Archive for fred hersch

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2019 by curtjazz

BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM

In the second of the two biggest jazz categories, we have a race between a great saxophonist who is finally earning a little recognition; two of the finest pianists working today; a respected veteran who is still getting it done and a true legend, admired and respected by all.

The nominees are:

DIAMOND CUT
Tia Fuller

The crackle from the moment her alto enters…twenty seconds into the first tune (“In the Trenches”), I had that feeling that this album was going to be a great one. Ms. Tia Fuller has been on the scene for over a decade. She has paid the bills for a while, working with Beyonce’s road band, but whenever she steps into the studio under her own name, she is an unapologetic jazz player. She hadn’t released a project in six years, prior to Diamond Cut. She has been missed. This project is different in many ways, from her previous four albums; for one thing, it is produced by the amazing Terri Lyne Carrington. For another, there’s no piano. Guitarist Adam Rogers handles the chordal duties. And, there are two different bass/drum duos, splitting the work; James Genus and Bill Stewart are one set and the other two, you may have heard of: Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. As for Ms. Fuller’s sound, clearly, the Berklee professor was ready to take everyone to school. She masters what she needs to be in that moment; she is at turns, gritty, soulful and even a bit on the outside. Diamond Cut is a very strong album and Ms. Fuller deserves her first Grammy nomination for it. However, this category also features someone who has been making great music since before Tia was born. Most likely, it will be his night.


LIVE IN EUROPE
Fred Hersch Trio

This Fred Hersch album has been nominated for two Grammys. The odds of Hersch winning either are fairly long, despite the fact that it is another excellent disc, from one of the finest pianists of our time. What is the problem? Part of it may be timing; Mr. Hersch seems to often run up against a hot project that has caught the attention of the jazz public and media. When this happens, other master musicians, like Hersch, get lost in the noise. Another issue may be his steady excellence. Hersch is not flashy. Even though he wrote an interesting and well received autobiography in 2017, and he has had some fascinating life issues over the past few years, he still generally, flies under the radar. Fred Hersch is so uniformly good, that he is taken for granted. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys. Hopefully, the voters will wise up soon. This year, I don’t think it will be in this category.


SEYMOUR READS THE CONSTITUTION!
Brad Mehldau Trio

The story behind this album’s title, is as interesting as it should be. Apparently, Mr. Mehldau has a dream, in which the late, Oscar winning actor, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, was reading the U.S. Constitution. The tune that Mehldau heard, accompanying Hoffman’s voice, became the inspiration for the title track. Despite the odd title, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is the most accessible album that I’ve heard from Brad Mehldau, in quite a while. The trio swings hard through a collection of originals, standards, minor jazz classics and Beach Boys tunes (yes, you heard right), with gusto and without condescension. Like Hersch, Mehldau is double nominated for this album (his 9th, without a win, so far). It’s fine work but he’s likely to run into a “Shorter” wall here. In the Best Instrumental Solo category, however, he’s got a good shot.


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

I can’t believe that the saxophone wunderkind of the 90’s, Joshua Redman, has just turned 50. I can believe that he is still evolving and getting stronger at his craft, more than 25 years after he first floored us jazzheads with his debut album. Though he is the son of a famed avant-gardist, his early years were deeply in the tradition (as I’m sure Warner Bros. wanted it). On this latest album, which garnered his seventh nomination, he pays tribute to his dad, Dewey, and Old and New Dreams, a group that Dewey played in, from the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s. That group, which also included legends Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, itself paid homage to their mentor, the patron saint of avant-garde jazz, Ornette Coleman. Still Dreaming is excellent, start to finish – terrific compositions and it stretches the boundaries of form, without completely breaking them. It is similar to Christian McBride’s New Jawn album, also from last year. I confess that I only gave this album a passing listen upon its release, but now that I’ve returned to it, I truly dig it, a lot. Perhaps it should have been on my Best of 2018 list. However, we are talking Grammy here, folks. Redman has never won one. He is a respected veteran and his star has stretched outside of the insular jazz world at times, over the past quarter century. But, due to the presence of our next nominee, I’m afraid that his wait is likely to extend beyond this weekend.


EMANON
The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Wayne Shorter is a true musical legend. He one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and composers of our time. In addition to his work as a leader, he has been an integral part of three of the greatest groups in jazz history. He has created transcendent musical art in every decade since the early 1960s. He has been nominated for a Grammy 21 times and has, so far, won 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015. He is also now 85 years old. So no one would blame Wayne Shorter, if he were to simply sit back, at this point and collect all of the accolades that are due to him, no one would be upset. So what does he do? He creates a symphonic masterpiece and releases it, in an epic three CD (God only knows how many LP) set, that includes a graphic novel. These new and challenging compositions are performed by a symphony orchestra and then live, by his current working quartet! Emanon is a brilliant work of musical art (I confess that I have not yet seen the graphic novel). I hope that Mr. Shorter has more in him and keeps sharing it with us, for at least another 20 years. If, as some have said, this is his final work, then it is a towering valedictory. Will he win this Grammy? Ummm, Yeah.

As for the opinions and unscientific predictions:

Should have been nominated:

Origami Harvest – Ambrose Akinmusire; Both Directions at Once (The Lost Album) – John Coltrane; The Future is Female – Roxy Coss

Who should win: Wayne Shorter

Who will win: Wayne Shorter

I would not be disappointed to see them win: Tia Fuller

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2019 by curtjazz

We’re about a week out from the 2019 Grammys, which will be held on Sunday February 10. As is now customary, the jazz awards will be presented during the Premiere Ceremony, which is streamed live before the televised show.

As is also now relatively customary, I like to take a look at each of the jazz category nominees and make my comments and totally unscientific (but usually accurate) predictions.

Lets start with the category that is closest to Record of the Year, for jazz. “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

The nominees are:


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

First off, the fact that the album that this track comes from, Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine, is not nominated for the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, is a crime, in itself. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it get some recognition, through violinist Regina Carter, doing her usual impeccable work in a solo as a guest on the easily swinging title track. First with a joyous pizzicato, followed by bowing, and then trading fours with a scatting Ms. Allyson in the fade-out, Ms. Carter’s work is the cherry on top a beautiful musical sundae. Due to the lack of name recognition and the fact that this is an indie production, it is not likely to take home the trophy but I would not be at all disappointed if it did.

There is no clip of Regina Carter performing “Some of That Sunshine”, but here’s a nice one of Karrin Allyson & her trio, swingin’ it at WBGO


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)

I love the concept of this album, on which trumpeter John Daversa’s Big Band is comprised mostly of “Dreamers” young people who came to the United States as children under DACA, and now face potential deportation as adults due the current political nonsense. That said, I don’t love this track, nor am I fond of Mr. Daversa’s performance on it. I get why this old Gene Autry tune was re-purposed for this particular album (the irony is quite rich) but the arrangement is messy and unfocused. I think this track arrived in this category on the coattails of the album, American Dreamers, which is also nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy. While I wish them the best, I think that there are far more deserving nominees.

WE SEE: Fred Hersch – Soloist

Track from the album Live in Europe (Fred Hersch Trio)

Fred Hersch, is one of our generation’s finest jazz pianists. Because of this, he has earned 14 Grammy nominations, over the course of his career. Fred Hersch also happens to during a time in which cats named Corea, Hancock and Shorter, among others, are still actively working and recording. As much as we hate to admit it, in the Grammy world, your chances of winning are directly proportional to your name recognition. “We See” is a terrific performance, of the Monk classic tune, off of a very fine Hersch album, Live in Europewhich is also nominated in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Without any of those name recognition giants around to suck up the oxygen and with 14 nominations to get his name into the minds of the voters, I’d say that Mr. Hersch has a legitimate shot at winning in this category. The only one potentially in his way, is our next nominee.

