Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jazz Is For Your Heart

exerpted from the liner notes to Mood Swing by Joshua Redman.

"According to popular notion, jazz is something which you research and study, inspect and dissect, scrutinize and analyze. Jazz twists your brain like an algebraic equation, but leaves your body lifeless and limp. In the eyes of the general public, jazz appears as an elite art form, reserved for a select group of sophisticated (and rather eccentric)intelligentsia who rendezvous in secret, underground haunts (or accessable ivory towers) to play obsolete records, debate absurd theories, smoke pipes, and read liner notes. Most people assume that the appreciation of jazz is a long, arduous, and painfully serious cerebral undertaking. Jazz might be good for you, but it just isn't any fun.

This image is simple, powerful, and dangerously appealing. But it is also egregiously false.

Jazz is music. And great jazz, like all great music, attains its value not through intellectual complexity but through emotional expressivity. True, jazz is a particularly intricate, refined, and rigorous art form. Jazz musicians must amass a vast body of idiomatic knowledge and cultivate an acute artistic imagination if they wish to become accomplished, creative improvisers. Moreover, a familiarity with jazz history and theory will undoubtedly enhance a listener's appreciation of the actual aesthetics. Yes, jazz is intelligent music. Nevertheless, extensive as they might seem, the intellectual aspects of jazz are ultimately only means to its emotional ends. Technique, theory, and analysis are not, and should never be considered, ends in themselves.

Jazz is not about flat fives or sharp nines, or metric subdivisions, or substitute chord changes. Jazz is about feeling, communication, honesty, and soul. Jazz is not supposed to boggle the mind. Jazz is meant to enrich the spirit. Jazz can create jubilance. Jazz can induce melancholy. Jazz can energize. Jazz can soothe. Jazz can make you shake your head, clap your hands, and stomp your feet. Jazz can render you spellbound and hypnotized. Jazz can be soft or hard, heavy or light, cool or hot, bright or dark. Jazz is for your heart”.

-Joshua Redman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Notable Jazz releases from 2012

Several years ago, Ken Blanchard gave me the keys to contribute to Jazz Note SDP.  I have not done so as often as I should, and haven't done so in quite some time. I am going to try and change that (as long as I am allowed) and post more often. Besides being an obsessive jazz fan, I am also a radio host in Connecticut at WHUS FM, and publish a podcast produced from the radio show, Jazz and Beyond (as you may know from Ken Blanchard's frequent plugs).

Favorite Overall Picks

Black Radio ~ Robert Glasper Experiment - Ground breaking, chart topping, Jazz-R&B-HipHop crossover album.
Star of Jupiter ~ Kurt Rosenwinkel - Unique sound with a spatial quality and a jazz-rock fusion influence.
Rayuela ~ Miguel Zenon and Laurent Coq - Concept album inspired by a the novel of the same name. Jazz album with Latin, Classical and Indian influenced sound.
Circle House ~ Kris Allen - This quartet led by Hartford based alto sax player shows some great hard bop chops along with raw emotion in these original compositions (and one standard).
Seeds From the Underground ~ Kenny Garrett - Non-stop intensity from start to finish. Soaring alto sax lines over African rhythms.
Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes ~ Branford Marsalis - Hard driving modern bop from some extroadinary jazz cats.
All Our Reasons ~ Billy Hart - Thoughtful compositions and expressive drumming leads the way with this great quartet's explorations.
Unity Band ~ Pat Metheny - Metheny's great all-star touring band of 2012. Chris Potter is paired beautifully with Metheny's playing.
1619 Broadway ~ Kurt Elling - Elling's interpretations of some great popular songs from the 60's and 70's with fine modern jazz arangements behind them.
Initial Here ~ Linda Oh - This great young bass player shows off her intricate writing and arranging skills with a fine quintet.
Accelerando ~ Vijay Iyer - An intense set of piano trio works from this forward thinking creative jazz artist.
The Eleventh Hour ~ Jonathan Blake - Blake explores many facets of jazz in first CD as a leader. He has a modern sound steeped in a swinging tradition.
Spirit Fiction ~ Ravi Coltrane - Ravi continues to grow creatively as an artist. Produced with Joe Lovano, and his influence is felt in these tracks.
Smul’s Paradise ~ Gary Smulyan- Great Hammond B3 based quartet, swinging with one of the best Baritone Sax players in the world.

