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Best Jazz Albums I Heard in 2016

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2016, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by curtjazz

melissa-morganLet’s start with a confession: I got to hear fewer jazz albums this year than in any year in the past two decades. Which is a shame, because there was a TON of worthwhile music released during the year. My crazy schedule in 2016 often limited me to snippets or tracks from discs that I vowed to get back to, but never did.  So, here’s my list of the best albums that I actually got to hear during the year. Also, there’s a track from an extremely promising young artist, who needs to put more on the market, ASAP; a couple of outstanding 2015 releases that didn’t catch my ear until 2016; and finally, a few of the many fine 2016 releases that I plan to catch up with in January:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
ArtScience Robert Glasper Blue Note
Back Home Melissa Aldana Wommusic
Beginning of a Memory Matt Wilson Palmetto
Book of Intuition Kenny Barron Trio Impulse
Chasing After the Wind Gregory Tardy Steeplechase
Convergence Warren Wolf Mack Avenue
Days Like This Melissa Morgan CD Baby
Do Your Dance Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Feet in the Mud Mimi Jones Hot Tone
In Movement DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison ECM
Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Sunnyside
Live at Maxwell’s DE3 Sunnyside
Nihil Novi Marcus Strickland Revive/Blue Note
Notes from New York Bill Charlap Impulse
Once and Future Brian Charette Posi-Tone
Perfection Murray, Allen and Carrington Motema
Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club Black Art Jazz Collective Sunnyside
Restless Idealism Roxy Coss Origin
Soul Tree Ed Cherry Posi-Tone
The Sound of Red Rene Marie Motema
Stranger Days Adam O’Farrill Sunnyside
Take Me to the Alley Gregory Porter Blue Note
TriAngular III Ralph Peterson Trio Onyx/Truth Revolution
The Way We Play Marquis Hill Concord
Written in The Rocks Renee Rosnes Smoke Sessions

2016’s most compelling single in search of an album:

  • “Chicken Day” – Harvey Cummings II

Two 2015 albums (heard in 2016) that deserved to be on last year’s list:

  • Back to the City – Amos Hoffman (CD Baby)
  • Some Morning – Kim Nazarian (CD Baby)

Probably excellent 2016 albums that I look forward to hearing as soon as possible:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
#KnowingIsHalfTheBattle Orrin Evans Smoke Sessions
Away With You Mary Halvorson Octet Firehouse 12
Day Breaks Norah Jones Blue Note
Habana Dreams Pedrito Martinez Group Motema
Harlem on My Mind Catherine Russell Jazz Village
Inner Spectrum of Variables Tyshawn Sorey Pi
Madera Latino Brian Lynch Hollistic Music Works
San Jose Suite Etienne Charles Culture Shock
Something Gold, Something Blue Tom Harrell High Note
Upward Spiral Branford Marsalis Okeh

 

 

 

2016 Jazz Grammy Nominations

Posted in 2016 Grammys, Uncategorized with tags , , on December 14, 2015 by curtjazz

grammy1Here they are folks; the jazz albums and performances nominated for the 58th Grammy Awards, which will be presented on Monday, February 15, 2016; at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

No real surprises here, the nominating committee basically followed their template. However, without an album this year from a living legend, it did open up a few spots for artists who don’t always get the recognition. As we get into the New Year, I will do my usual predicting and complaining about each category. But for now, I will just report the news…

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Best Improvised Jazz Solo
• Giant Steps
Joey Alexander, soloist
Track from: My Favorite Things
[Motema Music]

• Cherokee
Christian McBride, soloist
Track from: Live At The Village Vanguard (Christian McBride Trio)
[Mack Avenue Records]

• Arbiters Of Evolution
Donny McCaslin, soloist
Track from: The Thompson Fields (Maria Schneider Orchestra)
[ArtistShare]

• Friend Or Foe
Joshua Redman, soloist
Track from: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (The Bad Plus Joshua Redman)
[Nonesuch]

• Past Present
John Scofield, soloist
Track from: Past Present
[Impulse!]

Best Jazz Vocal Album
• Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein
Karrin Allyson
[Motema Music]

• Find A Heart
Denise Donatelli
[Savant Records]

• Flirting With Disaster
Lorraine Feather
[Jazzed Media]

• Jamison
Jamison Ross
[Concord Jazz]

• For One To Love
Cécile McLorin Salvant
[Mack Avenue Records]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album
• My Favorite Things
Joey Alexander
[Motema Music]

• Breathless
Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective
[Blue Note Records]

• Covered: Recorded Live At Capitol Studios
Robert Glasper & The Robert Glasper Trio
[Blue Note Records]

• Beautiful Life
Jimmy Greene
[Mack Avenue Records]

• Past Present
John Scofield
[Impulse!]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
• Lines Of Color
Gil Evans Project
[Blue Note/ArtistShare]

• Köln
Marshall Gilkes & WDR Big Band
[Alternate Side Records]

• Cuba: The Conversation Continues
Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
[Motema Music]

• The Thompson Fields
Maria Schneider Orchestra
[ArtistShare]

• Home Suite Home
Patrick Williams
[BFM Jazz]

Best Latin Jazz Album
• Made In Brazil
Eliane Elias
[Concord Jazz]

• Impromptu
The Rodriguez Brothers
[Criss Cross Jazz]

• Suite Caminos
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
[5Passion]

• Intercambio
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet
[Patois Records]

• Identities Are Changeable
Miguel Zenón
[Miel Music]

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
• Guitar In The Space Age!
Bill Frisell
[Okeh]

• Love Language
Wouter Kellerman
[Listen 2 Entertainment Group]

• Afrodeezia
Marcus Miller
[Blue Note Records]

• Sylva
Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest
[Impulse!]

• The Gospel According To Jazz, Chapter IV
Kirk Whalum
[Mack Avenue Records]


 

Unburied Treasure – Dave Lambert’s “Audition at RCA”

Posted in Never on CD, Uncategorized, Under The Radar, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2014 by curtjazz

lambertIf you read my posts regularly, you know that I’m a fan of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the great jazz vocal group that influenced so many others, from the Swingle Singers to New York Voices to their most successful progeny, The Manhattan Transfer. Hard as it is to believe, the trio of Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross only recorded together for five years (1957 – 1962). Unlike many others, I’m even quite fond of the work of Lambert and Hendricks with Yolande Bavan, the Ceylonese soprano who replaced Ms. Ross in 1962 and recorded three albums with the group for RCA.  Dave Lambert’s untimely death in an accident on a Connecticut highway in 1966, put an end to the talk of the original trio’s reunion that had been buzzing at the time.

There’s a handful of film footage of both of the group’s incarnations, in qualities that range from grainy but historically relevant; to clear, fun and eminently watchable. And until recently, I thought that I had seen pretty much all that was publicly available. Then a few months ago, I stumbled upon something that had been hiding in plain sight for many years – a short film from 1964, by D.A. Pennebaker, who would go on to create some of the best rock documentaries ever made. It was called simply, Audition at RCA. It features a post L, H & R (or B) Dave Lambert, as he has formed a new group, called Dave Lambert and Co., as he is trying to convince the suits at RCA Records, who had last recorded Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan; to give one more shot to the art form known as vocalese.

In the documentary, you not only see and hear Lambert as he works through “the process” but there’s also legendary jazz producer George Avakian (who was ready to produce the album if RCA signed on) and the great bassist George Duvivier among those providing musical support. The quartet of vocalists supporting Lambert, were all unknown and although they were quite capable, none went on to very prominent careers in the jazz world. The tunes are catchy, especially “Blow The Man Down” and “Comfy Cozy” (which sounds tailor-made for L, H & R). I would have liked to have heard what the finished product sounded like.

Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the RCA execs didn’t go for the project. The tapes of the music were erased and this cool, swinging music by a jazz master, ceased to exist anywhere, except for the snippets that are a part of this documentary short. To my knowledge these tunes have never been recorded again and I’m not sure if any complete, written versions of the compositions and arrangements exist. If they do, what a great project it would be to finally let them be heard, more than half a century later.

