Photos: CBS via Getty Images | Courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection
John Coltrane and Joe Brazil
John Coltrane's Unearthed 'A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle' Is A Revelation. Without This Little-Known Figure, It Wouldn't Exist.
The jazz world is heralding 'A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle,' a document of John Coltrane performing his masterpiece in 1965. But the story is bigger than Trane: It involves Joe Brazil — and the dogged archivist trying to bring his story into the light.
Steve Griggs was dumbstruck at what he was hearing. For the past several years, he'd been on a crusade to learn more about Joe Brazil, the mysterious name on the back of John Coltrane's Om, credited as playing flute. The journey led him to Joe's widow Virginia's home — where Joe had died in 2008. There, she invited Griggs to sift through a massive collection of reel-to-reel tapes Brazil had made throughout the years.
"I kind of felt overwhelmed — almost paralyzed," Griggs tells GRAMMY.com. "Like, how do I approach this volume?" He decided to start with Joe's recordings of his close friend, Coltrane. One, marked "Saturday, Oct. 2 — A Love," caught his eye, due to its temporal proximity to the legend's famous Live in Seattle album. "There was no documented performance of A Love Supreme," Griggs notes of that period. "I was like, 'Oh, maybe he taped the record or something. I was skeptical: 'A Love?' What?"
But when Griggs put on the tape, it gradually dawned on him: He was hearing "Psalm," the solemn closer from A Love Supreme. He flipped the tape over, and there it was: The famous fanfare from opener "Acknowledgement." This finding took his breath away: Until then, there had only been one known live recording of Coltrane's monumental suite, his statement of spiritual intent. Here was a major document, and no Trane scholar knew it existed on the planet.
Virginia struck a deal for Resonance Records co-president Zev Feldman to acquire the tapes — partly so they'd "stay out of the hands of nefarious bootleggers," as Feldman tells GRAMMY.com. Due to Resonance's longstanding relationship with Verve Label Group and Impulse!, they were able to get it in the hands of the proper rightsholders at Universal Music Group.
Now, this recording that Griggs says "might have gone in a trash can" can be cherished by jazz fans the world over. A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle, which was released Oct. 22 via Impulse!/UMe, features a polished version of that very tape in full — bigger, rawer and wilder. It shows that the jazz legend sought to test its edges, reconsider its components, scramble its equilibrium. A Love Supreme wasn't just a classic record: It was alive.
And if not for Brazil — a saxophonist, community hub and consummate documentarian who many jazz scholars aren't aware of — we wouldn't be able to enjoy this music today.
Joe Brazil. Photo courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection.
"To me, there are two heroes of this recording, once you get beyond the musicians themselves," Mark Stryker, a jazz historian and columnist who authored 2019's Jazz From Detroit, tells GRAMMY.com. "Joe Brazil, for having the foresight to record that afternoon, and Steve Griggs, who brought it to the world, those are the heroes to me: Two saxophonists living decades apart in Seattle."
But Brazil was not merely capturing a famous musician, like a taper at a Grateful Dead show. As a recordist, musician and man about town, he was part of the "marrow" — Stryker's word — of the Detroit and Seattle jazz scenes. He also enjoyed a warm friendship with Coltrane, an intimidating figure to some. And after the saxophonist's death, Brazil was a passionate and unconventional music educator.
"If we didn't have this album — even if this didn't exist — Joe Brazil's life mattered," Stryker says. "It mattered in jazz in the way that so many lives in jazz mattered. And it's worth taking a minute to think about that."
As with the story of any life — especially one as magnificent and underreported as Brazil's — it's helpful to start at the beginning.
Roots In Detroit
Griggs has spent a decade researching Brazil in the role of an "unpaid storyteller," and his findings are available to all. His Joe Brazil Project, which has been quietly accumulating on Blogspot since 2012, is a trove of historical goodies, from a Brazil family tree to a script for a Brazil-centric play to a photo of a cigarette burn on Brazil's piano — courtesy of Coltrane.
The blog also contains a timeline of Brazil's early life, and it goes something like this: Joe Brazil was born in Detroit in 1927, and went on to study saxophone at the Detroit Institute of Music and Conservatory of Music. Straight out of high school, he joined the army and played in a band called the G.I. Jazzmen of Geiger Field — named after where he was stationed, outside of Spokane.