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

Brad Mehldau has been on the jazz scene for over two decades, as a sideman, leader and soloist but like Fred Hersch, he has also been overshadowed by the cats with greater name recognition. Like Hersch, he also has a large number of Grammy nominations (nine), without any hardware to show for it. This nominated track was also written by a great jazz composer, albeit one who has never gotten the recognition he deserved (Elmo Hope), and the album from which the track is pulled, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. So in this tight race, I give the nod to Mehldau. It’s a longer track, which gives Mr. Mehldau more of a chance to stretch out and show his considerable skills. It also swings in an ingratiating manner, which will make it easier on the ears of a potential voter, who may be inexperienced in jazz idioms. I’m not surprised if it goes either way but I expect it to be Brad Mehldau, by a nose.

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

Another of our double nominees competing in this category Mr. Zenón has been making some incredible music over the last decade, much of it celebrating his Puerto Rican heritage and a rich musical tradition, beyond the popular rhythms of salsa. On the album Yo Soy La Tradición , as well as on this selection, “Cadenas”, Zenón weaves the sound of his alto sax, into, through and around the rich colorings of the Spektral [String] Quartet. This is the most different and musically compelling of the nominated pieces, by far. There is something new to discover on each of the dozen or so times, that I have heard it. The album itself, is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album, bringing the career total of Mr. Zenón’s nominations to seven. It would be a deserving winner in either category but sadly, I don’t think it will happen.

My unscientific comments and predictions

Should have been nominated (but wasn’t): “Females are Strong as Hell”; Roxy Coss, soloist; Track from The Future is Female; “Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)”; John Coltrane, soloist; Track from Both Directions at Once [The Lost Album] “DPW”; Kenny Barron, soloist; Track from Concentric Circles

Should Win: Miguel Zenon

Will Win: Brad Mehldau

It would be nice if they did win: Regina Carter/Karrin Allyson

2017 Grammy Nominations: Jazz categories

Posted in 2017 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2016 by curtjazz

grammy1

Congratulations to all of the artists nominated for Grammy Awards in the jazz related categories. Since they often include jazz artists, we’ve also included the nominations in the instrumental arrangement and composition categories in this list. The awards will be presented on Sunday, February 12, 2017, in a portion of the program prior to the nationally televised broadcast. More on the nominated, albums, performances and artists will follow in the coming weeks.

Best improvised jazz solo

“Countdown” — Joey Alexander, soloist

“In Movement” — Ravi Coltrane, soloist

“We See” — Fred Hersch, soloist

“I Concentrate On You” — Brad Mehldau, soloist

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — John Scofield, soloist

Best jazz vocal album

“Sound of Red” — René Marie

“Upward Spiral” — Branford Marsalis Quartet With Special Guest Kurt Elling

“Take Me to the Alley” — Gregory Porter

“Harlem On My Mind” — Catherine Russell

“The Sting Variations” — The Tierney Sutton Band

Best jazz instrumental album

“Book of Intuition” — Kenny Barron Trio

“Dr. Um” — Peter Erskine

“Sunday Night at the Vanguard” — The Fred Hersch Trio

“Nearness” — Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau

“Country For Old Men” — John Scofield

Best large jazz ensemble album

“Real Enemies” — Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

“Presents Monk’estra, Vol. 1” — John Beasley

“Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles” — John Daversa

“All L.A. Band” — Bob Mintzer

“Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom” — Ted Nash Big Band

Best Latin jazz album

“Entre Colegas” — Andy González

“Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw” — Brian Lynch & Various Artists

“Canto América” — Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta

“30” — Trio Da Paz

“Tribute to Irakere: Live In Marciac” — Chucho Valdés

Best instrumental composition

“Bridge of Spies (End Title)” — Thomas Newman, composer

“The Expensive Train Set (An Epic Sarahnade For Double Big Band)” — Tim Davies, composer

“Flow” — Alan Ferber, composer

“L’Ultima Diligenza Di Red Rock”  Versione Integrale — Ennio Morricone, composer

“Spoken at Midnight” — Ted Nash, composer

Best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella

“Ask Me Now” — John Beasley, arranger

“Good Swing Wenceslas” — Sammy Nestico, arranger

“Linus & Lucy” — Christian Jacob, arranger

“Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” — John Daversa, arranger

“We Three Kings” — Ted Nash, arranger

“You And I” — Jacob Collier, arrange

Best arrangement, instruments and vocals

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” — Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band Featuring Take 6)