Until then, we have this unburied treasure to enjoy as we wonder what might have been…

 

Father’s Day – My Dad’s Wisdom, Louis Jordan and Integration

Posted in In Memoriam, Uncategorized, Video Vault with tags , , , , on June 17, 2012 by curtjazz

My Dad was the wisest man that I’ve ever known and that I probably will ever know.

He lived 96 years and though his formal education only lasted until the sixth grade, his perpetual thirst for knowledge and insatiable curiosity earned him the life equivalent of a PhD. And as I came into adulthood, I tried to sop up that wisdom like molasses on my Mom’s homemade biscuits.

Dad always kept pen and paper handy, so that if something caught his curiosity that he didn’t know about, he would write it down, so that he could then research it. And this was before the internet age, folks. This continued right up until the end of his life – when I was gathering his effects from his hospice room hours after his death, I found another of those scraps of paper with the name “Jennifer Lopez” scrawled on it in his handwriting (Dad also had good taste in women).

Anyway, though my father was not a big jazz fan, he had an interest in a wide variety of music. It wouldn’t be odd to hear him break out in a bit of a Beatles tune, Stevie Wonder or even Fleetwood Mac (“Don’t Stop”).  When I started to love music in my preteen years, I would constantly play the album from “The Archies” TV show. The song “Truck Driver” became his favorite. 

But as far as John Davenport was concerned, the great Louis Jordan was THE MAN.  My dad was a generally reserved man, so I would always get a kick out of seeing him, out of nowhere, burst into “Caldonia” or “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.  He always marveled at the big sound of Jordan’s Tympany Five, which he said could sound bigger than an entire big band.

My dad was born in Mississippi in 1911. It goes without saying that he grew up in a time that legal segregation had a tight grip on his home state.  He then moved to St. Louis (where segregation was more institutional than legal) in his twenties and then to New York just after World War II.  Not too long after arriving in NYC, he heard that Louis Jordan was going to be appearing at the old Paramount Theater on 43rd & Broadway. Of course he bought a ticket and went to the show.

Keep in mind that my Dad had never experienced integrated seating before, so he was going through a bit of a culture shock. The shock turned to overload when a few minutes after he took his seat, a trio of young white girls in bobby socks and poodle skirts bounded into his row and took their seats right next to him. They said “Hi!” and then went about their business, gabbing amongst themselves with excitement about seeing Mr. Jordan.

Dad was a bit nervous at first. Where he came from, something a simple as this was unheard of…White folks, let alone young white women, would never have taken an open seat next to a black man. And if they did, trouble was sure to come for that black man.  He remained in seat, albeit apprehensively, almost waiting for some sort of trouble to come. But it never did.  The girls never said another word to him after “hello”. They were utterly unfazed by his presence.  Which, to Dad, was the most amazing thing of all.

A few minutes later the lights went down and Jordan hit the stage “Caldonia…Caldonia…What makes yo’ big head so hard!!!” As my Dad, the bobby soxers and the rest of the throng responded to Mr. Jordan, in unison, he finally began to relax and feel at home.  Within an hour, people of all races had become one, through their love of “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”.

Hey, maybe New York was going to be okay…

Thanks for staying in New York Dad; and thanks for sharing all of that wisdom with me.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow Dads.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2012 by curtjazz

I posted this last Mother’s Day and I felt that it was time to revive it. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Curt's Jazz Cafe

My mother loved life and lived it joyously.  She loved to be around people, she loved to laugh and though she didn’t do it very well, she loved to sing. I still remember the sound of Mom’s singing voice as she was in the kitchen or at her sewing machine.  However, even when I was a child, her singing sounded unusual to me. It was a bit affected and nasal.  It sounded nothing like her speaking voice.  I often wondered, but never asked, where in the world did it come from?