Like many musicians in the incredibly fertile '50s jazz scene in Detroit, Brazil worked in the automotive industry — specifically at Chrysler, as a toolmaker and inspector. Being part of that burgeoning middle class allowed him to buy a house for his mother, with the help of his brother. After she died in 1951, he outfitted the basement with a bar, chess boards and a baby grand piano.
This hang-space attracted Detroit's best and brightest, like saxophonist Sonny Red, trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Roy Brooks. Even national touring artists like Coltrane and Miles Davis — who played together in Davis' First Great Quintet — passed through to jam and shoot the breeze.
"I had been to his house before and I played at some of those sessions," saxophonist Charles McPherson tells GRAMMY.com. "I know he was a guy that documented things — a lot of Detroit players, and people who would come through Detroit working with other people." (Plus, as Coltrane scholar Yasuhiro Fujioka explains to GRAMMY.com, Detroit was a suboptimal place to score drugs, which made it a destination for musicians hoping to get clean.)
Brazil's involvement in Detroit's music scene didn't end there: He dragged a somewhat cumbersome German tape recorder to clubs like the Blue Bird Inn, the West End and the Rouge Lounge.
"He was moving around and kind of greeting people. He was an MC of sorts," journalist, author and activist Herb Boyd tells GRAMMY.com of one such night at the Blue Bird. "At the same time, he was a host with the most, in terms of also documenting the occasion."
As Boyd points out, Detroit offered few club opportunities for young players, so they often congregated in homes. "It was very unique in that sense, because we had single dwellings and you had control of your basements and upstairs and attics and what have you," he says. "People could come by and you have an opportunity to sharpen and perfect your study of the music."
Joe Brazil's house in Detroit. Photo courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection.
In 1958, Coltrane stopped by Brazil's place to jam with him and Joe Henderson; their rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown" from this day is floating around on YouTube. Coltrane went on to become a frequent visitor whenever he and Davis were in town. As Griggs speculates, Brazil's ability to meet people on their level endeared him to Coltrane.
"People were intimidated by [Coltrane's] prowess," Griggs says. "Even back in Detroit, Roy Brooks and other musicians were like [Breathless voice] 'Coltrane! Coltrane! Coltrane!' They were making a big deal out of him. And it's appropriate to make a big deal out of him, but he's also a human being who's really curious and wants to know what everyone else is doing."
And in 1961, while most Detroit musicians headed eastward for New York, Brazil went the opposite direction — westward, to Seattle, to take a new job at Boeing. Despite this, his relationship with Coltrane didn't end there.
A Rendezvous In Seattle
Two years after the move, Brazil enrolled at the University of Washington to study math and computer programming. He also soaked in the local jazz scene, performing with greats like saxophonist Charles Lloyd and bassist Rufus Reid.
"He was a character, for sure," the twice-GRAMMY-nominated Reid tells GRAMMY.com from his home in Teaneck, New Jersey. "He had that kind of energy; he could manifest all kinds of things and it was fun playing. I was learning tons about music I didn't know about."
Rufus Reid and Joe Brazil. Photo courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection.
By 1965, Coltrane had released A Love Supreme, a record which made him a bona fide jazz star. "He's headlining wherever he wants to, whenever he wants to, clubs, festivals," GRAMMY-winning Coltrane scholar and author Ashley Kahn tells GRAMMY.com. "And he's making bank for it."
"But at the same time, he's taking that moment of what we would look upon as success and not slowing down," he adds. "In fact, he's increasing the tempo of his drive and saying, 'I'm going to keep experimenting."
That year, Coltrane's quartet — pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, outfitted with tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and second bassist Donald Garrett — rolled into Seattle to perform a weeklong residency at the 275-capacity Penthouse club.
Coltrane paid engineer Jan Curtis out of pocket to record the results, and the volcanic performance on Sept. 30 became 1971's Live in Seattle. Wanting to keep the vibe going, the group decamped with Brazil the next day to Camelot Sound Studios in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood to record Om, one of Coltrane's furthest-out works. On the album, Brazil plays one of Trane's wooden African flutes, making Om the only known recorded collaboration between the two.
"The music sounded crazy. People were chanting, drums bashing, horns squealing," Griggs wrote of discovering Omon his blog. "I couldn't pick out any recognizable melody or form. It sounded like freedom — spirits unleashed. Emotive motifs turned up to 11!"