“Do You Want To Know a Secret” — John Daversa, arranger (John Daversa Featuring Renee Olstead)

“Flintstones” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier)

“I’m a Fool to Want You” — Alan Broadbent, arranger (Kristin Chenoweth)

“Somewhere (Dirty Blvd)” (Extended Version) — Billy Childs & Larry Klein, arrangers (Lang Lang Featuring Lisa Fischer & Jeffrey Wright)

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

In our third preview, we look at the nominees for the award that many consider the be the big prize in the jazz categories: Best Instrumental Jazz Album. As usual, the category is stocked with strong contenders but it is likely to come down to a race between two big names:

Landmarks – Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band (Blue Note)

Drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band has recorded four albums in sixteen years. Each one of them has been outstanding. The deeply personal Landmarks, recorded mostly in Mr. Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, LA, is no exception. It’s stark in spots richly orchestral in others and very compelling. I wouldn’t mind to see them take home the award but I don’t think that it’s going to happen due, ironically to another project that features Mr. Blade.

Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade came together on this 3 CD live recording from their world tour. The program includes jazz standards (Monk’s “Work”), classic Corea compositions (“Spain”) and even their take on Russian classical music (Scriabin’s Op. 11, No. 9). The trio is in outstanding  form and the musical performances are universally first-rate. I know that I complain a lot in this space about the awards consistently going to the legendary names but I can’t fight it on this one. Chick is most likely to win. The only thing standing in his way could be a super group with a number of big names in it. Their work isn’t as good but their names are almost as big.

Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch is one of the finest pianists of our time and Floating is more recorded evidence of that fact. This album found Mr. Hersch, bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson back in the studio after a few live discs. It’s as intelligent as any release of 2014 and the trio operates as a single, living breathing musical organism. It was on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2014 and it’s my pick for this award. But as we know, I don’t have a vote so the likely winner will be one of the two albums that flank it on this list.

Enjoy The View – Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart (Blue Note)

Bobby Hutcherson in his return to the label where he made some legendary recordings, accompanied by contemporary masters David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart. I so badly wanted this album to be great when I first heard that it was coming out. Alas, it was only good. It has numerous high point but almost as many moments of mediocrity. Still, here it is, up for a Grammy today. Will it win? Very possibly, if the voters don’t do their usual rush to Corea, who is this case, is the better pick. Or maybe they will split the vote and leave an opening for Blade or Hersch…We will see…

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller  – Jason Moran (Blue Note)

This is another album that I loved conceptually; that I wanted so much for it to be stellar and it turned out to be just “good”. Moran is a true student of the great Fats Waller and I love what he has been doing in trying to bring Waller’s music to a contemporary audience. Perhaps he was trying to do a bit too much for this record and something got lost in the translation. Oh well… Again, I would love to see Moran recognized for his musical contributions but giving him a Grammy for this album would be like when they gave Al Pacino an Oscar for The Scent of a Woman.

As for our unscientific and slightly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Fred Hersch

Will Win: Chick Corea

Up Next: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #1 – Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by curtjazz

Well here I am folks, late to the Grammy Party but still right on time!

The 2015 Grammy® Awards will be handed out this Sunday, February 8. The Awards in the Jazz categories will be distributed, as usual, during the “Pre-Show” before the televised broadcast. As I have done over the past few years I’ve put together a review of the jazz category nominees, including a musical clip (where available) and my opinion about the artists chances to take some hardware home on Sunday. Let’s start with jazz’s equivalent of Record of the Year, “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

“The Eye Of The Hurricane,” – Kenny Barron, soloist:  From the album Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (Whaling City Sounds)

The great pianist Kenny Barron and the legendary bassist Ron Carter join drummer Gerry Gibbs (son of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs) on this terrific trio album. The nominated track is a blazing fast take on the Herbie Hancock composition, with Mr. Barron showing the impressive speed that we don’t get to hear from him often enough these days. It’s a fine track but it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle of big names on the way to the awards podium. What it has made me do is check out the work of Gerry Gibbs who I’ve somehow managed to miss over the years.

