It's a somewhat goulish idea: take a recording of a late, great artist, and shore it up with new backing tracks. It's been done before, with Natalie Cole's "duet" with her father, and the remaining Beatles backing a newly-discovered John Lennon solo track. And if you wanna look at it from a contemporary perspective, digital "mashups" that overlay, for instance, Nirvana with Destiny's Child accomplish the same idea with spooky success.
On "Ray Sings, Basie Swings," the legendary vocalist is paired up via technology to the current and living version of the Count Basie Orchestra, and the result is a brassy, sassy and sometimes strange album from the grave.
Jazz as a genre can span the range from big-band swing, melodic pop standards and mainstream funk-rock , to cool, bop, and way the hell out there.
Branford Marsalis is one musician who not only understands, but also appreciates, the big ol' umbrella that the word represents. The oldest son in a jazz history-making family, the Brooklyn-born saxophonist has played the pure stuff as well as the pop stuff. He played with Miles, and led the "Tonight Show" band. He performed with his brother, Wynton, and toured with the Grateful Dead.
Despite his dabbling with the "dark side" of pop music, though, no one questions his ability, nor his dedication to, the traditions of jazz.
Think â€œukuleleâ€ and youâ€™ll invariably get a quaintly exotic image in your head (and the wrong pronunciation â€“ itâ€™s â€œoo-koo-leh-leh,â€ not â€œyou-koo-leh-lehâ€): warm sun, swaying grass skirts, coconut bras, colorful cocktails with umbrellas, and palm trees and a beach in the background.
Itâ€™s true, the ukulele is a stringed instrument that was born in Hawaiâ€™i (albeit it has its actual origins in a Portuguese instrument that was brought to the islands by 19th century sailors) and given its name, which means â€œjumping fleaâ€ in Hawaiâ€™ian. And itâ€™s also true that the ukulele, which basically looks and acts like a miniaturized, four-string guitar, has helped spread Hawaiâ€™ian music and culture for a century, since Hawaiian music first caught the fancy of mainlanders during a 1915 exposition in San Francisco.
But the cute little uke isnâ€™t just a tool for strumming up tourism to Honolulu.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the annual Asian community event that I've been involved in since its debut in 2001, is the mix of traditional Asian and Pacific Islander culture on display along with the new, Asian American values and ideas. That mix is most evident not in the festival athletic competition or the marketplace, where 90+ vendors sell their wares, but on the Performing Arts Stage.
In recent years, some of my favorite performances have been by APIA artists playing contemporary music: Chinese-Filipino Wendy Woo, a popular Colorado singer-songwriter and guitarist, with her Woo Crew rock band; Dwight Mark, a Chinese American multi-instrumentalist mining everything from blues to bluegrass for his original music; and this year for the first time, Korean American singer-sonwgriter Phyllis Heitjan from Philadelphia.