michael-cuscuna

Michael Cuscuna Tells His Story – and the Mosaic Story

Meet and listen to Michael Cuscuna, record producer and driving force behind Mosaic Records, as he dips into his vast reservoir of stories about his searches into the vaults for priceless classic jazz. Loren Schoenberg hosts the conversation at the National Jazz Museum on Tuesday, June 20. Go here for info on the event.



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I've Got A Crush On You
Ike Quebec
I've Got A Crush On You

Ike Quebec - I’ve Got a Crush on You (1962)

From Michael Cuscuna’s liner notes:

As Rudy Van Gelder told me recently, “Ike always played beautifully, even at the end, when he was dying…I mean literally dying.“ 

The February 28, 1963 issue of Down Beat Magazine headlined its news section, "Two great losses within four days: Two Jazzmen Die in New York City.” on January 13, Sonny Clark died; the official reason given was a heart attack. On January 16, Ike Quebec died after five weeks in the hospital where he was being treated for lung cancer. Quebec was 44, Clark was 31, and the music on this album was a few days short of a year old.

Sonny Clark’s solo is simply this: one minute of piano-playing perfection. Don’t miss it.

Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic: The Coda Interview

James Rozzi sent us this 1994 interview he did with Michael Cuscuna for Coda Magazine, looking back not only on the founding of Mosaic Records, but on Michael’s time in the vaults of Blue Note. More on jazz at James Rozzi’s website, where this interview can be found. (Use your laptop or desktop to read this interview, which is in pdf form.)

-Nick Moy


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Ron Carter: Ten Favorite Recordings

In the 47 years that I’ve known Ron Carter, it never would have occurred to me to ask the prolific bassist to pick 10 favorites among the thousands of records that he has played on. Fortunately, Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press did, and the results and Ron’s comments are revealing and sometimes unexpected. I still think the Miles Davis album Miles Smiles has some of the greatest bass work in jazz, but Ron selected his first recorded appearance with Miles on Seven Steps To Heaven.

-Michael Cuscuna


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John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space at 50

The scholarly Hank Shteamer who wrote the excellent essay for our Henry Threadgill set on Mosaic delves deeply into John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space, with drummer Rashied Ali, recorded in 1967 and released in 1974, and the amazing effect that it has had on artists since that time. I often saw the classic Coltrane quartet in the early ‘60s and during a set, he and Elvin Jones would launch into a ferocious duet in the latter half of a quartet piece. That was something to behold. But the duets with Ali were a beast of a very different nature, where the tenor sax and drums developed each piece compositionally from scratch. The effects of this music over the last 50 years have been beautifully annotated here.

-Michael Cuscuna


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The Different Drummers of Miles Davis

This article from Drum Online analyzes the different drummers Miles had and how each suited Miles’s goals in different ways. Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb and Tony Williams were drastically different drummers but they all brought something unique to Miles’s pursuit for beauty and perfection. Tony once told me that no musician or writer ever guessed his primary influence on the drums; it was Jimmy Cobb!

-Michael Cuscuna


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Mickey Roker, R.I.P.

The jazz world lost a major voice on the drums with the death of Mickey Roker at age 84. Like Billy Higgins and Joe Chambers, Roker was never a well-known name except among musicians like Duke Pearson, Sonny Rollins, Stnaley Turrentine, Lee Morgan and Dizzy Gillespie who found him to an essential and driving element in their music. Nate Chinen’s obit on WBGO’s website tells the whole story.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Jazz Photography


Jazz Greats in Paris: The Photography of J.P. Leloir

Jean-Pierre Leloir was a master photographer who captured jazz greats in the ‘50s and ‘60s in Paris and throughout France. His work is under exposed in the U.S. Richard Brody reviews a new book Jazz Images, published by Elemental Music, which should change all that.

-Michael Cuscuna


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A Listen to Late Billie Holiday

David Brent Johnson dedicates a program to the Billie Holiday sessions on Verve in the ‘50s. While her Columbia album Lady In Satin showed a marked decline in her voice, I think the Verve sessions with all-star accompaniment are for the most part excellent. Like Sinatra’s transition from the ‘40s to the ‘50s, Billie’s singing here is rich in maturity and depth.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Jazz in the 1960s: A Guide to the Greatest Albums

Jazzwise has bravely and unwisely cobbled together a guide to the greatest jazz albums of the ‘60s. But such lists are made to be contested. I’d vote for Crescent over A Love Supreme, Change Of The Century over Free Jazz and Mingus, Mingus Mingus over Black Saint And Sinner Lady. But so what! What an amazing decade!

-Michael Cuscuna


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Chasing Trane: A Chat with the Director of the New Coltrane Documentary

Tom Schnabel has been an outstanding music programmer on KCRW for decades. He has posted the episode of his Rhythm Planet with John Scheinfeld, the writer-directer of the John Coltrane documentary Chasing Trane. Tom’s musical choices are as interesting as the interview.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Hear Denzel Washington Speak the Words of John Coltrane

This trailer for the new John Coltrane documentary “Chasing Trane” is loaded with well-known talking heads, waxing in perceptive appreciation of this artist. I haven’t seen the film yet, but what really peaked my interest was the inclusion of a lot of previously unseen photos, especially of Coltrane at home and with his family.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Yusef Lateef with Ahmad Jamal: Marciac 2011

This unusual encounter comes from the jazz festival in Marciac, France. Yusef Lateef joins Ahmad Jamal’s trio for a beautiful flute piece. It’s a mesmerizing treat.

-Michael Cuscuna



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Cecil McBee: Memorable Sessions

Cecil McBee is in his sixth decade as great bassist at the center of some many important creative projects. Cecil is as thoughtful as he is adventurous. Adam Levy sat down with him to get his observations and memories on key sessions throughout his career beginning with Grachan Moncur’s Some Other Stuff and culminating with The Cookers, a co-operative group organized several years back by trumpeter David Weiss. Fascinating reminiscences from someone who was there.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Jazz on Film


The Sonny Rollins Score for Alfie: The Musical Masterpiece That Outlived the Film

Richard Brody devotes this New Yorker column to the ‘60s film Alfie and its score composed and performed by Sonny Rollins, rightly pointing out time has proven the music to be more lasting than the film. 1966 saw Rollins record two of his many masterpieces: Alfie tightly arranged for nonet by Oliver Nelson, and the very freewheeling East Broadway Rundown with Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. They were opposite ends of Rollins’s musical spectrum and each equally brilliant.

-Michael Cuscuna


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Miles Davis: Jazz Sorcerer’s Tale

Adam Shatz spins a wonderful overview on Miles Davis with the film Miles Ahead as the catalyst. But his essay is more comprehensive, covering Miles’s impact in all eras and the reactions to what he did at each stage of his complex career. The Don Cheadle film focuses on Miles’s dark period of retirement and his uncharacteristic regret over losing first wife Francis Taylor, two important but often ignored aspects of his life story.

-Michael Cuscuna


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NPR: Weekend Edition


How Otis Redding’s Unfinished Life and Music Still Resonates

On a recent Weekend Edition broadcast, Scott simon interviewed Jonathan Gould, author of Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life. They cover Redding’s all too brief career with plenty of musical excerpts. Otis had the greatest voice to come along after Ray Charles and he shared with Charles the versatility and artistic instincts to radically transform songs and bring them into his own musical orbit.

-Michael Cuscuna


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