Archive for miguel zenon

2013 Atlanta Jazz Festival – Hate To Miss It but We’ll Be Back

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2013 with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by curtjazz
Layers by Charly Palmer - signature artwork of the 2013 Atlanta Jazz Festival

Layers by Charly Palmer – signature artwork of the 2013 Atlanta Jazz Festival

It’s funny how something can become a part of you so quickly.

I had never attended the Atlanta Jazz Festival before 2011. But after having been at the last two, it had already become something that just felt right on Memorial Day Weekend –  the crowds, the atmosphere, spending quality time with my family and of course, the great music. As 2012 gave way to 2013, the 36th AJF was definitely marked on my calendar.

Then, as many of you know, I faced some unexpected health problems earlier this year. I am recovering quite well, thanks to God and my doctors but my initial recuperation made for some challenges of the kind we didn’t expect, in the area of time off from our “real jobs” to be in Atlanta all weekend.

So my wife and I talked it over and we very reluctantly decided to take this year off from the AJF. It’s scheduled to start tomorrow and man, it feels weird not to be packing a bag and prepping to head to Atlanta in a few hours. It has also felt a little odd to not write my series of festival preview articles for this blog over the last couple of weeks.

So here’s the schedule for the weekend. Kudos to those who program the AJF because the schedule gets stronger and more relevant each year. If you’re a jazz fan and in the ATL this weekend you have to go. And as usual, the AJF events at Piedmont Park are free.

Save me a spot on the lawn and in the hospitality tent because CurtJazz and the crew will be back at Piedmont Park in 2014!

36th Atlanta Jazz Festival – Piedmont Park May 25 – 27, 2013

Saturday, May 25

Main Stage

  • 1pm – Stephenson High School Jazz Ensemble
  • 3pm – Aaron Diehl Quartet
  • 5pm – Alexandra Jackson
  • 7pm – Meshell Ndegeocello
  • 9pm – Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet

International Stage

  • 2pm – Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band
  • 3:30pm – Aruán Ortiz Quartet
  • 5:00pm – Rio Negro
  • 6:30pm – Cécile McLorin Salvant

Sunday, May 26

Main Stage

  • 1pm – North Atlanta Center for The Arts Jazz Band
  • 3pm – Rialto Jazz for Kids All Star Jazz Band
  • 5pm – Jacob Deaton and the Tribulaton Band
  • 7pm – Gretchen Parlato
  • 9pm – Tia Fuller

International Stage

  • 3:30pm – J. C. Young Middle School Jazz Ensemble
  • 5:00pm – Ginou Oriol
  • 6:30pm – Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak

Monday, May 27

Main Stage

  • 1pm – Benjamin Mays High School Jazz Orchestra
  • 3pm – Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra
  • 5pm – Julie Dexter
  • 7pm – The Dominick Farinacci Group
  • 9pm – José James

International Stage

  • 3:30pm – The Westlake High School Jazz Ensemble
  • 5:00pm – Uri Gurvich Quartet
  • 6:30pm – The Miguel Zenón Quartet

Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by curtjazz

The nominees in this category are mostly familiar names, with the possible exception of Miguel Zenón. Two of the albums here probably ended up in this grouping because of the elimination of the Latin Jazz category.

The Nominees Are:

Randy Brecker with DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Songbook (Half Note): Track “All or Nothing at All”

Frankly, this nomination is a bit of a  head scratcher.  Randy Brecker is a gifted musician without a doubt, and the Danish Radio Big Band has done some fine work on many, many recordings.  But the arrangements here border on pedestrian and the whole date feels as generic as its title.  The exception is our feature track, which is first rate.  Still, don’t be surprised if Mr. Brecker wins this award, based mostly on name recognition.

Christian McBride Big Band – The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)

The finest jazz bassist under 40 has now added a big band to his impressive repertoire. The Good Feeling is a solid first effort with a number of impressive tracks and creative arrangements from Mr. McBride’s pen.

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra – 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho): Featured Track: “40 Acres and a Burro”

Arturo O’Farrill continues to do his father’s legacy proud, as he has created another thought-provoking album, that has as much for your mind as it does for your feet. If this album were in the Latin Jazz category, it would be a strong contender. But now, it’s a bit of a longshot.

Gerald Wilson – Legacy (Mack Avenue)

Gerald Wilson has been arranging leading big bands since the days of Basie, Ellington and Goodman and he shows no sign of slowing down at age 93, writing arrangements that are dense, complex, brassy and swinging all at once. This album, Legacy is up to the fine standards that he has been hitting regularly for the past 15 years. A sentimental favorite.

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro [The Puerto Rican Songbook] (Marsalis Music)

Another album that would have likely competed in the now defunct Latin Jazz category, Alma Adentro is a stunning work of art. (A Curt’s Cafe Best of 2011) Mr. Zenón is at the top of his artistic game and it shows in the brilliance of his arrangements of these songs by some of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated composers.  Because he is a relative unknown, Zenón is not considered a favorite in the voting, but this is the best album of those nominated. If there’s any justice, Alma Adentro will win.

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2011 – The Final List

Posted in CD Reviews, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2011 by curtjazz

About six months ago, I posted a halftime list of my favorite 2011 jazz recordings heard between January and July.  I promised to be back around now to fill out the list with what I experienced over the last six months.  My original intent was to pare that list down to a final dozen or so, spanning the entire year…

Well, I changed my mind y’all. Instead, we’re going to add another ten to that first list, making it a Top 20.  And, like last year, there was an excellent 2010 disc that I completely missed until 2011. It will be included as well.

As a reminder, here are albums from the July post. You can see/read the entire July post HERE.

So here they are, in alpha order by album title – my favorite jazz discs from the second half of this year:

Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook – Miguel Zenón (Marsalis Music) – He’s not prone to ostentatious self promotion, but this Guggenheim and MacArthur fellow has quietly become one of the most important saxophonists in jazz today.  Each of his albums has topped the previous one; taking his artistry to a new place and keeping us, the audience, on the edge of our seats. Alma Adentro, is the exploration of the music of five composers, who are unknown in the U.S. but very important in Puerto Rican musical lore. It’s not “Latin Jazz” in the sense that we’ve come to know it, but is outstanding music that broadened my horizons.

BitchesNicholas Payton (In + Out Records) – Yes, the title did make me wince a little, but the music made me smile, a lot.  This has been an interesting year for Mr. Payton, as his blunt, insightful and often profane musings have made him one of the more controversial and compelling figures in the world of jazz social media.  Not surprisingly, this album has also caused its share of controversy, raising eyebrows in the same way that In a Silent Way, another album with a dream-like vibe, did in 1969.  Payton composed every song, played every instrument and sings on many of the tracks (quite well, I might add), more than holding his own with some top-drawer guests, like Esperanza Spalding and Cassandra Wilson.  If you’re looking for “jazz” of the type that Payton played on his early Verve albums, you won’t find it here. Bitches has more in common with mid-70’s ballad driven R & B and with neo-soul. But as someone who grew up with the former and has developed a keen appreciation for the latter, I really dug this album.

Black Lace Freudian Slip – René Marie (Motema Music)

René Marie was very quiet for a while after her 2008 controversies, but she is back with a vengeance; releasing not one but two outstanding albums in 2011. The first; Voice of My Beautiful Country, (which was on our first “Best of” list) was a tribute to patriotic and traditional standards. Black Lace Freudian Slip is mostly comprised of Marie originals, including the title track, which is every bit as sly and sexy as the title suggests. The two discs may be lyrical opposites but the music on both is outstanding. Don’t try to choose between them, get them both.

For All Those Living – Sheryl Bailey (Pure Music Records)

Guitarist Sheryl Bailey gets better with every recording. She follows up last year’s impressive big band outing,  A New Promise, with a terrific quartet disc that displays her impressive chops and full-bodied swing to great advantage.  The Emily Remler comparisons are easy to make, but I think that that’s too limiting.  Sheryl Bailey has the potential to outshine her role model, whose untimely death halted her artistic growth. Bump the gender limitations; Ms. Bailey is one of the best jazz guitarists working today, period. This disc also has its heart in the right place as 20% of the proceeds from all sales will be donated to Ronald McDonald House.

The Mosaic Project – Terri Lyne Carrington (Concord Records)

As I stated in my earlier review of this album, The Mosaic Project is Terri Lyne Carrington’s most completely realized project, by a mile. It also is one of the best jazz works of the year by any artist. Click HERE to see my full post about it.

Pinnacle: Live and Unreleased from Keystone Korner – Freddie Hubbard (Resonance Records)

What a find this was by Resonance Records! Hubbard, at the top of his game in 1980 on performances compiled from summer and fall appearances at the legendary San Francisco club.  The version of “The Intrepid Fox” that opens the album, is jaw dropping. What follows is just as good, including the only known recording of Hub playing “Giant Steps”. The title says it all.