I also knew from an early age that my mom was a fan of Dinah Washington. Though Mom was not a big LP buyer, I noticed that there were three Dinah Washington albums in the storage side of the stereo console; more than any other artist.  Mom also spoke often of hearing Dinah live back when she lived in Chicago. …

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A Birthday Video Tribute to Miles Davis

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues..., Uncategorized, Video Vault with tags , , on May 26, 2011 by curtjazz

Today is the 85th Anniversary of Miles Dewey Davis’ birth.

People who are far more learned than I claim to be, have spilled much ink over this man and his influence on jazz, on music and on our society as a whole. So I won’t spill much more.

I’ll just say that Miles was/is THE greatest of all time. You can argue about that if you want, but you’ll do it by yourself. My mind is made up.

Here are a few video clips to celebrate by. I hope you dig ’em!

(The music starts at around 00:58. Stay with it. It’s 100 times hipper than anything on TV today!)

April 4, 1968 – A Personal Recollection

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by curtjazz

“It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 43 years ago today in Memphis, TN. 

Though I was not quite eight years old at the time, my recollection of some things about that day are still quite vivid.

My parents were tailors who ran their business out of the basement of our Long Island home. I remember them working that evening at their sewing machines, which sat at right angles to each other. I sat with one of my coloring books and my Crayolas at the massive cutting table in the center of the room, working on my latest masterpiece.

WGLI, the local top 40 radio station, was playing on the AM table radio on top of the fabric shelf, when the deejay broke in with the news that Dr. King had been shot in Memphis.

Both of my parents stopped what they were doing. My mother spoke first, saying to my dad “John, did you hear that?”. My father immediately went to the radio and switched it to WINS, the all news station. By the time he got the New York City signal, the news had gotten worse. Dr. King was now dead.

My dad was a  stoic man. In his era, men did not display great emotion. Though he laughed easily, tears were just not an option. So, as my mother cried out “Jesus!”, my father quietly uttered what for him, was a wail of grief: “Ummf, Ummf, Ummf…”, each one with increasing emphasis.

We had no TV in the basement workshop. But neither of my parents moved yet to go upstairs and turn the TV on. They seemed to be hoping that if they remained in the basement long enough, somehow when they did go upstairs, Walter Cronkite would make the radio out to be a liar. 

By now, my mother was working the phone, calling friends, neighbors and relatives and checking to see if they had heard the news. My dad had sat back down at his sewing machine and he tried to return to work. I saw a little tear form in the corner of his eye and make its way silently down his cheek.

I knew of Dr. King. I knew he was a great man, because my parents had told me so; but at this point, he was still years from having a profound affect on my life.  I was seven; all I really knew is that I had never seen my father cry. So, I asked my dad what was wrong. He just responded gently “Nothing…I’m alright, Curtis…” and his voice trailed off. A few minutes later he shut off his machine, went upstairs and turned on the television.  He would not return to the basement that night. Dad generally worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. until the end of the 10 O’Clock News; this was major indeed.

By the time of Dr. King’s funeral a few days later, the small black and white TV had been moved to the basement. My dad had gone to great lengths to set up the antenna to get reception. I don’t know if it was Easter Recess or not, but I remember being off from school that day. My parents tried to work but couldn’t, as they watched the scene play out in Atlanta.

My mom cried throughout the service. My dad maintained quiet composure until the portion where they played the excerpt from Dr. King’s final Ebenezer sermon (“The Drum Major Instinct”). At that point, he began to weep openly.

Over the years, I’ve become a student of Dr. King. I’ve read and researched copious amounts of information concerning his life, his ministry and his work.  I did this because I wanted to know about the man, warts and all; not the deity that our society has created.  Frankly, the more I’ve gotten to know about his successes and his shortcomings, the more my admiration for Dr. King has grown.  

One thing I did not learn until a few years ago was that Dr. King had a great respect for jazz. When asked by an acquaintance, he penned some eloquent and profound words that were used as the foreword to the program from the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. 

We end this remembrance with those words and with a musical tribute by the late, great Dr. Billy Taylor:

God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (September, 1964)