Author Archives: Ratzo B. Harris

A Hot Time in the Old Town

As if to assuage my soul’s re-awakening sense of being pilloried by life in the Big Apple (something I forgot I had become used to while I was on the Left Coast), I heard a husky and familiar voice on my radio singing Vincent Youmans’s “Sometimes I’m Happy.” I searched my memory, but couldn’t come up with a name to attach to the voice.

Back in the Apple

Improvising with complete strangers is really hard, and playing music isn’t always about having a good time. I have found that having fun while playing is a perk, and not a necessity to playing good music. And it should be emphasized that not having fun isn’t a reflection on the people one is playing with—it’s about how one feels at the moment.

End of the Road

It was understood by anyone who called on the services of jazz bassist Chuck Metcalf (1931-2002) that he would go the extra mile. Part of that effort included organizing sessions, gigs, and recording dates; in a word, Chuck was a leader. But he led from the back of the band.

Back on the Road

The 2013 edition of Jazz Camp West is officially over. On Saturday, June 29, everyone packed their belongings and went to the last round of concerts before the barbecue lunch that was our last camp meal. But I had the pleasure of performing in several concerts featuring JCW artists in the days immediately following this year’s camp.

Back at Jazz Camp West

One of the reasons many artists involved in JCW feel that it is one of the high points of their year is that it’s not an institutional environment that needs to negate intuition and passion, but rather a learning environment that fosters and salutes them. It’s a bridge between the traditional and modern approaches to jazz education, where the former was steeped in mentorship and the latter in academic meritocracy.

Fond Farewell

During the Summer of Love everyone on Haight Street seemed to be living the life of Byron; but, like Lord Byron’s life, the mood was cut short as the musical rage—psychedelic rock—became another product for the Great American Culture Machine to mass produce.

More Stones

I see the whole concert hall paradigm as a way to lease entitlement to a leisure class. While I don’t begrudge anyone going to hear live music in a concert hall, I do think that the current trend to make jazz a concert hall music is gutting the source of that music: the jazz club.

Gathering Stones

Going through my mother’s effects has been like traversing an emotionally charged landscape that unrolls to reveal a fascinating design of discovered and rediscovered possessions of a person I’ve known from the start of my life. The material that currently has my attention is vinyl.

Monterrey Afterword

Though luckily there were no drug cartel-associated mass murders in Monterrey as their had been on the opening night of last year’s festival and again on the morning after the last performance, this year’s Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva was framed by its own internal controversy that emerged from its saxophone competition.

Report From Monterrey

This is the eleventh year that Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva has been held in Monterrey, Mexico, which is where I’m writing this. This year’s lineup includes artists from Germany (via the U.S.), France, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States.