Jazz Clip of the Day: Sasha Masakowski

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2018, CD Reviews, Unsung Women of Jazz, Video Vault with tags , , , , on January 13, 2019 by curtjazz

I’ve been fortunate to work with this delightful and gifted young vocalist, a number of times, over the past few years, as she has been a frequent guest/headliner at jazz events, produced by the Jazz Arts Initiative (the organization I am associated with), here in Charlotte.

My musical introduction to Ms. Masakowski, came through her Wishes album, in 2011. I loved the eclectic feel of the disc; the fact that it included tracks penned by Brazilian stalwart Baden Powell, Ellis Marsalis (the Marsalis family patriarch, and one of Sasha’s teachers) and renowned guitarist/educator Steve Masakowski (Sasha’s dad), as well as her own, contemporary based work.

In 2018, Sasha released Art Market, a captivating, eclectic set, that creates a perfect blend of her New Orleans roots, her jazz education and the downtown, electronic New York scene that also has a considerable affect on Sasha’s artistry. I loved what I heard. I loved it so much, that Art Market is on my list as one of the Best Jazz Albums of 2018.

I’ve learned that I am not alone in my appreciation of Ms. Masakowski’s artistry. In 2015, Vanity Fair, listed her as one of the top young jazz musicians on the scene. And already in 2019, Paste Magazine has tabbed Sasha as one of the 12 New Jazz Artists to Watch, in this year.

As an introduction to Sasha, I’ve included two clips, that will show you two of her multiple facets: the enjoyable, official video for “Sister”, one of her compositions included on Art Market and her performance of Marcos Valle’s Brazilian classic “Summer Samba (So Nice)”.

Of course, you can hear “Sister” and several other tracks from Art Market, in regular rotation on CurtJazz Radio, throughout January of 2019. Click HERE to listen now.

2019 Jazz Grammy Nominations

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2019 by curtjazz

Usually I drop this list of jazz (and jazz-related) nominees, on the day of the nominations but we’re still about a month from the awards, so I figured I still had some time.

Interesting mix this year of nominees; some usual suspects and some first-timers. I will be dropping my thoughts and predictions for each category, periodically, over the next few weeks, leading up to the ceremony on Sunday, February 10.

The nominees are:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo
For an instrumental jazz solo performance. Two equal performers on one recording may be eligible as one entry. If the soloist listed appears on a recording billed to another artist, the latter’s name is in parenthesis for identification. Singles or Tracks only.

SOME OF THAT SUNSHINE
Regina Carter, soloist
Track from: Some Of That Sunshine (Karrin Allyson)

DON’T FENCE ME IN
John Daversa, soloist
Track from: American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom (John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists)

WE SEE
Fred Hersch, soloists

DE-DAH
Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Seymour Reads The Constitution! (Brad Mehldau Trio)

CADENAS
Miguel Zenón, soloist
Track from: Yo Soy La Tradición (Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet)

Best Jazz Vocal Album

MY MOOD IS YOU
Freddy Cole

THE QUESTIONS
Kurt Elling

THE SUBJECT TONIGHT IS LOVE
Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, Gary Versace

IF YOU REALLY WANT
Raul Midón With The Metropole Orkest Conducted By Vince Mendoza

THE WINDOW
Cécile McLorin Salvant

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

DIAMOND CUT
Tia Fuller

LIVE IN EUROPE
Fred Hersch Trio

SEYMOUR READS THE CONSTITUTION!
Brad Mehldau Trio

STILL DREAMING
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade

EMANON
The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

ALL ABOUT THAT BASIE
The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart

AMERICAN DREAMERS: VOICES OF HOPE, MUSIC OF FREEDOM
John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists

PRESENCE
Orrin Evans And The Captain Black Big Band

ALL CAN WORK
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

BAREFOOT DANCES AND OTHER VISIONS
Jim McNeely & The Frankfurt Radio Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album
The intent of this category is to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinian tango music.

HEART OF BRAZIL
Eddie Daniels

BACK TO THE SUNSET
Dafnis Prieto Big Band

WEST SIDE STORY REIMAGINED
Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band

CINQUE
Elio Villafranca

YO SOY LA TRADICIÓN
Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
(aka Best Contemporary Jazz Album)

THE EMANCIPATION PROCRASTINATION
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

STEVE GADD BAND
Steve Gadd Band

MODERN LORE
Julian Lage

LAID BLACK
Marcus Miller

PROTOCOL 4
Simon Phillips

Best Instrumental Composition
A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.

