe we will achieve social justice and I am compelled to serve the cause.”
Known as one of the most eclectic trumpet players in New York City, Bailey is an in-demand musician and teaching artist in all forms of jazz, R&B, pop and classical music. He became a member of the Buddy Rich Band while still in college, and his career has included tenures with Ray Charles, Ray Barretto and New World Spirit, The Woody Herman Orchestra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. He has performed and recorded with James Moody, Kenny Burrell, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Barrett Deems and many others. His work with Arturo O'Farrill won two Grammy Awards, for the albums The Offense of the Drum and Cuba - The Conversation Continues. He has played on more than 75 albums and, as a jazz educator, has taught at the University of Miami and Florida International University.
John Bailey – Can You Imagine?
Freedom Road Records – FRR 001– Recorded January 14-15, 2019
Release date January 20, 2020
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Below is my debut recording as a leader entitled "In Real Time" which was released in June of 2018.
If you would like to purchase the CD you may do so by visiting my website. Just click on this link: https://johnbailey.com/audio.htm
This the very first review of In Real Time.
The cover and review are pasted below. To view the full issue visit www.hothousejazz.com
An Online Journal of Jazz and Classical Music
John Bailey Plugs Into “Real Time”
June 15, 2018The Art Music Lounge
IN REAL TIME / BAILEY: Rhapsody. My Man Louis! Triplicity. Lovely Planet. Blues for Ella. Stepping Up. Children’s Waltz. NASCIMENTO: Morro Velho.* GIL: Ensaio Geral / John Bailey, tpt/fl-hn; Stacy Dillard, t-sax/s-sax; John Hart, gtr; Cameron Brown, bs; Victor Lewis, dm/cymb; *Janet Axelrod, fl; *Leo Grinhauz, cel / Summit DCD 720
Sometimes, a return to good old-fashioned, basic jazz is a good thing. I’ve heard so many modern-day jazz albums that try to be something other than jazz—mostly soft, mooshy lounge music, other times funky fusion—that listening to a band like this one in tunes that just take off and say something through strong, inventive solos can be a breath of fresh air.
And that is what you get on this album by trumpeter-writer John Bailey. Nothing pretentious. No music that tries to baffle the listener with off-kilter rhythms and confusing, sometimes confused, musical lines. Rhapsody is a good old-fashioned swinger, while My Man Louis! is an old-fashioned sort of Blue Note funky blues tune. After the opening themes, the soloists come in and have their say. They hold your attention by just playing good, solid, musical lines that aren’t trying to out-weird Pharaoh Sanders. It’s music that makes you smile and picks up your spirits. And I must give very high marks to drummer Victor Lewis for knowing just how much to play, providing a solid backdrop (and occasional fancy licks and solos) without overstepping and trying to crush the ensemble.
It makes sense that Bailey was a member of the Buddy Rich Big Band at age 18 (which was 1984�I just missed hearing him, having heard the Rich band twice, once in 1969 and again in 1976), since he has a solid jazz concept. In Triplicity, he also has a few tricks up his sleeve, alternating a solid, swinging 4 with passages in 3. And thank goodness, his guitarist, John Hart, is also a JAZZ musician. He’s not trying to play rock on his instrument. He’s a really exciting player in the Barney Kessel-Charlie Byrd mold, which delighted me no end.
Bailey is the kind of trumpeter who clearly understands the old maxim that “less is more.” He definitely has the chops to play technically dazzling solos if he chose to, but he understands that keeping to basics and occasionally adding a little space to his playing makes more of an impact. And he says something on his instrument; his solos are really meaty and go somewhere. Likewise, saxist Stacy Dillard also makes a fine impact, often picking up on the leader’s last statement for his own opening figures. Yes, he occasionally throws in some double-time licks and a few buzzed notes, but they’re tasteful. He has structure in his playing.
Lovely Planet opens with a really fine bass solo by Cameron Brown that belies the old jungle drum joke. (“Drums must never stop!” “Why not?” “Bass solo!”), leading into a gorgeous, lyrical tune played by the leader with phenomenal breath control and an outstanding tone. The saxophone doubles him in thirds for the second chorus. Blues for Ella is an uptempo romp, opening with Hart’s guitar backed by bass and drums before moving into the quirky, broken theme, nicely constructed in a way that allows for maximum improvisation when the solos arrive.
In Milton Nascimento’s Morro Velho, Bailey is joined only by bass and guitar in addition to his wife, flautist Janet Axelrod, and cellist Leo Grinhauz in an arrangement that is surprisingly tasteful. I use that term because far too many such arrangements nowadays tend to overdo the mush while distancing the music from jazz, but Bailey has a fine ear and knows how to strike a good balance with the jazz material. He even has Grinhauz’ cello play opposing lines against his own trumpet. This is surely one of the real gems on this album, and ends on an unresolved chord.
We return to straightahead jazz with the uptempo Stepping Up, a real old-fashioned hard bop tune in which the solos dominate, and rightly so. The Children’s Waltz is also a good composition, not another puerile-sounding tune made to please young people; Brown takes another outstanding solo on this one, as does Dillard, this time on soprano sax. Gil’s Ensaio geral is played in a nice bossa nova tempo, a perfect summertime piece, with taste and invention by the band. It’s a fine rideout to an excellent album.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley