Tuesday, December 25, 2007

other lists

I will say that a ton of really good records just didn't make the cut this year for one reason or another (mostly because I didn't have enough time to listen to them thoroughly and come to appreciate their nuances and/or highlights).

First are the records that I that almost made the top 10:

Scott Colley - Architect of the Silent Moment (CamJazz)
Amir Elsaffar - Two Rivers (Pi Recordings) (which I publicized)
Big Four (Nagl/Bernstein/Jones/Akchote) - Big Four Live (Hatology)
Chris Potter 10 - Song for Anyone (Sunnyside/Universal Music France)
Fred Hersh Trio - Night and the Music (Palmetto)
Jason Lindner Big Band - Live at the Jazz Gallery (Anzic)
Jerome Sabbagh - Pogo (Sunnyside/Bee Jazz)
Joachim Kuhn w/ Majid Bekkas & Ramon Lopez - Kalimba (ACT Music) (which I publicized)
Joe Lovano & Hank Jones: Kids: Live at Dizzy's Club Cola-Cola (Blue Note) (which I publicized)
Julie Hardy - The Wish (World Culture Music)
Kenny Werner - Lawn Chair Society (Blue Note) (which I publicized)
Kurt Elling - Night Moves (Concord)
Lars Danielsson/Leszek Mozdzer - Pasodoble (ACT Music) (which I publicized)
Luciana Souza - The New Bossa Nova (Verve)
Metheny/Mehldau - Quartet (Nonesuch)
Michael Brecker - Pilgrimage (Heads Up)
Scott Colley - Architect of the Silent Moment (CAM Jazz)
Terence Blanchard - A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (Blue Note)
The Bad Plus - Prog (Heads Up/Do The Math)
The Claudia Quintet - For (Cuneiform)

And the records I heard great things about from critics and/or bloggers whom I respect, and thus probably would have enjoyed, but never got around to buying or listening to before the end of the year (though several of these I bought since originally conceiving this post):

Alan Ferber Nonet - The Compass (Fresh Sound)
Bill McHenry - Roses (Sunnyside) (even though the label sent me a copy!)
David Binney/Edward Simon - Oceanos (Criss Cross)
His Name Is Alive - Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown (High Two)
Maria Schneider - Sky Blue (ArtistShare)
McCoy Tyner - Quartet (McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note)
Mike Moreno - Between the Lines (World Culture Music)

The record that seems to be on everyone's lists except mine. For some reason or another, however much I listened to the new Joshua Redman recording, Back East (Nonesuch), I couldn't get into it. While it is a welcome return to his envelope-pushing modern straight-ahead bag, from which he strayed with his last two records as a leader, the proto-jam band/funk release Elastic Band(Warner Bros.) and the also funky completely mishmashed release, Momentum (Nonesuch), with a very varied cast of players (as on Back East), I did not hear terribly inspired playing. I should, however, mention his excellent output as founder and now former leader of the SF Jazz Collective (which he has recently been replaced by Joe Lovano so that Redman can more actively pursue his solo career). This group - which in my mind now rivals the Dave Holland Quintet, Wayne Shorter Quartet, Dave Douglas Quintet & Keystone, The Claudia Quintet and a few others as far as having virtually all charismatic soloists and great group cohesion - have widely released two recordings on Nonesuch (both dedicated to a veritable icon of jazz past, one for Ornette Coleman and one for tribute John Coltrane) as well as two other limited edition double albums on the independent SF Jazz imprint (the latest of which is dedicated to Thelonious Monk and original compositions). Maybe I need to revisit Back East once again with the press release in hand, but I think Redman he has made far better records.

Now the records I heard and loved that fall outside of jazz.

Pop/World/Non-Jazz Top 10 of 2007:

1. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
2. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (DFA)
3. The National - Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
4. Tcheka - Nu Monda (Times Square)
5. Radiohead - In Rainbows (self-released)
6. The D.R.E.A.M. - Love/Hate (Def Jam)
7. Tinariwen - Aman Iman: Water is Life (Global Village)
8. Caribou - Andorra (Merge)
9. KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic (Interscope)
10. PJ Harvey - White Chalk (Island)

And the records I didn't get a chance to hear closely or at all but was very intrigued by from monitoring various media outlets for my job like NPR, Pitchfork and the blogosphere in non-jazz genres were new/recent records by the now late Andy Palacio, Mariza, Battles, Simian Mobile Disco, Klaxons, Robert Wyatt, Animal Collective, Panda Bear, Arcade Fire, Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Sunset Rubdown, Dirty Projectors: Rise Above, Deerhunter, Feist, Justice, Of Montreal, Okkervil River, Beirut, UGK, Wilco and Jens Lekman.

catching up...Top 10s (new stuff & reissues/box sets)

"How did you get this number?"

I love it when people utter these words which I heard today from an acquaintance I just wanted to catch up with (it being the holidays and whatnot) on the telephone. His number is clearly listed in the white pages (which for those technologically inclined or visually impaired, can be accessed effortlessly online, from any computer, with a simple Google search including the person's last name and the state in which they reside or their first and last name and the town and state, etc.).

It's as if the white pages were a big secret? If you're so concerned about it, don't list yourself.

Enough of that.

I'm not really in a bad mood. However with most of my home friends out of town or occupied, I've been left to spend a day with myself reading, eating and trying to find amusement in Web 2.0 - namely the now immensely popular social network, Facebook.

I ate a wonderful Malaysian lunch alone at a very spacious suburban restaurant called Penang, in Bethesda, MD (unofficial restaurant capital of the state). I enjoyed roti canai (described as "the all-time favorite Malaysian crispy Indian-style pancake, served with curry chicken as dipping sauce") which I recommend to anyone trying Malaysian for the first time. So greasy, but so good. And for my main course, I enjoyed kari ayam, spicy dish of coconut red curried chicken and potatoes over a bed of sticky rice. All the while, reading a new book by James Lipton of Inside the Actors' Studio.

Back at home, this leaves me to ponder various lists that I have been devising and refining over the last few weeks regarding recordings and musical functions I attended during 2007. However, I can't post about this right now as I am away from my collection for the time being and will likely have to wait until the New Year to fully elaborate upon.

Suffice to say, the very elite "Top 10" list I am having published in various outlets including the JJA wiki (once I renew my membership), goes like this in order:

1. Niño Josele - Paz (Callé 54/Song BMG)
2. Chris Potter Underground - Follow The Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside/Universal Music France)
3. Alan Pasqua - The Antisocial Club (Cryptogramophone)
4. Bobby Sanabria - Big Bang Urban Folktales (Jazzheads)
5. Nels Cline Singers - Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone)
6. Tain & The Ebonix - Folks' Songs (Dark Key Music)
7. Manuel Valera - Vientos (Anzic)
8. Kendrick Scott Oracle - The Source (World Culture Music)
9. Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters (Verve)
10. Helen Sung - Sungbird (after Albeniz) (Sunnyside)

(Note: I made an error originally putting Rudresh Mahanthappa's Codebook in my 2007 Top 10 which is supposed to appear in All About Jazz's printed edition in LA, Chicago and Seattle and possibly SF as well. In reality, it was released in October 2006 and thus does not qualify for 2007 consideration, so I have substituted another ).

And my Top 10 Jazz Reissues/Box Sets:

1. Miles Davis - The Complete On The Corner Sessions (Sony Legacy)
2. McCoy Tyner - Horizon [Keepnews Collection] (Milestone)
3. Stanley Turrentine - The Spoiler (Blue Note)
4. George Benson - The Shape of Things to Come (A&M)
5. Joe Henderson - Power to the People [Keepnews Collection] (Riverside)
6. Bobby Hutcherson - Mosaic Select (Mosaic)
7. Frank Sinatra -- A Voice in Time: 1939-1952 (Sony Legacy)
8. Thad Jones - Detroit/New York Junction (Blue Note)
9. Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams [Keepnews Collection] (Milestone)
10. Frank Foster - Manhattan Fever (Blue Note)

In the interest of full disclosure: Some of these artists are or have been clients in various capacities in the past year either directly or through another employer (a PR firm I work for) including most titles on the ACT Music label, many of Blue Note Records' new releases including: Charles Tolliver Big Band, Kenny Werner, Bill Charlap Trio, Joe Lovano & Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell, Charles Mingus Sextet w/ Eric Dolphy, Jacky Terrasson, Nigel Kennedy and Stacey Kent (any others like Wynton Marsalis, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, etc. were worked internally by Blue Note's publicity staff or by other independent PR firms), the Cryptogramophone label and all affiliated artists, most catalog on Concord Music Group and its family of labels which were part of the Fantasy acquisition - namely all titles in the Keepnews Collection and pretty much all catalog except Stax releases, Kendrick Scott and Rudresh Mahanthappa). While some might see this as a conflict of interest, I justify it for the fact that I have the distinct honor and good fortune to work with some artists who are indeed some of my favorite musicians.

Please support the artists and the independent labels (who are often the forgotten link in the food chain and also the bigger financial losers in today's marketplace) by buying this music legitimately in hard form or digitally if you don't have it already.

Coming soon: an interview with up-and-coming pianist Helen Sung and other lists of honorable mentions, non-jazz genre Top 10s (because, I listen to more than jazz) + records I heard about from other bloggers, Pitchfork, All Music Guide or journalists whose opinions I respect, but never got copies of or never got a chance to listen to...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Links, Vol. 3

David Adler keeps busy with his JazzTimes/PW/ Inquirer freelancing with three show reviews (all of which I couldn't attend for various reasons): Charles Lloyd, Fred Hersch and Tiger Okoshi + a PW preview of Columbian harpist Edmar Castaneda + a new JazzTimes lead review of the two new Chris Potter CDs on Sunnyside/Universal Music France/Emarcy. (This multiple label licensing thing is clearly getting confusing. I am trying to figure out what it all means through a contact at Universal. Stay tuned on that if interested. For all intents and purposes, just look for it on Sunnyside Records if you're in the US. I will soon blog about these releases. I think it's needless to say that I like them. "Pop Tune #1" and "Togo" are close favorites.)

Larry Blumenfeld riffs on the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills, NY which was just placed on the National Historic Register

Sam Adams' Citypaper review of the new Bob Dylan fantasy biopic starring Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Adrien Brody and Julianne Moore among others + Shaun Brady's review from the same paper of the much-heralded new Noah Baumbach film, Margot at the Wedding (both of which I still need to see).

Also on the movie front, the one new flick I saw over the Thanksgiving break was No Country for Old Men, which was a very well-shot and choreographed saga - not the Coen Brothers best work - I still prefer Miller's Crossing as far as drama and The Big Lebowski as far as dark satirical comedy. If No Country lacked for an ending, it made up for it in the beautiful panoramic shots of Western Texas with long silences punctuated by thunderous gunshots. I found out afterwards that they shot on the same location where the Coens' first picture Blood Simple was filmed.

Howard Mandel on the AACM in New York.

Slate's Dana Stevens on the plentiful archives of The Daily Show available now online.

Peter Margasak on buying specialty world music from your computer.

The music critics of the NY Times on this weeks recorded nuggets (no, not part of the psych rock/garage series of box sets). Note Nate Chinen's review of Loren Stillman - a very underrated altoist.

Bob Karlovits of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on mp3 devices versus the old school - and how the market for said devices has changed.

Various holiday box set and musical gift guides from: USA Today, New York Times, Nashville City Paper, Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times/East Bay Express, San Jose Mercury News.

And finally AP on Marian McPartland's latest chapter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back in the Saddle

For those interested, Monterey was amazing. It was a mistake to even think I'd have time to blog while enjoying sunny California for the first time in 6 years.

I thought I'd reestablish my blogging presence back on the East Coast with a couple links to things that have lately been occupying my time and thoughts:

-Pitchfork's excellent review of Erik Friedlander's Block Ice & Propane

-FX's new legal flash-forward/flashback-ridden thriller/murder mystery Damages

-The D.R.E.A.M aka The-Dream aka Terius Nash, an Atlanta-based hip-hop/R&B songwriter whose current radio smash hit "Shawty is da Sh*t" (radio-friendly version known as "Shawty Is a Ten") is currently getting about as much play in my iTunes as Horace Tapscott's The Dark Tree, which is saying a lot. And of course, being the hipster that I am, I owe it all to the taste makers at The Fader, whose podcast turned me on to this cat. I even launched a Pandora station to find music like this track that might light my fire as much as this song does, despite semi-vulgar lyrics. No luck yet.

-and there's nothing quite like three white British dudes from the current indie buzz band, Klaxons remaking a song that is arguably the definitive R&B hit of the 90s - Blackstreet's No Diggity (complete with music video). I rocked out to this song almost non-stop in the 7th and 8th grades as it was drilled into my head on the bus to and from middle school.

That's where I'm at.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

meet me in Monterey / Sonny Rollins tidbit

Tomorrow I leave for my first Monterey Jazz Festival and some much-needed vacation, which should at least partially explain the lack of blogging since August. I plan to blog while I'm out there about my daily activities in the South Bay (around Palo Alto and Mountain View - Google and Apple country), San Fran and the East Bay (to meet some writers I talk to all the time but have never met).

I will attempt to take notes on the shows I see in Monterey and any I might see in the Bay Area following the festival (though the chances of that actually happening are fairly low). It should be a lot of fun anyways.

I also moved again since my last post. Pictures soon once they finish painting it and fixing the space up (that happens while I'm gone). I finally have a place and a year lease and can finally stay for an extended period of time, which is better than moving every two-three months, as I have been forced to do recently for various reasons.

On an entirely different note, David Adler, one of my favorite writers and a new Philly friend, wrote an in-depth account of last night's historic concert by Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes and Christian McBride at Carnegie Hall. The first paragraph grabbed my attention immediately:

Last night's historic Sonny Rollins show at Carnegie Hall was, among other things, a terrific and much-needed jolt of New York energy for this writer. Drummer Rashied Ali marched into the Pick-a-Bagel as I was finishing my sandwich. You just don't experience this sort of thing in Philly. With a cursory glance around the lobby and inside the hall, one could spot saxophonists Joe Lovano, Paquito D'Rivera, Antonio Hart, Kenny Garrett, Loren Schoenberg, Bill McHenry, John Zorn (in black leather and red camouflage); New Yorker editor David Remnick; pianist David Berkman; organist Dr. Lonnie Smith; drummer Lewis Nash; guitarists Russell Malone and Pat Metheny. And a good many journalists and critics.

Very inspiring, even though I wasn't there. It really got me in the mood for what I think I'm about to experience out in Monterey.

Ok, off to pack some more. More updates soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Week in Review; Sunday links, Vol. 2

I meant to do this last Sunday too, so I've saved up some older things. I was very encouraged this weeks to see Darcy's repost (as reported in the New York Post) on The NY Times' TimesSelect pay disservice soon becoming a thing of the past.

This past week I saw some excellent live shows and had a few new cultural experiences which I thought I would relate through links. I saw Aretha Franklin on Monday night. Dan DeLuca of the Philadelphia Inquirer has that review. I had a crappy seat (I was standing) but I can attest to the almost completely African American crowd. It was awe-inspiring that so many people would come out to a concert on a Tuesday night. I have to say that the way she ended her performance was very anti-climactic with umpteen reappearances on stage for bows as the emcee indefatigably pronounced "the queen of soul...the empress of music...Miss Aretha Franklin," over and over and over. I should note that my buddy Jason Marshall, who I played in different saxophone sections with in high school was called in for the gig (I don't believe it was his first with Aretha; he operates in those circles). The "impressively tight band" which DeLuca references played a fitting musical interlude when Ms. Franklin took her unexpected 10-minute mid-show break with Philly native Benny Golson's "Killer Joe." The tenor and alto saxophone solos on the big band interlude were very impressive. No names were mentioned, of course.

And on Tuesday night I saw violinist Jenny Scheinman with Jim Black, Todd Sickafoose and David Tronzo (who was sitting in for a sick and thus sidelined Nels Cline who had to cancel last minute). They played to a packed International House filled with all ages and musical impetuses. You had your guitar headz expecting Cline (who was given top billing along side Scheinman in all the marketing outreach (mostly email-based). You had your drum headz to see Jim Black, a legend of the now (sort of) defunct "downtown" scene (much of that music has moved to Brooklyn these days, including Scheinman's weekly Tuesday night gigs at Barbès). You even had a few folkie chicks and fellas in birkenstocks who knew that Sickafoose (and Scheinman herself) have been known to play with that righteous babe named Ani (though they may have been true Scheinman fans, I suppose). David Adler has the scoop on this show. It was very enjoyable.

Maria Schneider has another new large ensemble recording through artistShare (note how I didn't say "on artistShare." It's not a label, people. It's a business model), which is generating some nice attention. ArtistShare has been a major boon to Ms. Schneider's career. I am deciding which participant offer I want to enroll in or if I just want to buy the CD with the deluxe booklet (that is, if any are still available).

Also, I've been reading some magazines that I've always wondered about but never seriously read before. The current issue of Harper's has a brilliant memoir about the shared cultural experience among middle and upper class boys and girls - sleep-away camp in America. The article was written by New York-based author Rich Cohen as a well as a fascinating essay about a contemporary Turkish literary icon named Orham Pamuk.

NY Times scribe Nate Chinen journeyed down to the Crescent City to speakwith trumpeter Terence Blanchard in his native environment about rebuilding, his new album on Blue Note and the relocation of the Monk Institute from The University of Southern California to Loyola University in New Orleans.

The first full day of the Newport Jazz Festival under new management goes off without a hitch. George Wein is on hand to approve and make the new beer and wine lines run smoother.

This week in the Voice, Francis Davis has a virtual discography of trombonist, musical omnivore Roswell Rudd as well as a round-about review of his newest CD El Espirito Jibaro (which I have on my stack and have been meaning to get to for a review).

Though I never read him when I lived and went to school in Pittsburgh, Tribune Review jazz and cultural reporter Bob Karlovits does a hell of a lot of writing about jazz on an almost daily basis for the paper. This feature is about a good deed he had a hand in, in the name of Art Blakey.

Mwanji has an interesting exploration of his perceived associations between content of an album and its packaging.

Everybody in the jazz world has been talking about Keith Jarrett's latest episode stepping over the line with his mouth. Though JazzTimes reported that the Festival and the city of Perugia, Italy had officially banned Jarrett from ever performing again, industry sources close to the festival are saying that Jarrett and his manager have kissed and made up with the mayor of Perugia and all is well again. I personally wish it weren't. Keith is a brilliant musician, but he needs to take a lesson in reality and have some accountability for his outlandish actions. I think we all "reserve the right" to think he's an imbecile. A musician told me this week he remembers Keith once refusing to start his performance at Umbria or another outdoor festival because it was 68˚F and he will only play outdoors if it is 70˚F or warmer. Who brings a thermometer on stage? However, the Guardian and Idolator disagree.

Finally, I have recently been taken recently by how ubiquitous Beyoncé Knowles is these days in almost every medium I can think of. Even though she's on a major concert tour around the US right now, it is amazing how many different products she can be seen endorsing from make-up to soft drinks to her own line of clothing. It is also amazing how many column inches she is occupying in both dailies and alt weeklies, let alone the blogosphere. There was a very interesting piece in last Sunday's Boston Globe about this phenomenon as it relates to Ms. Knowles. I do like some of her music and I have to say that she is very attractive. She, her PR people and her personal trainer have done a very good job transforming her into a mainstream sex symbol. And she just keeps on truckin. She doesn't seem to tire from the road or the endless stream of live engagements, awards ceremonies or society functions. And all this without any major scandals that I know of. But I don't really pay much attention to gossip of that nature.

Enjoy these links and maybe comment with some of your own.

RIP Mario Rivera

I am not an expert of contemporary Latin music or Latin jazz, even. But I do know enough to recognize that Mario Rivera was a ubiquitous and integral presence on both those scenes.

You may have missed it, but Rivera appeared in all white playing some killin' tenor sax with Tito Puente's little big band with Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Valentin and others in one of the musical vignettes in the ground-breaking documentary film on Latin jazz, by Spanish director Fernando Trueba, Calle 54.

I could try to eulogize Rivera myself, (whom I had the privilege of seeing live on more than one occasion with bands led by Carlos 'Patato' Valdez, the Tito Puente Orchestra and other bands), but I won't try since drummer/percussionist, composer, big band leader and noted educator Bobby Sanabria has already done so in a much more eloquent and expert fashion than I could ever have.

I received this note via the Jazz Programmers List (a jazz radio listserv for radio programmers, promoters and musicians available for subscription at www.jazzweek.com).


Today is indeed a day of sadness. El Comandante, Mario Rivera, passed away this morning at St. Vincents Hospital in NYC ending his long battle with cancer.

One can not begin to speak of Mario in terms of his career in just a posting. A virtual series of volumes has to be written. Like so many musicians who are Latino and have been an integral part of the jazz world and the world of their own native culture, their contributions have been long overlooked by those who write the history of both genres.

If you looked up the term multi-instrumentalist in a dictionary, Mario's face would immediately come to mind. Forever the inquisitive practicer, he could playover 20 instruments at a very high level. His"tertulias" at his apartment as Ben Lapidus can attestwere virtual centers of activity for his lengthy practice sessions and if there were other players around there would certainly be a jam session in progress.

He could play all of the family of saxophones on a virtuosic level as a soloist and section player and was one of the very few saxophonists who was also a master of the flute in the Cuban charanga style. But he was most known for his mastery of the tenor saxophone.

According to Scott Yanow's book, Afro-Cuban Jazz, he was born July 22, 1939 in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic. After he arrived in NYC in 1961, he worked with Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. His most significant musical associations through the years include Tito Rodriguez (1963-65), The Machito Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Tipica 73, The George Coleman Octet, Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra, Slide Hampton's Jazz Masters, the Afro Blue Band, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chico O'Farll's Orchestra and especially Tito Puente's Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble with whom he worked for on and off for decades. In addition Mario occasionally lead the Salsa Refugees, a respite from his work in the Latin field, where he could explore his voice as a jazz soloist.

He was a true musical soldier. By that I mean he was the ultimate sideman. He was there to facilitate and enhance whatever musical situation he was called upon to do. Whether it was a movie soundtrack, jingle date, small combo to big band date or just a guataca jam session, Mario's versatility and most of all, presence, were always welcomed.

Although having appeared on virtually hundreds of recording, perhaps, thousands, Mario to my knowledge recorded only one disc as a leader named after his sobriquet, El Comandante. It has fine examples of combinations of the native rhythm of his homeland, merengue from the Dominican Republic and jazz improvisation. Indeed it can be considered not only a tribute to his homeland and his mastery of jazz harmony but
an homage also to one of his inspirations and yet another unsung hero, fellow Dominican saxophone master, Tavito Vasquez.

I got to know Mario well when I was part of the United Nations Big Band. Like his inventive playing, Mario had a uniquely creative sense of humor, which many here who had the pleasure of working with him can attest to. Nadie se escapaba (no one escaped) and one looked forward to Mario's zingers, because like his playing, they were the epitome of timing and creativity.

Because there are several members of this list serve who had an even more personal and musical relationship with him, I look forward to reading their recollections of Don Mario. He will be missed, but of course never, ever forgotten. Especially when I hear a tambora and guira, a good saxophone mambo, or Giant Steps being played in all the keys. :)

Rest In Peace nuestro Comandante.

Mucho ibiano y aché,
Bobby Sanabria

You can learn more and discuss Mario's life and contributions to the music at JazzCorner's Speakeasy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dan Blacksberg Trio @ Tritone Tonight

Be there if you are in Philly. Seriously. Dan is probably the most killingest trombone player living in Philadelphia. Tritone is on South Street. Show starts at 9:30.

also this video is hilarious. and the song is good.

Monday, July 16, 2007

great new Stereophile "blog"

Writer and scholar Fred Kaplan has a great new blog called "The Jazz Messenger" on Stereophile's website (there are also blogs by the magazine's music editor, Robert Baird and Wes Phillips (another music contributor to the magazine).

Over the years Fred has been a jazz contributor to print and online outlets such as The Absolute Sound, Slate (where he is currently their national security correspondent), Stereophile Magazine and other spots. He is a national security expert and just finished a book on the subject, but as you'll be able to tell, he has great ears and likes great jazz - from new and emerging talents to established masters.

For some reason, the Stereophile "blogs" don't have RSS feeds so they are not really fully "blogs" as much as "dynamic web pages." Thus, if you want to know about new entries, you have to bookmark the page and check it for updates but hopefully this will change soon. His latest post, on Jason Moran's recent residency at Jazz Standard in New York City (which ended last night) is especially good. Also dig the video revealing White House press secretary Tony Snow is a decent flutist.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday afternoon reading Vol. 1

Karen Kilimnik thoughtfully mixes old and new.

new CDs reviewed in The Inquirer.

Battles feature in the Globe.

Greg Kot talks about the economics of the Pitchfork Festival

Will Friedwald reminds me of one of my alto heroes (Note: I grew up playing alto sax)

Mark Stryker turns the spotlight on still-living/playing hometown hero, Kenny Cox

more to come next Sunday!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

new apartment; recent listening

I moved into a new place on July 1. Still settling in. It's only for 2 months as I figure out my next move. Maybe staying in Philly. Maybe making the virtually inevitable move to New York. For now, watching lots of movies and listening to lots of new music. I will have to do a movie post at some point. Probably on Robert Altman or Steven Soderbergh, though I have to say my latest favorite director is Steven Shainberg (who directed the vastly underappreciate indie, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus with Nicole Kidman and a rather furry Robert Downey, Jr., as well as a slightly older cult classic from 2002, Secretary, starring a younger, lesser-known Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Recent Listening:

Various Tortoise albums (esp. Millions Now Living Will Never Die and Standards)

Ben Monder/Theo Bleckmann - At Night (Songlines). A logical continuation on past efforts such as Origami, No Boat, At Night is a dreamy mix of Bleckmann's wordless vocalisations and Monder's densely brewing improvisations - with no recognizable harmonic center. It's music for your head, not so much for feet. Unless you're into interpretive dance, I suppose. (Note: I seriously regret not seeing Monder with Guillermo Klein during a recent run at the Vanguard.

Niño Josele - Paz (Calle 54/Sony BMG). Josele, heard previously on Jerry González y Los Piratas del Flamenco and Diego El Cigala's smash hit with Bebo Valdès Lágrimas Negras, Paz is hands-down one of the best recordings of 2007 (to be released in the US, at least). A seamless project combining spectacular flamenco guitar with the music of Bill Evans or tunes Evans recorded at one time or another. "Peace Piece" and "Waltz for Debby" are my favorites. Close second is the "My Foolish Heart" collaboration with Tom Harrell. There is a surprisingly good track with Freddie Cole singing "I Do it For Your Love," a tune written and performed originally by Paul Simon, later recorded by Evans in 1975.

Apparently, El Niño is taking this music on tour with Horácio 'El Negro' Hernández (drums) and Esperanza Spalding (bass/vocals). Following Ben Ratliff's live review of this band with the above cast, I made a point of going up to New York to see it. The performance did not live up to the disc however it was magnificent to see Josele play solo - not so much for the Evans material but for Josele's remarkable fusion of flamenco technique and inflections with harmonies that one associates most with jazz.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - my new roommate Ross of Love, played me their entire discography yesterday. I was all spooned out last night but find myself wanting more this afternoon. The new album is quite good - worth the hype - echoes of Motown, a-ha, Brian Eno, MC Hammer, Ry Cooder, Richard Johnston, The Beatles, Wilco.

Bobby Sanabria - Big Band Urban Folktales (Jazzheads). This record is booty-shaking goodness. The most authentic Nuyorican big band that I know of. Soloists are top-rate. The trombone section is particularly tight. The one trite number is a poor vocal version of Besame Mucho. Sanabria waxes eloquent about the project on this excellent episode of The Jazz Session with Jason Crane. Subscribe to Jason's podcast in iTunes by clicking here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

quote of the day

A peculiarly written commentary on New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins' latest album for Basin Street Records elicits this candid comment from Ruffins:

It feels like it was totally unrehearsed because of the big reefer party and the beer-drinking bar-hopping in the limousine before the show.

You gotta give it up.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I wrote this about a month and a half ago on a receipt while watching Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner in Philly (w/ Aaron Parks - piano; Joe Martin - bass; Rodney Green - drums).

no wasting time
loose time
subdivided time
these are striking times
time to shred or shed? on this...
cascading pillowcases filled with red
beans uncooked
so they are hard
being cooked with fingers
across the board

Undefined passion
burning passion over ivories
but blown through with billows of air

take firm hold and bende with your knees
up, down, up, down, up

Beautiful Verbosity!
Every time you change octaves, I have to retune.
trying to find the center

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Current Listening/Reviews to Come

In Rotation; soon to be reviewed:
Seamus Blake - Way Out Willy (Criss Cross)
Avishai Cohen - As Is...Live at the Blue Note (Razdaz/Half Note)
Michael Brecker - Pilgrimage (Heads Up/Do The Math Records)
Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd - Still Life With Commentator (Savoy Jazz)
Exploding Star Orchestra - We are all from somewhere else (Thrill Jockey)
Metheny/Mehldau - Quartet (Nonesuch)
Wayne Escoffery - Veneration: Live at Smoke (High Note)
Joel Harrison feat. Nguyen Lê and David Binney - Harbor (High Note)
Biréli Lagrène - WDR Big Band - Solo (2 CD set) (Dreyfus Jazz)
Rosario Giuliani - Anything Goes (Dreyfus Jazz)
Terell Stafford - Taking Chances: Live at the Dakota (MaxJazz)
Fred Hersch - The Night & The Music (Palmetto)

Stuff I want to get and eventually blog about:

Andy Milne - Dreams and False Alarms (Songlines)
Theo Bleckmann & Ben Monder - At Night (Songlines)
Ben Monder/Chris Gestrin/Dylan van der Schyff - The Distance (Songlines)
Mike Moreno - Between the Lines (World Culture Music)
Jimmy Greene - True Life Stories (Criss Cross)

Geez, that's an ambitious list.

The Bad Plus - Prog

I am completely thrilled by this new record by Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King - collectively The Bad Plus. Lately I do admit to being especially taken by Ethan as a blogger and general thinker/sharer of thoughts. But this music is intense. It's vital and emotional. Yes, they cover Tears for Fears and Rush. But the originals are where it's at for me.

I feel like the Twin Cities-raised threesome could make just as valid a statement if they recorded all originals at the level of Anderson's "Physical Cities" (which I saw TBP perform both at the Lorraine Gordon tribute at Carnegie Hall last June during JVC Jazz Fest and at The Blue Note in September on the double bill with Jason Moran & The Bandwagon). For me, Anderson is the Bad Plus' ace in the hole. He is the secret weapon who is sort of aloof yet always there anchoring the ship (the analogy can be extended by the fact that Reid eschews the New York lifestyle, instead residing far from his trio mates in Barcelona, Spain and is almost entirely absent from Do The Math).

King, whom I originally had a distaste for when Give first came out, has really stepped up his game with his composition "Thriftstore Jewelry," an almost hummable though highly chromatic melody (at least I can whistle it - almost) which I seem to really dig for its odd-time yet overall simpleness. And having recently caught Dave with Ethan, Tim Berne and Mat Maneri as Buffalo Collision, the drummer has really captured me with his chops and his charm. He brings Elvin, Paul Motian, Han Bennink and Mitch Mitchell (obviously I don't know any rock drummers) to the table and mixes these influences to create a unique sound - which brings even greater poignancy to the covers. It's really fun to hear how he employs his so-called "jazz" sensibilities on rock songs - especially when he's very restrained and sparing with his use of the toms. His reprise of Suspicious Activity rocker "1980 World Champion" is equally enthralling.

I do have to say that The Burt Bacharach cover of "This Guy's In Love With You" really sweetens the deal on a record that will most certainly be a lot of hipsters' Top 10s this year - most certainly this hipster.

Rock on dudes!

Buy it on Amazon or
The Bad Plus - Prog

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lafayette Gilchrist - Three

In a nod to Zepellin and other rock outfits, Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist has titled his third record Three (it is also a trio record, for what it's worth).

Gilchrist has recently been making subtle waves on the DC-Baltimore circuit as an in-demand sideman. He has also been branching out as a result of his growing association with the saxophonist David Murray, the drummer Steve Williams (who spent the 1980s and 1990s in the trio of the late Shirley Horn) and with

On Three, Mr. Gilchrist investigates deep pockets of groove while maintaining rolling tremolos not unlike those of pianists Cecil Taylor. There is a certain restlessness in Mr. Gilchrist's message and while this heightened sense of activity on a piece like "Visitors" keep's your attention, it fails to do anything terribly surprising. Conversely, using a similar formula on "Spheres of Influence" the pianist roils out a densely rhythmic melody.

I have mixed feelings and will revisit this in a month. Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

jerome sabbagh - saxophonist/would-be pop artist (under certain circumstances)

I have been listening a a bunch to Jerome Sabbagh in the past few days and I just wanted to say a couple of things about it before I hit the sack tonight.

Jerome Sabbagh - a French-born, NY-based tenor saxophonist and composer has an absolutely killin' band that plays a melodic grab bag of moods. Sabbagh has spent a good amount of time playing in the bands of Argentinean pianists Pablo Ablanedo and Guillermo Klein (who doesn't seem to have a website of his own at this moment).

Sabbagh originally came to my attention as a member of fellow Frenchman Laurent Coq's band on Coq's 2003 Sunnyside release, Like a Tree in the City.*

Sabbagh and his quartet have recently put out a 2nd album (available April 24 in the US) called "Pogo" following 2004's North (Fresh Sound New Talent). Pogo is available direct from the artist here and through a warehouse here). Pogo is on French indie Bee Jazz Records (distributed in the US by...you guessed it: Sunnyside).

Guitarist Ben Monder's sometimes sparse, sometimes dense, but mostly dark accompaniment and solos are a fitting foil to Sabbagh's bright tone and bouncy lines. Underappreciated bassist Joe Martin (seen very often at 55 Bar and on tour with Kurt Rosenwinkel among others) takes a very nice solo on the opening cut "Middle Earth" (a rarity these days - tunes with bass solos are usually buried deep within the album - I wonder why that is?). And rounding out the quartet is the young phenom out of the Eastman School, Ted Poor on drums (Poor also in the bands of Cuong Vu, Monder and somewhat surprisingly David Berkman - though not if you hear it) who keeps things consistently crisp throughout the recording.

Jerome's melodies on Pogo sometimes reach into poppy and jammy territory when it's almost as if you'd swear the saxophone is a human voice singing a melody or a guitar carving out a simple idea but with a great sense of confidence. This music, though mostly quietly subtle and subdued, begs a question which I frequently find myself thinking.

Can modern jazz appeal to general audiences outside the jazz-obsessed solely based on the merits of catchy melodies without words? Or are words a general prerequisite to get people to pay attention?" Especially when made by musicians who are privy to the last 30 or so years of music-making outside the jazz idiom?

The Bad Plus have arguably done this successfully, though their formula has also included hooking these rather elusive "other audiences" with covers of familiar tunes by dare I say "mainstream" acts (i.e. Nirvana, Rush, Blondie, Aphex Twin, Queen, etc.). Can a band achieve some kind of pop-like acceptance solely on the merits of their compositions without voice or lyrics? I would say in a different time under different circumstances, yes. But not in the current climate where commercial radio and even the indie movement (i.e. what they write about on Pitchfork and Stylus) is almost entirely driven by music with lyrics.

What are your thoughts?

Meanwhile, you can check out streaming samples of the utterly funky "Rooftops" and the medatative but catchy "Pogo" from Sabbagh's new album of the same name due April 24 here in the US.

* I should mention I met Laurent Coq for the first time in person at the Jazz Standard during IAJE and he handed me his newest CD (currently only available in France) called "Laurent Coq Blowing Trio." The band includes Coq on piano, Olivier Zanot on alto sax and David El-Malek on tenor sax and occasional vocals by Laurence Allison. I had it in my car for weeks and I should mention that it's absolutely KILLIN' and that you should go buy it now if you like good music - well worth the shipping costs. Or email Laurent for another less expensive solution at contact@laurentcoq.com.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

putting the internet radio thing in perspective

I just read this article on Salon.com about the apparent impending demise of streaming radio stations in their many formats on the internet and my socks were scared off.

Here is the paragraph that really got to me:

Even at the new rate of $.0008 per performance, applied retroactively to 2006, Pandora is on the hook for "millions and millions" of dollars in royalty payments to SoundExchange, Westergren told Salon -- far more than the company took in as revenue.

If they took away Pandora (an operation I thought was doing everything legit - a service I personally pay for to enjoy!), that means Last.fm would also go away... and most of the not-so-profitable Launch channels, radioio and my ability to hear my alma mater's signal from Pittsburgh to Philly, where I live now or to anywhere I might live in the future.

This all really made me what to scream.

Thanks to Pat for tipping me off to the gravity of this situation. If you care about music discovery and you've ever bought an album because of what you heard online, this is the time to speak out people!

If you haven't already, you can sign the various petitions to keep things reasonable.

Write your congressman/congresswoman about this serious matter. Yes, that means you too.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ornett Coleman's Grammy Remarks

Most people out there world don't know that Ornette Coleman actually received a lifetime achievement award at the pre-telecast ceremony during Grammy weekend.

But even fewer people know that Ornette Coleman gave one of the most "out" speeches ever that had most of the crowd muttering, "Who the hell is this guy? What rock did they pull him out from under?"

Anyways, I received this transcription from a person who attended the ceremony which was not televised and only open to industry insiders and award recipients. It starts with an introduction by Charlie Haden, Ornette's longtime musical collaborator.

Ornette Coleman's Lifetime Achievement Acceptance Speech (starting with Charlie Haden’s comments)

CH: Tonight NARAS is presenting an award that goes to the deepest and most beautiful part of music--deep and beautiful like Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and Ornette Coleman.

Ornette opened up a whole new world of musical discovery and exploration. That journey of music being born for the first time, continues today in his compositions and improvisation.

Over the years we’ve played many concerts and many, many recordings together and even now, when I play music with him it’s the most exciting and rewarding musical experience of my life. I am honored to present this Lifetime A A to the great Ornette Coleman.

OC: It is really very, very real to be here tonight, in relationship to life and death and I’m sure they both love each other.

I really don’t have any present thoughts about why I’m standing here other than trying to figure out something to say that could be useful to someone that believes.

One of the things I am experiencing is very important and that is: You don’t have to die to kill and you don’t have to kill to die. And above all, nothing exists that is not in the form of life because life is eternal with or without people so we are grateful for life to be here at this very moment.

For myself, I’d rather be human than to be dead. And I would also die to be human. So you can’t die, you can’t die to be neither one, regardless of what you say or think so that’s why I believe that music itself is eternal in relationship to sound, meaning, intelligence…all the things that have to have something to do with being alive because you were born and because someone else made it possible for you to be here, which we call our parents etc. etc.

For me, the most eternal thing is that I would like to live until I learn what it is and what it isn’t…that is, how do we kill death since it kills everything?

And it’s hard to realize that being in the human form is not as easy as wondering what is going to happen to you even if you do know what it is and it doesn’t depend on if you know what is going to happen to you.

No one can know anything that life creates since no one is life itself. And it’s obvious, at least I believe, it’s obvious the one reason why we as human beings get there and do things that seem to be valuable to us in relationship to intelligence… uh, what is it called…creativity and love and all the things that have to do with waking up every morning believing it’s going to be a better day today or tomorrow and yet at the same time death, life, sadness, anger, fear, all of those things are present at the same time as we are living and breathing.

It is really, really eternal, this that we are constantly being created as human beings to know that exists and it’s really, really unbelievable to know that nothing that’s alive can die unless it’s been killed. So what we should try to realize is to remove that part of what it is so that whatever we are, life is all there is and I thank you very much.


Well, I think that's as real as it gets. I welcome comments.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Michael Brecker Tribute Video

A truly touching Michael Brecker tribute video which I found on his fan page on MySpace: WATCH IT HERE!

Monday, January 22, 2007

the days turn into weeks, the months into years - as I fall behind on blogging...

I know. I've been very inconsistent in my blogging habits of late - mainly due to the fact that I have an unprecendented amount of work for my "on the side" gig, doing online and "new media" publicity for independent artists in multiple genres.

I currently have some projects with unlikely artists given my personal taste. But I'm trying right now to seek out music that moves me and makes me want to dance... or at least think about dancing. While I try to keep the artists I work for out of this blog, sometimes its impossible since they are often on my mind a lot - and what else is a blog for if not to unload some of the topics on one's mind?

This week one of these artists is Karl Denson's Tiny Universe whose newish online-only EP entitled Once You're There is a current priority for me. Originally I took it on as a means to make some extra bread, but this funky/electro hook-based music has become a guilty pleasure. It makes me want to dance. And I guess that's a good thing because it probably makes others want to do the same.

So that's that.


In other news:

Pianist Frank Kimbrough playing at Dewey Redman's Memorial Service Sunday Jan. 7, 2007
- I attended Dewey Redman's Memorial three Sundays ago - my first visit to St. Peter's Church in Manhattan (aka the jazz church) - I know I blogged about it in advance of the show on my MOG and Last.fm pages but I don't believe I mentioned it here. Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Geri Allen and Jack DeJohnette gave the most touching performances of the evening. Violinist Leroy Jenkins played a bouncing pentatonic blues, Joe Lovano with his wife Judi Silvano (who was surprisingly good) did a operatic ballad that was amazing and the vociferous/jocular emcee Matt Wilson (who played with Dewey from 1994 on) played in a trio with Cameron Brown and Frank Kimbrough at one point. And I learned a lot about Dewey from the legions of folks who got up to speak about him and a short excerpt of a film about him. Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson played a tune with Wilson and Dewey's son (Joshua Redman) played too - one short solo piece and then again on the last number with Haden, Metheny and Roy Haynes on the Ornette Coleman blues "Turnaround," which happens to be on the recent Sound Grammar.

- I attended the IAJE Conference in a work capacity from Jan. 10-13 in NYC. I mostly worked afternoons in the press room credentialing journalists, photographers, radio people and others who claimed to be there to write or communicate to different audiences about IAJE.

It was a bit of a drag since most of the good industry track sessions I had taken a roll in planning, I had to miss (i.e. Down Beat 1:1 with Greg Osby interviewing Ornette Coleman, JazzTimes Presents: Producing Miles Davis with producer heavyweights such as George Avakian, George Duke, Bob Belden and Marcus Miller, Latin Jazz: The Perfect Combination, The Marketing Nightmare)

Shows in NY that week were insane as was to be expected. Memorable performances include:

- saxophonist/woodwind doubler Steve Wilson with his long-standing quartet of Bruce Barth on keys, Ed Howard on bass (Ed doesn't seem to have a website or I would link to it) and Adam Cruz on drums at Jazz Standard Thursday night

- drummer/composer John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble late night Thursday at the Sheraton Metropolitan Ballroom

- an 11:30 set at Joe's Pub by wunderkind trumpeter Christian Scott (introduced to the world on recording at 16 by his uncle Donald "Duck" Harrison. this cat is the real deal, folks. though extremely haughty, well-dressed and a tad immature.

Mulgrew Miller w/ Bob Hurst @ Smalls - 1:30 AM set
-a late night Friday set at Smalls by Mulgrew Miller and Bob Hurst III with surprise guest Eric Harland (who arrived after this cell phone shot was taken)

Charlie Haden and The Liberation Music Orchestra, Saturday Jan. 13 - Final Performance of Evening Concerts in Hilton Grand Ballroom
-the French Elite All-Stars with Michel Legrand, violinist Didier Lockwood, guitarist Sylvain Luc, accordionist Richard Galliano and others; followed by Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra paying tribute to Michael Brecker and Alice Coltrane


Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Bowery Poetry Club
-I stayed an extra day and night and finally got to see DJA's Secret Society large band in its native environment - the Bowery Poetry Club. it was tight. Saxophonist Mark Small (also of the Michael Bublé Orchestra - yes, that Michael Bublé!), trumpeter Shane Endsley (of Kneebody) and saxophonist Erica von Kleist (of JALC's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra) impressed thoroughly in their respective solos.
the writing was of a very high quality. i could hear the brookmeyer influence. also very relevant song titles that fit the tunes - especially Drift and Habeas Corpus.

More recently:

- I began looking in earnest this weekend for a new apartment in Northern Liberties and different places across the Schuykill River (Manayunk, Roxborough or East Falls)

- I saw Greg Osby 4 this weekend in a surprising packed-house at Philly's Zanzibar Blue, an unlikely spot for Greg's music - this coming weekend is Dave Douglas' quintet! Another unlikely booking for ZB. What's going on over there?

And finally... this January is heavy with sadness over the passing of Michael and Alice. and its cold outside.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What Michael Brecker's Death Means to Me...

It seems like eons ago that I was marveling at Michael Brecker's solo playing Two Blocks From the Edge, Don't Try This At Home, his killing 1980 collaboration with Chick Corea, Three Quartets, and finally his 2004 large-ensemble masterpiece Wide Angles, which I think represented a shift in where he was headed musically - since his previous 10 albums had been small-group focused.

So many players I love today, I discovered through Michael Brecker recordings - the late Don Alias, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Joey Calderazzo, James Genus and John Patitucci among others.

I guess I just want to say that Michael had a huge influence on me. He made me want to keep playing saxophone when practicing just seemed too hard or futile. Hearing Brecker's flawless technical mastery, angular yet hard-swinging lines, and soulful interpretation of standards inspired more than two generations of saxophone players and hopefully his recorded legacy will continue to inspire musicians to reach new heights through both thorough mastery of their instruments and devotion to masters who came before us all.

I don't know what else to say? Thank you Michael for your music and your spirit.

Michael Brecker Lives!