BLUT UND BODEN (BLOOD AND SOIL)
Terence Blanchard, composer (Terence Blanchard)

CHRYSALIS
Jeremy Kittel, composer (Kittel & Co.)

INFINITY WAR
Alan Silverstri, composer (Alan Silvestri)

MINE MISSION
John Powell & John Williams, composers (John Powell & John Williams)

THE SHAPE OF WATER
Alexandre Desplat, composer (Alexandre Desplat)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

BATMAN THEME (TV)
Randy Waldman & Justin Wilson, arrangers (Randy Waldman Featuring Wynton Marsalis)

CHANGE THE WORLD
Mark Kibble, arranger (Take 6)

MADRID FINALE
John Powell, arranger (John Powell)

THE SHAPE OF WATER
Alexandre Desplat, arranger (Alexandre Desplat)

STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER
John Daversa, arranger (John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR
Matt Rollings & Kristin Wilkinson, arrangers (Willie Nelson)

JOLENE
Dan Pugach & Nicole Zuraitis, arrangers (Dan Pugach)

MONA LISA
Vince Mendoza, arranger (Gregory Porter)

NIÑA
Gonzalo Grau, arranger (Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider)

SPIDERMAN THEME
Mark Kibble, Randy Waldman & Justin Wilson, arrangers (Randy Waldman Featuring Take 6 & Chris Potter)

Jazz Clip of the Day – Brenda Navarrete

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, curtjazz radio, Video Vault with tags , , , , , on January 10, 2019 by curtjazz

Brenda Navarrete.

Read her name. Say it. Commit it to memory.

She is the most exciting new artist that I have heard in Afro-Cuban music in at least a decade.

I first heard her in the fall of 2017, when her U.S. label sent me a copy of Mi Mundo, her debut album as a solo artist. I don’t know what excited me more, her passionate vocals or her mastery of multiple percussion instruments. Though the official release date of her CD was not until January 2018, I decided to, in my excitement, include Mi Mundo on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2017. I could have easily included it on my 2018 list as well.

A native of Cuba, Ms. Navarrete has been making her mark in her homeland, since the age of 9. She grew up in a musical home where in addition to the legends of her native island, such as Benny More, Celia Cruz and Celeste Mendoza, she was also exposed to and gravitated to the music of American jazz artists, like Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Cassandra Wilson and Take 6.

In 2010, Brenda won a national competition during Cuba’s prestigious Fiesta del Tambor, wining first prize in the category of Bata drums, as well as for best interpretation by a female artist. She quickly came to the attention of modern Cuban greats such as Roberto Carcasses, Joaquin Betancourt and Alain Perez, who put her right to work in their groups. In a field that is dominated by men, Ms. Brenda Navarrete has quickly set herself apart from the pack.

As for Mi Mundo, which was recorded in Havana, I will simply quote my own words from my 2017 year-end review: “I was floored from the first notes of “Baba Eleggua”, as in this young woman’s playing and vocalizing, I felt the spirits of Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Armando Peraza. Yes, she is that good. The album, which includes four of Brenda’s compositions, is deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban traditions, with a touch of modern influences, such as American R&B. Her version of “Caravan”, is a killer, as is her original, “Rumbero Como Yo”, with its multi-tracked vocal line. She demonstrates her jazz chops on “A Ochun”, with its flute driven mid-section and a call and response finish, over insistent jazz chords. There’s not a bad track here… A very impressive instrumental and vocal debut.

Alma Records recently released a rather captivating and sensual video clip of “Mulata Linda”, one of the tracks from Mi Mundo. I also came across a wonderful clip of Ms. Brenda from the summer of 2018, as she opened the “Havana Meets Kingston” concert, at Royal Albert Hall, in London. I hope you enjoy them both.

Click on the links throughout this post to get your own copy of Mi Mundo You can also hear several tracks from the album, now in heavy rotation on CurtJazz Radio. To listen click HERE.

Jazz Clip of the Day – Christian McBride’s New Jawn

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2018, CD Reviews, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2019 by curtjazz

Okay everyone. I have figured out a way to get me posting more often.

There are a lot of terrific performance clips, EPKs and in this day and age, video clips that jazz artists produce, support of their work. They can often get lost in the glut of YouTube content.

What I will start doing, is posting at least one a day, when there is nothing else that I want to blog about, in long form. Hopefully something will connect with you and cause to seek out an unfamiliar artist, or at least brighten your day, with something from an old friend.

Our first will be from one of the albums on our Best Jazz of 2018 List; bassist Christian McBride’s New Jawn. Though still in his 40’s Mr. McBride has been a major part of the jazz scene for almost 30 years. He has performed and/or recorded with virtually every major figure in the jazz world, since 1989. He has also compiled an impressive array of recordings as a leader; heading groups from duos to big bands. He is also consistently willing to stretch himself and record in aggregations that seek out new ground.

“New Jawn”, is no exception, as it is the first album as a leader (other than his duet album), that McBride has made, without a chordal instrument, such as piano or guitar. Musicians often find this type of group allows a certain amount of freedom, as they are not as bound to conventional chord structures. However, that lack of structure can also be frightening as it can easily expose the limitations of less creative players.

Fortunately, with a world class quartet that includes Nasheet Waits on drums; Marcus Strickland on tenor sax; Joshua Evans on trumpet and McBride on bass, they are on the money, from first note, until the last. As intended, they stretch conventional boundaries to the edge of the avant-garde, but they are anchored just enough to keep the traditional jazz listener interested. It’s a thrilling ride.

I also have to give props to the ultra cool album cover, which appears to be a 21st Century take on the iconic artwork for the classic Wynton Kelly album, It’s All Right!

By the way, “Jawn”, is a term in Philly parlance, for “a person, place or thing”; it can change with the situation. Which makes it appropriate for this group.

The two clips here are live performances of two tracks from the album, “Middle Man” and “Pier One Import”, filmed live in performance, at radio station KNKX in Tacoma, WA. These tracks and others from Christian McBride’s New Jawn, can be heard in regular rotation on CurtJazz Radio click HERE to listen now.

My Best Jazz Albums of 2018 – The Complete List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2018 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2018 by curtjazz

Yeah. I know. I’ve been away from the blog since, well, since my last year-end review.

It’s been quite a year folks. A lot of time on the road and a lot of “spare” time devoted to getting CurtJazz Radio back up, running and viable. But you didn’t come here to hear my problems. In the midst of it all, I did manage to hear a good amount of music. Some not so good and some that was very good, to excellent. Those in the latter category are included in the list below.

They are in alphabetical order, by album title. I’ve divided the projects into Instrumental and Vocal. I also wanted to recognize a couple of outstanding EPs, so I did. Each title includes a link that will take you to a place where you can purchase the music, if you feel so moved.

At the bottom of the post are three CD length Spotify playlists, which will give you a chance to sample a track from most of the albums/EPs on our list.

Tracks from all of these albums and EPs will be featured on CurtJazz Radio, from now, through the end of January 2019. CurtJazz Radio, on Live365.com, is always on and always FREE. Click HERE to listen.

I will try to not be such a ghost in 2019.

Instrumental

Album Title Artist Label
All in My Mind Dr. Lonnie Smith Blue Note
Armor of Pride Black Art Jazz Collective HighNote
Both Directions at Once John Coltrane Impulse
Christian McBride’s New Jawn Christian McBride Mack Avenue
Concentric Circles Kenny Barron Quintet Blue Note
Diamond Cut Tia Fuller Mack Avenue
Exiled Thandi Ntuli Ndlela Music Co.
Future is Female Roxy Coss Posi-Tone
Get It How You Live Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra Ropeadope
Heaven and Earth Kamasi Washington Young Turks
In Common Walter Smith III; Matthew Stevens Whirlwind
In Real Time John Bailey Summit
In the Moment Pat Bianchi Savant
Interstellar Adventures Theo Hill Posi-Tone
Introspection Roni Ben-Hur and Harvie S Jazzheads
Jazzland Tim Warfield Criss Cross
Live from San Pedro Jeff Hamilton Trio Capri
Love Stone JD Allen Savant
Master’s Legacy Series; Vol. 2Emmet CohenCellar Live
Modern Flows; Vol. 2 Marquis Hill PR
Movement Kobie Watkins Grouptet Origin
Origami Harvest Ambrose Akinmusire Blue Note
Pardes (Orchard) Amos Hoffman & Noam Lemish CD Baby
Remember Love Houston Person and Ron Carter HighNote
Straight Forward New Faces Posi-Tone
Telepathy Christopher Hollyday CD Baby
Warriors for Peace E.J. Strickland Quintet JamminColorS