“Fingerprints,” Chick Corea, soloist: From the album Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

This is a nominated performance from Trilogy Mr. Corea’s live three disc semi-retrospective. The track is stellar, as is the album, which has also been nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Corea is as good, at age 73, as he has ever been and the support from Brian Blade and Christian McBride is also first rate. So, what’s my problem? I’ve talked about it every year since I’ve been doing these jazz Grammy posts; I would just like to see some of the Grammy voters award love go to someone not named Corea or Hancock or Rollins, etc. But I know that my wishes will likely go unfulfilled. The performance is very good and they know his name so Chick Corea will probably win this award and the other one as well.


“You & The Night & The Music,” Fred Hersch, soloist: From the album Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto) 

As i mentioned in my 2014 year end review, Floating is one of my all time favorite Fred Hersch albums. That said, it’s ironic that this track gained a nomination as it is one of performances that I found to be just good but not great. There are better tracks on the album and better ones nominated in this category. Still, anytime Fred Hersch is acknowledged for his art, it is a great thing. The album is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental album. Sadly, it is likely to come home empty-handed due to the “Chick Factor”.

“Recorda Me,” Joe Lovano, soloist: From the album The Latin Side of Joe Henderson  – Conrad Herwig (Half Note)

No doubt about it; Conrad Herwig has struck critical and to an extent, commercial gold with his “The Latin Side of…” series. This track from the latest release is the best of the Joe Henderson tribute album, which was recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. Though the track is strong, I found it interesting that Mr. Lovano was singled out for recognition, as his is one of a number of strong solos during the 11 + minute performance. I guess it has to do with him being listed as the featured performer on the album cover. It also nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album. I think that it has a better chance in that category.


“Sleeping Giant,” Brad Mehldau, soloist: From the album Taming the Dragon – Mehlania (Nonesuch)

A track from Mehlania, the new electronic duo composed of the well-respected pianist Brad Mehldau, this time on a variety of electronic keyboards and drummer/percussionist Mark Guiliana. This is a spacey/trippy track that is for me, reminiscent of Miles circa Bitches Brew. Not really my cup of tea but I wouldn’t count it out on Grammy night due to Mehldau’s name recognition. I have to admit that if it wins, I will laugh my ass off.

So here is my unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Kenny Barron
  • Will Win: Chick Corea

Up next, will be Best Jazz Vocal Album. A category that will also likely be dominated by name recognition.

Best Jazz Albums of 2014 – A Closer Look: Part 2 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by curtjazz

Somi - The Lagos Music SalonThe second post in the Best of 2014 series includes a look at recent albums from two of the best trumpet players under 40 in jazz today. We also have a disc from a veteran piano great who has overcome a tremendous amount of personal adversity to continue to produce world-class music. There is a hip drum master who has teamed with a jam band king on a mix of outside leaning originals with unexpected covers. Finally, there is a vocalist who sought to get in touch with her roots and in so doing, found musical excellence.

  • Face Forward, Jeremy – Jeremy Pelt (HighNote) – While some of his contemporaries have been grabbing the headlines, Jeremy Pelt has been quietly amassing an impressive and diverse résumé consisting of some of the more compelling jazz performances of this brief century. Though his recorded performances have mostly leaned toward the mainstream, Pelt has of late begun to delve into the fusion side of his persona with musically satisfying results. I always get the sense that Mr. Pelt is seeking; looking to bring a fresh perspective to his projects. As look back at his catalog as a leader, which now stands at a dozen albums, I realized that each of his records was in some way different from the last. And his latest album, Face Forward, Jeremy is no exception. (See our full review from Jazz Inside Magazine HERE)

  • Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (MRI) – While I’ve always greatly respected Fred Hersch as an artist, I admit that I haven’t always loved his recordings. That said, Floating is my favorite Fred Hersch album, to date. The easy rapport between Mr. Hersch and his trio mates (John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums), the interesting re-imaginings of a couple of standards mixed in among top drawer originals and the overall peaceful but not languid vibe made this an album I returned to many times over the course of the year.

  • Gathering Call – Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski (Palmetto) – One thing that I’ve always loved about Matt Wilson is that he makes serious music with an underlying wink. You gotta love a cat that will cover a relatively obscure Ellington track (“You Dirty Dog”), next to a recent Beyoncé hit (“If I Were a Boy”) and manage to play them both without irony. Medeski fits right in among Wilson’s usually pianoless group and sounds as if he has been there for years. The music flirts with the outer edges of convention but like a great roller coaster, pulls you back just before you go over the edge. Gathering Call is a fun trip.  
  • Im.Pro.Vise (Never Before Seen) – Sean Jones (Mack Avenue) – On this album, Sean Jones continues to do what he does best; turn out solid, hard swinging post bop jazz in the tradition of Miles’ last great quartet, which by extension also places him in the company of his LCJO mentor, Wynton Marsalis. While others have played in this vibe before, Mr. Jones does it with an elan that few of his contemporaries have, which separates this album from the pack. And the interplay between Jones and his longtime piano partner Orrin Evans is virtually telepathic.  Im.Pro.Vise (Never Before Seen) is a terrific live in studio blowing session that crackles with the energy of a great club set.

  • The Lagos Music Salon – Somi (OKeh) – Born in Illinois to Ugandan and Rwandan parents, Somi, an elegant, captivating and criminally underheard vocalist decided after her father’s death, to spend 18 months living in Lagos, Nigeria. The result is this stunning album, which gives us a mix of various African musical styles, American Jazz and R & B. The guest appearances by Angelique Kidjo, Common and Ambrose Akinmusire are perfectly placed. The storytelling, the intoxicating beats and the memorable compositions make Lagos Music Salon an indelible album. It’s without a doubt, the best of Somi’s career.

The next post, Part III, will cover albums 11 – 15 in our alphabetical “Best Of” list.

Until then, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2014

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by curtjazz

ali jacksonThe Pop Music press went apoplectic when Beyoncé and a few others, dropped their latest projects online in the middle of the night, with no advance promotion.When I heard that my first thought was: Oh, please! In jazz, we call that “Tuesday”.

The fact that an eclectic release schedule has become the norm, did force me to play catch-up on a few releases in the last month. I’m glad I did as several of them went right from my ears to this list.

I’m also breaking my “tradition” in that I’m publishing the full list first. Since it is relatively late this year, I figured that we’d cut to the chase and then follow with the rationales and video clips in several posts over the next week. I also was unable to get out a mid-term list this year so instead we’re doing it in one glorious heap.

That said, her are 25 Jazz projects that moved me this year, in alpha order by album title. Comments and disagreements are always welcomed:

Tracks from these albums and more can be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz radio station, starting December 27th, through most of January 2015.

We wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Blessed Holiday Season.

Until the next time, the Jazz Continues…

2014 Jazz Grammy® Preview #1 – Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2014 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by curtjazz

Well folks, here we are again. The Grammy® Awards will be handed out on Sunday, January 26. As usual, the awards in the jazz categories will be announced during the “Pre-Show” before the televised broadcast. As I have done over the past few years I’ve put together a review of the jazz category nominees, including a musical clip and my opinion about the artists chances to take some hardware home on Sunday. Let’s start as has become customary with jazz’s equivalent of Record of the Year, “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

The nominees are:

“Don’t Run”: Terence Blanchard – soloist (From the album Magnetic [Blue Note Records])

This is the best track on trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s best album in years. Frankly, I’m surprised that Magnetic did not get a Best Instrumental Jazz Album nomination. Nevertheless, this cut features great solos from Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane on soprano sax and the legendary Ron Carter on bass. Will it win? It’s got a good chance. Blanchard is fairly well-known and the record did create some mild buzz this summer. However there is a bona fide legend in this category who may stand in Blanchard’s way.

“Song for Maura”: Paquito D’Rivera – soloist (From the album Song for Maura [Sunnyside Records])

Another very strong track in this very competitive field, “Song for Maura” is an old D’Rivera composition given new life in this excellent rendition, which is the title track to D’Rivera’s summit meeting with the Brazilian group Trio Corrente. The album is nominated for a Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy. D’Rivera’s clarinet and the light Brazilian rhythms make for an intoxicating mix. It has a decent shot because of D’Rivera’s relative renown but I think he stands a better chance of the album winning.