Road Shows Volume 2 – Sonny Rollins (Doxy/EmArcy)

I was one of the few who liked, but didn’t love Road Shows Volume 1; mostly because of the unevenness of the 30 years worth of performances. Volume 2’s tracks by contrast, were all recorded during 2010, most of them during Newk’s already legendary 80th birthday concert, the remaining two a month later in Japan.  Sonny is in very fine form and the guest stars, including Roy Haynes, Roy Hargrove, Jim Hall, Christian McBride and Ornette Coleman, in his first ever public performance with Rollins, all rise to the occasion. Sonny Rollins proves once again, that age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

Something Beautiful – Eric Reed (WJ3 Records)

Something Beautiful is Eric Reed doing what he does best; playing in a trio setting. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over twenty years since Reed first debuted with Wynton, but in those years he has grown from teenaged prodigy to one of the best pianists of his generation, with an impeccable melodic sense that accompanies his gospel influenced chord structure.  Something Beautiful consists mostly of songs by others, from Berlin to Brubeck to Billy Joel; all of them sounding as unsullied as if they were being played for the first time.

 

Tirtha – Vijay Iyer (ACT)

Tirtha is the self titled debut of pianist Vijay Iyer’s latest trio, which also includes tabla player Nitin Mitta and guitarist Prasanna.  As expected, the album has a strong South Asian influence, but I feel that slapping a term such as “Indian Jazz” on this music is almost insulting in its limitations.  Their sound is alive and its intricacies grow with every hearing.   Iyer has never been afraid to challenge conventions and he usually creates something fresh in the process. He and his Tirtha band mates have done so here.  In a genre often chided for being stale, Tirtha is a welcome breath of fresh air.

 

Triumph of the Heavy Volumes 1 & 2 – Marcus Strickland (Strick Music/CDBY)

Strickland is another of those young saxophonists who give me hope for the future whenever I hear him blow.  On this two disc set (gutsy for a relatively unknown artist), he brings the goods on tenor, alto, soprano and clarinet.  Disc 2 is a live trio set with Marcus’ twin brother E.J. on drums and up and coming bassist Ben Williams. They push the boundaries of convention to the limits, with a hard-driving sound that is spare, but never thin.  On Disc 1, recorded eight months later, they add David Bryant, a young Tyner influenced pianist with mad promise, to the mix.  Bryant’s angular harmonies are the main reason I have a slight preference for the studio set but it doesn’t really matter, because neither disc has left heavy rotation in my iPod since I bought them.

And a 2010 disc that I missed…

Introducing Triveni – Avishai Cohen (Anzic)

I’m continuing the tradition that I started last year of recognizing an outstanding disc released in the previous year that managed to escape my ears until the current one.  Triveni was released in September 2010. It’s a trio session led by the trumpet playing brother of Anat Cohen, who has garnered renown for her work on sax and clarinet.  Avishai Cohen is one of two Israeli jazzmen working today who share the same name (the other plays bass) and as of now, he’s the lesser known of the two.  This strong outing should do something to change that. Trumpet/bass/drums trio sessions are rare but Cohen is more than up to the task, collaborating with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits on originals and standards that mine the depths of hard bop, swing, funk with a nice dose of avant-garde as well.  Cohen is not going to bowl you over with flights into the upper register but the impressiveness of his facility and inventiveness in the mid range is worth a dozen high notes. Many thanks to Canadian journalist/pianist Peter Hum for pulling my coat about this one.

Notable Mentions

Here are a few more fine discs from 2011 that are worth a listen or ten. Don’t pass them up if you have a chance:

  • A Boy’s Journey Peter Hum Quintet (self-released) The knowledgeable and witty jazz journalist is also a very fine pianist. An impressive debut recording.
  • Parallel Lives Andrea Wolper (Jazzed Media) – This vocalist grows more impressive with each album.  Her coolly inviting mix of originals with rarely heard standards are a perfect tonic for a tough world. 
  • State of Art – Ben Williams (Concord Jazz) – The Monk Competition winner drops a formidable blend of the new and the traditional on his first disc.  It’s fresh, it’s exciting and I want to hear more.
  • Sweet Thunder (Duke & Shak) – Delfeayo Marsalis (Troubador Jass) – Delfeayo does The Duke proud on this hard-swinging octet version of Such Sweet Thunder. It’s the year’s best album from someone named Marsalis (Read the full review post HERE)
  • When the Heart Emerges Glistening  Ambrose Akinmusire (Blue Note) – A rare case of a much-hyped major label debut living up to expectations. Akinmusire is the real deal; and the greatest thing is that he’s nobody’s clone.

And that’s how things looked this year from my “plush” Charlotte studio/mancave.  Tracks from these albums and more will be heard on Curt’s Café WebJazz Radio, starting on December 27 and continuing on through the month of January.  Your thoughts, comments and criticisms are always welcome and your spam is always deleted.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts this year. I don’t take your support for granted. I hope you’ll stick around for what I expect will be an interesting 2012.

A Happy and Healthy Holiday Season to all of you. 

Until the next time, the jazz continues…

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