Vocal

Album Title Artist Label
Art Market Sasha Masakowski Ropeadope
Genius of Eddie Jefferson Allan Harris Resilience
Looking at the Moon Allegra Levy Steeplechase
Math Camp Lorraine Feather CD Baby
My Mood is You Freddy Cole HighNote
Some of That Sunshine Karrin Allyson CD Baby
Sung with Words Helen Sung CD Baby
Unbroken Tiffany Austin Con Alma
Waiting for the Sunrise Camille Thurman Chesky
The Window Cecile McLorin Salvant Mack Avenue

EPs

Title Artist Label
Alfred Sergel IVtet Alfred Sergel Self-Release
G8S Giacomo Gates 9th Note

Best of the Carolinas

Title Artist Label
Cola Jazz II Cola Jazz Jangly
The SeekerThomas TaylorSelf Release
Shanghai Decade Sean Higgins Trio Self Release
Playlist #1
Playlist #2
Playlist #3

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (Second Half) – Instrumental Albums: Closer Look – Pt. 2

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, CD Reviews, curtjazz radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2018 by curtjazz

brenda navarreteOur last look at 2017, covers six more fine instrumental albums; from a living legend, who just keeps getting it done; a thrilling young Cuban percussionist/vocalist; a drummer who has been setting the world on fire; a venerable jazz label, restocking for the future, and an exciting young vibraphonist, who has come of age.

 

In alphabetical order:

Jersey – Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet (Motema)

The master percussionist drops a fine album of modern jazz, in a totally acoustic setting. The first thing that caught my attention was the pacing; though it is far from languid, it never feels rushed. It is Guiliana’s album but he leads, while never overpowering his sidemen, as will sometimes happen on drummer albums. The revelation for me, is the fine tenor work of Jason Rigby, a powerful player, who to these ears, sounds like frequent Guiliana collaborator Donny McCaslin, filtered through Stan Getz. There are a couple of strong Morrisey penned tracks (“Mayor of Rotterdam” is my fave), another with a swinging, melodic hook, that I have been unable to get out of my head (“Big Rig Jones”) and a David Bowie tune (“Where are We Now”), in a beautiful and fitting tribute to the late legend, who employed Guiliana as the drummer on his last two albums. Call me a dinosaur, if you must but as much as I appreciate Mr. Guiliana’s electronic, beat based work, I love his group in this situation.

Marseille – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

I’m going to stop mentioning Ahmad Jamal’s age, when I speak of his artistry because it is irrelevant. It is not necessary to make any allowances, as he plays circles around some of the so called top cats, who are less than half his age. He has been inspiring jazz musicians for the past seven decades; his ideas and his energy are still fresh and when he hits the pocket, with his regular sidemen; James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums) and Manolo Badrena (percussion), you know where a lot of these young pianists who claim to be hip-hop influenced, really got their groove from. On this disc, he pays tribute to the French port city, with three different and equally compelling, versions of the title track: an instrumental; a spoken word, featuring French rapper Abd al Malik and a haunting French/English vocal version, by Mina Agossi. “Autumn Leaves” is given a bright Jamal treatment, which rides high on Badrena’s percussion and a quick quote from “Stolen Moments”. There’s also the funkiest version of “…Motherless Child” that I’ve ever heard. All I can say is, Mr. Jamal, keep on doing what you do, for as long as you want to do it!

Mi Mundo – Brenda Navarrete (ALMA)

I must admit that I made a small error with this album. When I first heard it, I was so impressed with Brenda Navarrete’s skill as a percussionist, that I categorized it as an instrumental album, even though every track includes Ms. Navarrete’s vocals. Now that I taken the time to listen to her singing, I realize that in addition to being one of the best young Afro-Cuban percussionists, that I have heard in many years, she is also an impressive vocalist. Mi Mundo is Ms. Navarrete’s debut album as a leader. It was released digitally, in September, though the CD version will not be out until January 2018. Regardless, I was floored from the first notes of “Baba Eleggua”, as in this young woman’s playing and vocalizing, I felt the spirits of Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Armando Peraza. Yes, she is that good. The album, which includes four of Brenda’s compositions, is deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban traditions, with a touch of modern influences, such as American R&B. Her version of “Caravan”, is a killer, as is her original, “Rumbero Como Yo”, with its multi-tracked vocal line. She demonstrates her jazz chops on “A Ochun”, with its flute driven mid-section and a call and response finish, over insistent jazz chords. There’s not a bad track here. My only minor quibble, is the album’s length (a scant 37 minutes). A very impressive instrumental and vocal debut. I pray that stupid politics, will not keep Brenda Navarrete, from being heard by a wider audience.

Our Point of View – Blue Note All-Stars (Blue Note)

Six of the best young musicians in jazz today, come together to form a supergroup, in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of arguably, the greatest record label in jazz history, Blue Note Records. Those expecting to hear these young cats rehash the old Blue Note catalog of “hits”, are going to be sorely disappointed. The two-disc set consists mostly of original compositions by these young lions. The music has energy, imperfections and thrills. And it also has a future. It is the sound of great musicians, who have respect for where they have come from but who are trying to create something new, relevant and deeply personal. They are, in the words of the group’s keyboardist/co-producer, Robert Glasper, “Making our own history now”. There are a couple of nods to the label’s storied past, in the appearance of two living legends, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, on a new (and different) version of Shorter’s “Masqualero”. There is also a thrilling, almost 18-minute-long, version of Shorter’s classic “Witch Hunt”, with the core sextet getting to find out where that great old vehicle, will take them. It takes them to a blazing tenor statement by Marcus Strickland and after a slow start, a terrific trumpet solo by Ambrose Akinmusire. As long as minds can remain open and younger cats like these, can keep finding vehicles for their creativity, the music and this label, will have a bright future.

Strykin’ Ahead – Dave Stryker (Strikezone)

The latest in a series of fine albums from this veteran guitarist, takes him out of the soul jazz bag that he has been in for a number of years and back into straight ahead territory. It’s his best album in at least a decade. Click HERE to read our full album review.

 

Walk of Fire – Behn Gillece (Posi-Tone)

This up and coming young vibraphonist reaches his potential with this excellent date, inspired, in part, by Joe Henderson’s Blue Note classic, Mode for Joe. Click HERE to read our full album review.

 

And that’s a wrap for 2017.A reminder of the instrumental albums, on our first half of the year list:

Tracks from all of these albums can be heard on CurtJazz Radio, our new 24/7 Jazz Radio station, on the new Live365.com. Click HERE to listen, it’s free.

Much new music to hear in 2018. Let’s enjoy it together!

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (Second Half) – Instrumental Albums: Closer Look – Pt. 1

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, CD Reviews, curtjazz radio with tags , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2018 by curtjazz

don't blinkAmong the first six of the eleven albums and one EP, on our second half of 2017 “Best Of” list: We have one of the great big bands in contemporary jazz, another one that may grab that title, one day; another striking work from an artist who for me, represents jazz’s bright future; and a another interesting concept album, from an artist who never seems to run out of fresh ideas.

In alphabetical order:

Bringin’ It – Christian McBride Big Band (Mack Avenue)

Perhaps in emulation of one of his musical heroes, James Brown, bassist Christian McBride has become the hardest working man in jazz. In addition to his killer trio, his small group (Inside Straight), his popular show on Sirius/XM and his appearances as an unofficial ambassador of jazz, Mr. McBride has returned, with his big band, for the first time in six years. And he has returned with a funky vengeance, as Bringin’ It, smokes, from the first notes of the hot, Brown-influenced “Gettin’ to It”, to the last notes of the Steve Davis flag waver, “Optimism”. McBride demonstrates that he has developed into a first-rate large ensemble chart writer, as he arranged nine of the albums eleven tracks and I didn’t hear a false note or a cliché, in any of them. Bringin’ It is a breath of fresh air, in an often moribund genre. I just hope we don’t have to wait another six years for the next album.

Don’t Blink – Unhinged Sextet (OA2)

Take six cats, from different parts of the U.S., who are all first-rate composers, arrangers, educators and (of course) musicians; bring them together every few years, in the studio, to kick around some ideas; shake well and you’ve got musical fire. That is Unhinged Sextet; the best little straight-ahead group that you’ve probably never heard of. Their second album, Don’t Blink, picks up where their first, Clarity, left off, except it swings harder and the writing is stronger; those two things alone, put it on my best of list. There are no frills and no stars, just boss level musicians, at the top of their game and playing solid post-bop jazz. Strong solos that are never too long and a good mix of uptempo and ballads. More, please! Now if we could just get them out of the damn studio and on the live stage.

Handful of Keys – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (Blue Engine)

Wynton and the JALCO drop their second outstanding album of the year. Where the first featured one pianist in tribute to the music of another, this one features several great pianists, of all ages, in tribute to the magnificence of the instrument itself. Click HERE to read our full review.

Harmony of Difference (EP) – Kamasi Washington (Young Turks)

Saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s follow-up to his stunning debut album, Epic, is a lot shorter but every bit as good. Click HERE to read our full review.

Honey and Salt – Matt Wilson (Palmetto)

There are very few jazz artists working today, who could successfully pull off the marriage of the Prairie Americana of the poetry of Carl Sandburg and the spare rhythms of modern jazz. Percussion master Matt Wilson proves that he is up to the task. He shares a common Illinois background with the great poet and a distant familial relationship, by marriage. He is also a longtime admirer and student of Sandburg, so Mr. Wilson has a personal attachment to the words and he and his group of regular cohorts, create musical bed that fit like a glove. What is ultra-hip is the appearance of some of the biggest jazz artists of today, such as Christian McBride, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Rufus Reid, Bill Frisell and Carla Bley; not on their instruments but as readers of the words of Sandburg. This is a set that is jazzy, edgy, folksy, spare, lush, humorous and introspective – just like the poetry of the man himself.

Hybrido (from Rio to Wayne Shorter) – Antonio Adolfo (AAM)

One of the great, sleeper discs of 2017. Released on the small AAM label, this terrific date by the veteran Brazilian pianist was easy to miss and I almost did. What a shame that would have been. For I’ve heard Latin/Brazilian interpretations of the great Wayne Shorter’s music many times before but this is the most natural experience of them all. Mr. Adolfo and company have taken Shorter’s music to Rio; trusting their musicianship and the quality of the original material to carry the day. At the keyboard, Mr. Adolfo touch has always reminded me of a Brazilian version of Ahmad Jamal – soulful and swinging but with an overarching lightness of touch. And like Jamal, Adolfo has only gotten better with age. The tunes here come from IMO, Mr. Shorter’s most fertile compositional period, his years with Blue Note. And there are stimulating interpretations of Shorter classics, such as “Footprints”, “Black Nile”, “Speak No Evil” and “E.S.P.”. It is a very personal, very beautiful and very enjoyable, tribute.

The next post will include looks at our final six top instrumental albums of 2017. You can hear tracks from these albums and more, on the new CurtJazz Radio, on Live365.com 

Best Jazz Vocals of 2017 (Part 2): A Closer Look

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, CD Reviews, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2018 by curtjazz

Happy New Year, everyone.

Well, this didn’t work out the way I intended.

ori dagan nathanielI posted my “Best of; Pt. 2”, list a couple of weeks ago, fully expecting to follow quickly with comments on each of the albums. This vicious strain of the flu that is out this season, had other ideas. The last thing I will say about Flu 2017/18, is I haven’t had any bug knock me out like that in at least 20 years. It’s real, it’s quick, and it’s strong; so please take care of yourselves.

Now back to the Music – The five best jazz vocal albums that I heard during the last half of 2017, in alpha order by album title:

 

Code Noir – Carmen Lundy (Afrasia)

Another brilliant work from this vocal master, Code Noir (which takes its title from the infamous French colonial slave laws) is a lush and dreamily soulful album. Don’t let the ethereal qualities lull you into a false sense of relaxation, lest you miss some of the most poignant lyrical messages of Ms. Lundy’s career. The marvelous Patrice Rushen is on the keys, reminding those who may have forgotten, that she is far more than just “Forget Me Nots”. The underrated Jeff Parker plays some dynamite guitar.  Listen once (or twice) for the lyrics, then let yourself get lost inside of the marvelous instrument that is Ms. Lundy’s voice. There’s not another one like it today in jazz.

Dreams and Daggers – Cecile McLorin Salvant (Mack Avenue)

I must keep reminding myself that she is not yet 30 years old. But that’s a frightening statement because it’s also a reminder that, as good as she is, Cecile McLorin Salvant, has still not yet reached her pinnacle. This is her first live album (mostly recorded at the legendary Village Vanguard), a two-disc set and there’s not a dud in the bunch. She is wondrously accomplished, self-assured, captivating and funny and often, she is all of these things, at once. I also loved the fact that there are very few tired old warhorses; Ms. Salvant mines the songbooks of Bob Dorough, Langston Hughes, (a hilariously raunchy) Bessie Smith, and the quirky, tongue in cheek sides of Broadway scores. And she makes them all her own. I will also no longer compare her, even favorably, to some of her legendary forbearers, for Cecile McLorin Salvant, has arrived, on her own terms.

Grace – Lizz Wright (Concord)

I would love this album, if only for the fact that it once and for all, reclaims Allen Toussaint’s wonderful “Southern Nights” from that crude and misguided megahit Glen Campbell version, after forty years. But there’s so much more here.  On her own work, Ms. Wright consistently delivers a beautiful and deeply personal amalgam of jazz, gospel and bluesy folk music. I’ve been listening intently since her impressive 2003 debut, Salt and she has never been better than she is on Grace. It is a starkly beautiful and majestic work of art, with songs by artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. If you love the sacred or the secular, you will be completely filled with Grace.

Nathaniel (A Tribute to Nat King Cole) – Ori Dagan (Scat Cat)

There were higher profile vocal tributes to the great “King” Cole in 2017 but none were better than this surprising effort from the up and coming Canadian baritone. Ori Dagan keeps proceedings fresh by using his customary sense of humor and by adding 5 of his own compositions, most of which are quite good. In fact, a couple fit in so well, that I assumed that they were quirky, novelty rarities from the King Cole Trio’s heyday, until I read the liner notes. Mr. Dagan also wisely avoids anything that would even approach a perceived impersonation of one of the great voices and stylists of the 20th Century. So, what do we get? We have one of the unique talents of contemporary jazz singing, bringing us his interpretation of some tunes closely and not-so-closely associated with the legend. I like what he was going for, and overall, I loved how it turned out. Plus, he’s got the estimable Sheila Jordan, guesting on a delightful take of “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. Even a Cole fan like me, couldn’t ask for much more.

Rendering – Kellye Gray (Grr8)

This album by this husky-voiced vocalist has the most interesting backstory of any on this list: In 1989, Kellye recorded Standards in Gray, her debut album, for Justice Records, a small Houston area label (I loved many of their releases). It received good press and sold relatively well. However, when Justice fell on hard times, the album went out of print. In 2015, 25 years after Standards in Gray’s release, Ms. Gray gained ownership rights to her album. She decided to crowd-fund and produce a live concert/album, in tribute to the original album, including new recordings of some of the tracks on Standards… The result is the terrific Rendering, a 2 CD set, that includes the new live recordings and a copy of the first album.

Ms. Gray had escaped my notice, until this package arrived at my door. Suffice to say, I am very impressed. While Standards in Gray, is a portrait of a young, big voiced singer, with loads of promise, Rendering, shows us that in the ensuing 25 years, Kellye Gray has made the transition from earnest singer to jazz vocalist. That wonderful instrument of hers has developed nuance and a certain bit of inimitability. She has learned her way around and through a song; which makes the live album, very compelling and worthy of multiple listens.  The arrangements are first rate, as are her sidemen, including the late drummer Sebastian Whittaker, who played on the first date and poignantly, in one of his last recordings, on the live album as well. If your new to Ms. Gray (like me), my advice is to start with these two albums and work your way back. There’s a lot of fine music there.

And those are my five vocal favorites for the 2nd half of 2017.

A reminder, these were my selections for the 1st half of the year:

You can click HERE to read my post about that Fab Five.

Now that the flu is almost behind me, I’ve got a lot of posting to catch up on. Next will be the Instrumental album for the second half of the year.

Tracks from these albums and more can be heard on the new CURTJAZZ RADIO, our 24/7 jazz radio station, on the new Live365.com.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (Second Half)

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, curtjazz radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2017 by curtjazz

don't blinkThere are good and bad things about writing a mid-year “Best of” list, as I did last July: It cuts down your work at year’s end but it also makes it harder to pare that year end list down to a precious few, especially in a year like this, that was filled with great jazz albums, especially on the instrumental side.

Enough of my whining. Here now, is a list of my favorite albums, released in 2017, that I first heard between July and December. As with the previous list, I’ve split them into instrumental and vocals. They are listed in alphabetical order, by album title, not in order of preference. Because all of these living jazz artists would appreciate your support, clicking on the album title will take you to a place where you can purchase the album, with delivery in some cases, before Christmas.

Instrumental

Album Title Artist Label
Bringin’ It Christian McBride Big Band Mack Avenue
Don’t Blink Unhinged Sextet Origin
Handful of Keys JALC Orchestra (w/multiple pianists) Blue Engine
Harmony of Difference (EP) Kamasi Washington Young Turks
Honey and Salt Matt Wilson Palmetto
Hybrido Antionio Adolfo AAM
Jersey Mark Giuliana Jazz Quartet Motema
Marseille Ahmad Jamal Jazz Village
Mi Mundo Brenda Navarrete ALMA
Our Point of View Blue Note All Stars Blue Note
Strykin’ Ahead Dave Stryker Strikezone
Walk of Fire Behn Gillece Posi-Tone

Vocal

Album Title Artist Label
Code Noir Carmen Lundy Afrasia
Dreams and Daggers Cecile McLorin Salvant Mack Avenue
Grace Lizz Wright Concord
Nathaniel Ori Dagan Scat Cat
Rendering Kellye Gray Grr8

 

We will feature a closer look at each of these discs in several posts, over the remainder of the year.

And lest we forget (and we shouldn’t). Here are the albums that were included in our first “Best Of 2017” post, back in July:

Vocal 

Instrumental 

Tracks from all of these albums will be featured, starting on Wednesday, December 27, as we celebrate the Year in Jazz, on CurtJazz Radio, as it returns to the new Live365.com. We are on the air now, with our JazzMas Party (Holiday Jazz), until then. Click HERE to listen. It’s free.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Until then, the jazz continues.

We’re Back On the Airwaves!

Posted in curtjazz radio, Holiday Jazz, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , on December 11, 2017 by curtjazz

WE’RE BAAAAACK!

CurtJazz Studio 300x400When Charlotte Community Radio went off the air last spring, I felt in my spirit, that this was going to be a temporary absence from the air. I had heard rumblings and rumors that Live365, which had been my on-air home from late 2004, until its demise, due to draconian governmental regulation, in January 2016; was going to make a comeback. The format would be essentially the same, the costs,  slightly higher.

The rumors became true, late in the summer, when I got an email from Live365, inviting me to reopen Curt’s Cafe Noir. My heart wanted to jump in that day. My head told me to do a little number crunching first. I had set a goal of getting back on the air, sometime during the 2nd Quarter of 2018.  It was going to be a long wait, but I was willing because it was worth it.

While talking to my queen (aka the world’s greatest wife) over the weekend, I mentioned my plans. She then told me, “Well…actually, I had planned to give you station as a Christmas present. I know how much you love to do your Christmas show, so why don’t you just start now. Merry Christmas!”

Click the link below, to stream the new CURTJAZZ RADIO. It’s 100% Free.

http://player.live365.com/a09856

I was immediately speechless, and then grateful, to my family and to God for the chance to do what I love, again, and even more quickly than I had planned. I also knew that I had my work cut out for me, because all of a sudden, the 2017 JAZZMAS Party was on.

Mike hackett

I also did something I had wanted to do for a while, which is change the station name. Curt’s Cafe Noir, was a name that I came up with back in 2004, when I envisioned the station as an amalgam of many musical styles. As jazz became our identity, I never found an opening to make the switch. Now is that time.

So, the station formerly known as Curt’s Cafe Noir, will now be known as CurtJazz Radio. I’ve become known by that moniker, so I figure it will be easier for new fans to remember and for old fans and friends to get used to.

Nicci Canada 1

We kicked off the new CurtJazz Radio, on Sunday, December 10. Almost thirteen years to the day, that we started Curt’s Cafe Noir. Since it’s the Holiday Season, we will start programming with one of our most popular features on the old station, the 24/7 JAZZMAS Party. Wall to wall, Christmas and Holiday-themed jazz vocals and instrumentals – some familiar and some rare. This will go on, 24 hours a day, until December 27. On that date, we will switch to playing tracks from the best jazz albums of 2017, which we will do through mid January. After that, it will be what you know us for – straight-ahead jazz, mostly by living, working artists.

If you’re a fan of Curt’s Cafe Noir, we welcome you to CurtJazz Radio, with open arms. If you never heard Curt’s Cafe Noir, we’d love for you to give CurtJazz Radio a try. I think you’ll like it.

We ask for your support and we appreciate every minute that you spend with us.

The link below, will take you to the party!

http://player.live365.com/a09856

https://broadcaster.live365.com/v1/now-playing/large/a09856