“Song Without Words #4: Duet”: Fred Hersch – soloist (from the album Free Flying (Fred Hersch and Julian Lage) [Palmetto Records])

Pianist Fred Hersch has garnered six Grammy nominations during his career but has yet to take home the prize. That and the fact this is a brilliant classically tinged track from a brilliant album makes Hersch a sentimental favorite. However, I think that he is likely to go home empty-handed again.

“Stadium Jazz”: Donny McCaslin – soloist (From the album Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf Music)]

Donny McCaslin is the relative newcomer in this group, having been nominated to my knowledge, only once before, in 2005. “Stadium Jazz” is a fun, fusion based track and McCaslin reminds us all that he is one of the best saxophonists in the business. Unfortunately though, in this very strong field, he is a long shot.

“Orbits”: Wayne Shorter – soloist (From the album Without a Net [Blue Note Records])

Remember that legend that I was talking about earlier? Here he is. The biggest stunner of this whole nomination list this year was that this was the only nomination that Wayne Shorter’s return to Blue Note Records garnered. Not that this is Shorter’s best work but we all know that Grammy loves legends. But this is IMO the best performance on Without a Net and Shorter is a Jazz Hall of Famer. So although my personal favorite is Terence Blanchard, I predict that Wayne Shorter will be your winner on Sunday.

This will be a hotly contested category as will most of the jazz categories this year. Frankly I wouldn’t squawk if any of the nominees walked away victorious.

So here is my bottom line unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Terence Blanchard
  • Will Win: Wayne Shorter

Up next, will be Best Jazz Vocal Album. Again, there’s a clear favorite but some strong contenders.

Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2012 by curtjazz

This category is also dominated by familiar names; with one very promising newcomer.

The nominees are:

Gerald Clayton – Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy/Decca): Track “If I Were A Bell”

Though this is only Mr. Clayton’s second album as a leader he is a young veteran at 27, having shedded for many years alongside his dad and uncle, in the Clayton Brothers and working with many of the other gifted young cats on the scene.  Bond… is a very good album; with the pianist and his trio seamlessly moving between standards and originals.  It may not be enough in this field laden with transcendent names, but we’ll see.

Corea, Clarke & White – Forever (Concord): Track “Armando’s Rhumba”

Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, the famed rhythm section of ’70’s fusion giants Return To Forever; jamming over 2 discs worth of favorites from their 2009 “RTF Unplugged” Tour. Nothing new here, but what there is, is top notch – a bunch of well known vets, doing what they do best. You would have to consider them one of the favorites to take home the trophy.

Fred Hersch – Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch was the first pianist to be asked to play a solo gig at the hallowed jazz club in 2005. He has now returned from a life threatening coma in 2009, to record and release this brilliant solo set. Again, he is a relative unknown in this field, but he would be a very deserving winner. (Note:  the accompanying track is not from Alone at the Vangaurd, but features another wonderful Hersch solo performance “Valentine”.)

Joe Lovano & Us Five – Bird Songs (Blue Note)

Another strong contender; Joe Lovano and Us Five brought the goods on this Charlie Parker tribute. It was more than a Bird regurgitation, but a reimaging of some of the tunes that Parker made famous. It was one of our Best of 2011 albums and I personally hope that Grammy rewards them as well.

Sonny Rollins – Road Shows – Vol. 2  (Doxy/Emarcy/Decca)

You know how Grammy feels about legends. And you also know that this album was a brilliant snapshot of Mr. Rollins 80th Birthday concert in 2010 (Another of our Best of 2011). Sonny Rollins is also a name that most of the non-jazz voters have heard of…Translation – like it or not, this is Newk’s award to lose.

Yellowjackets – Timeline (Mack Avenue): Track “Why Is It (Live)”

These cats would normally be in the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” category, but I forgot, that doesn’t exist anymore (sarcasm).  In any case, Yellowjackets have been doing it for 30 years and they sound better than ever. If there were still two separate categories, they would be hands down winners.