Best from Connectiuct Jazz Artists

Grandma’s Revenge ~ Frank Varela - Soaring guitar work showing influences from Wes to Hendrix on this fine guitar trio album
Tales & Stories ~ Sinan Bakir - Fine compositions, great chops with an Eastern European influence from this Turkish born, Hartford guitarist.
Live at Smalls ~ Dezron Douglas - Hartfords up and coming bass player is getting some world-wide attention playing with Cyrus Chestnut, Ravi Coltrane and many more. His first major release as a leader swings hard.
Underground ~ New Jazz Workshop - This long standing project by leaders Dezron Dougas (bass) and Lummie Span (sax) puts a hard swinging groove to their original compositions.
Books on Tape, Vol 1 ~ Craig Hartley - Skilled piano chops and wonderful writing from one of Hartfords best jazz cats on this trio album.
State of Emergency ~ Nat Reeves - One of the best jazz session bassists shows how to lay down the perfect rhythm and push the music ahead with this quartet. Fine trumpet playing by newcomer Josh Bruneau deserves your attention.

Circle House -Kris Allen - CT artist listed above in "Best Overall Pics"

Obama-Monk Inaugural Suite

I offer you this musical mash-up of the great Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser combined with excerpts of Barack Obama's 2013 Inaugural Speech. I am not making any political statement here. Please just consider this a commemorative audio souvenir of this historic event, and an interesting fusion of Jazz and the spoken word.

Thelonious Monk  piano; Barack Obama – voice; Thad Jones – cornet; Sam Jones – bass; Charlie Rouse – tenor saxophone; Art Taylor – drums

Joe Lovano For Keeps

I had the pleasure of listening to Joe Lovano live in Sioux Falls several years ago and that makes for a bond.  You can read my review here.  Don't bother with the links.  They are long gone. 

Heading back from Huron SD tonight I listened to Ken Laster's In the Groove podcast and he played a couple of cuts from Lovano's new album: Cross Culture.  Both were excellent, so I spent some of my eMusic dollars to land the album. 

Lovano is the real thing.  His "Us Five" group is superb.  Lovano plays on the edge of hard bop and avant garde, with all due deference to both sides of that edge.  He is a master at squeezing out every last bit of juice from a melody. 

I am playing 'Blessings In May' and 'Star Crossed Lovers'.  Here is the lineup:
  • BassEsperanza Spalding (tracks: 1, 5, 8, 10), Peter Slavov* (tracks: 2 to 4, 8, 9, 11)
  • DrumsOtis Brown III
  • Drums, Whistle, BalafonFrancisco Mela
  • Electric Guitar [Special Guest]Lionel Loueke (tracks: 2 to 4, 6, 7, 11)
  • PianoJames Weidman
  • Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone [G Mezzo Soprano Saxophone], Soprano Saxophone [Aulochrome], Tárogató [Tarogato], Percussion [Oborom Drum], Gong [Gongs], Shaker [Shakers], Percussion [Puddle Drums]Joe Lovano

Friday, January 18, 2013

If You Don't Know Jack (DeJohnette)

Drummer Jack DeJohnette shows up in a lot of jazz in my collection, playing alongside many of my heroes.  I confess that I was not familiar until today with his work as leader.  That has been remedied.  ECM has released a box set of four albums that DeJohnette recorded under the group title Special Edition.  Jack DeJohnette: Special Edition is the kind of treasure I value very highly: a good slice of an artist's work, offering you several fine albums for a very reasonable price ($27.09 for the MP3 download).  In addition, a number of musicians that I have invested in are featured, including David Murray, Arthur Blythe, and Chico Freeman. 

The four albums are:
  1. Special Edition
  2. Album Album
  3. Tin Can Alley
  4. Inflation Blues
The last of these has not been released on CD before now.  Special Edition presents a lot of edgy avant garde compositions, but it is reasonable accessible over all.  DeJohnette's leadership and the brilliance of his co-conspirators is everywhere evident.  There is a lot of slithering horn on many of the pieces and I am a big fan of the low horns.  One thing that the four albums demonstrate is DeJohnette's command of a number of basic realms in jazz space.  

I am playing 'I know' from Tin Can Alley. This might be my favorite cut from the collection, a delicious walking blues with lots of screaming over guttural horn lines.  
I'm playing 'Monk's Mood' from Album Album.  This has a nice big band sound, putting Monk back into the contexts from which he drew his brilliant melodies.  There is a nice pastel feel to the solos by Murray and Johnson. 
 From Inflation Blues, I am playing 'Starburst'. 
This one reminds me of some of Miles Davis' spacy second quintet recordings, except for the marvelous bass clarinet.  

Finally, I offer 'India' from Special Edition
This great adventure story by John Coltrane is a very fine example of why I love Murray and Blythe and why I have now fallen for DeJohnette.  Be sure to take your passport for this one.  

It could be said that DeJohnette is only covering ground already explored by other intrepid jazz men, but boy does he cover it well.  The Special Edition box is a great buy.  This is one fine jazz man. 

Meanwhile, I am adding 'Meaning of the Blues' from Standards Vol. 1, by Keith Jarrett.  DeJohnette plays drums and Gary Peacock is on bass.  Enjoy.  

ps.  check out the video clips at DeJohnette's home page.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Some New Stuff

I got a couple of new CDs in the mail yesterday: While the Gate is Open, by Gary Thomas, and No Room for Argument by Wallace Roney.  Both are quite good.  

I am playing 'Strode Road' and 'Star Eyes' from the first, with Thomas on tenor sax, Dave Holland on bass, Renee Rosnes on piano, Kevin Eubanks on guitar, and Dennis Chambers on drums.  This disc exemplifies one of my favorite formulas in jazz: standard melodies played with an almost avant garde sentiment.  The tenor is well tempered and authentic.  I especially enjoyed Rosnes' solo on 'Star Eyes'.  

I am playing 'Homage & Acknowledgement (Love Supreme/Filles De Kilimanjaro)' from the second disc.  This is a somewhat impressionistic collage, with voices woven into much of the music.  You can get the lineup from All Music.  If you like a hot trumpet spread across hard bop and avant garde, with a lot of political sensibility painted in around the edges, this one is for you.  The disc is available from Amazon for an absurdly low price. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who is Herlin Riley?

Okay, maybe it's early alts but I can't remember exactly when or why I downloaded Herlin Liley's Cream of the Crescent.  I have been playing a cut from the album since Oct. 20, and I dumped it onto a CD that I have been playing in my car. When it came up I had no idea what I was listening to, but I knew I wanted more.  At this rate I will so be able to hide my own Easter eggs.  

Anyway, Riley's album is very fine "neo-bop" drummer and leader, to judge from this very fine neo-bop album.  The album has the sparkling feel of a splendid jazz room, one where you can here every crisp note of the piano and the sound of the bass player's fingers on the strings.  You get carried into the room and out again into that jazz thing.  

Here is the note from CDUniverse:
Cream of the Crescent album by Herlin Riley was released Oct 04, 2005 on the criss cross label. On his second Criss Cross date, Herlin Riley, drummer with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra since 1992, assembles an all-star lineup from different eras of the band. The front line comprises Criss Cross veteran Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Victor Goines Personnel: Herlin Riley (drums); Victor Goines (clarinet, saxophone); Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Wycliffe Gordon (trombone); Eric Lewis (piano); Reginald Veal (bass instrument). Cream of the Crescent CD music contains a single disc with 9 songs.
I have been playing 'Need Ja Help'.  I am keeping that on going and adding the first cut: 'Bird Life', which features Lewis on piano.  I am also adding 'Trouble in Treme', which is a showcase for the horns and piano.  Enjoy.  Tell Wycliffe Gordon that he needs to send me a note.  I love him on his CD.