For the performance the following day, Oct. 2, alto saxophonist Carlos Ward sat in. After an opening performance by Brazil and his ensemble, he patched his recorder through the club's two-channel recording system. Right then, he captured this teeming, multitudinous version of Coltrane's suite.
"The fact that he was there to record it came as the fruition of this long life led in music up until that point," Stryker says. "He was really embedded within the core of the musician's life and the social and cultural fabrics of the cities in which he lived."
In 1967, Coltrane died of liver cancer at only 40, bringing his insatiable progression to a screeching halt. And, as Griggs speculates on his blog, the death hit Brazil hard, drawing the blueprint for the rest of his life — especially given that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be assassinated the following year.
"This existential reckoning may have urged him to pass information on to the next generation," Griggs writes, noting that Brazil went on to teach music locally at Seattle Community College, Washington Middle School and Garfield High School.
His teaching career took an abrupt turn from there: In 1968, a black student union and the Black Panthers occupied the University of Washington's president's office, demanding the formation of a Black studies program. Fully aware of Brazil as a community member and Coltrane associate, the union demanded the school hire him as a faculty member at their school of music.
At UW, Brazil used his unpolished, personable teaching style to bring jazz pioneers, like Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock, eye-to-eye with students. "He felt that the important point about the music was one-on-one relationships," Griggs says. "That's how the music spreads."
Cannonball Adderley and Joe Brazil. Photo courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection.
While Brazil had a special way of communing with students, his unvarnished approach — chronically late, flouting academic decorum — flew in the face of academic mores and stoked derision from other faculty members.
"He was very street, in a certain way, and that didn't fly in an institution that was modeling itself after a European conservatory," Griggs says. "Perhaps they were jealous that he was connecting so well with students. The students were so happy to be in his class, but he wasn't credentialed like the rest of the faculty. He was Black. He didn't have degrees."
Despite breaking down barriers in academia, Brazil was ultimately not granted tenure, and was eventually replaced by Milton Stewart, another Black professor from the University of Michigan — who, Griggs says, weathered even more abuse than Brazil did.
Before and after leaving the University of Washington in 1976, Brazil became even more involved with his Seattle community, teaching students and inmates — often at little or no cost — and founding a nonprofit music school called the Black Academy of Music. The King of Sweden, Carl Gustaf, presented him with a service award in 1976.
"My life has taken a number of directions, but all seemingly with a purpose," Brazil wrote at one point. "Along the way I have come in contact with some remarkable people. Most have had some positive impact on my life. I have also come in contact with many racists and bigots.
"I feel the information that I share about my life," he added, "may help to bring about some awareness that will bring us earthlings a step closer together."
Zooming Out From Brazil
Sadly, Brazil is no longer around to tell his story: In 2008, he died at 80 after a history of heart problems. And while his story is fascinating enough to warrant a biography — Griggs has been trying to write one for a while — Brazil's relative marginalization speaks to the unwritten history of this Black, American idiom.
"My understanding is that Joe was a good musician, but he wasn't a great musician and he didn't record," Stryker says. "In jazz history, we tend not to remember people that haven't recorded." But, he stresses, even those who weren't in jazz's Mount Rushmore — and even those far from it — indisputably impacted the musicians, communities and cities they were part of.
"If we didn't have this album — even if this didn't exist — Joe Brazil's life mattered."
"If you step back and you look at Joe's life in the broader sense of the history of jazz, you see someone who had an extraordinarily fulfilling and influential role in the communities where he lived," Stryker adds. "He was at the center of action in some ways in Detroit, and in Seattle he began to play an even larger role."
Now, with A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle out in the world, neophytes, fans and scholars alike can take a moment to appreciate the little-known figure who captured this music for the world.
"It's natural that everybody's going to gravitate to Trane and the story and the recording and all that," Stryker says, surveying the mostly Brazil-less ocean of reviews and features about the long-lost recording.
"But I would've thought that someone before this," he adds, "might have thought to take a step back and talk a little bit about Joe."
Joe Brazil. Photo courtesy of the Joe Brazil Collection.
GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw
On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.
In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.
Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year
Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration
Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the
The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at
"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community."
Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list.
At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in
After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.
In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.
Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized.
For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: The Recording Academy
Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Alexa Zaske
This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.
The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.
Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."
Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.
Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed.
Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.
My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.
For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.
(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)
Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs
Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards
As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.
Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.
"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."