Archive for Jazz Improv. Jazz Inside

Male Jazz Singers – Hope for the Future

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by curtjazz

Ori DaganIn 2008 I had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Hendricks for Jazz Inside Magazine. The legendary”James Joyce of Jive” was extremely generous with his time (we talked for over two hours, including his impromptu, a capella performance of his classic lyric to J.J. Johnson’s “Lament”).  He was also not shy about sharing his opinions.

One of the topics we touched on was the dearth of young male jazz singers coming up through the ranks. While we acknowledged the formidable gifts of Kurt Elling and Kevin Mahogany, we lamented the fact that there didn’t seem to be a lot of others. The young women singing jazz seem to outnumber the men by a 20:1 margin.

Mr. Hendricks offered the theory that in our 21st century culture, jazz singing is not considered a “serious profession” even in the entertainment world and that men of all stripes are pushed toward vocations that will “bring home the bacon”. Whether that is the case or not can be debated. The paucity of guys under 40 who are truly singing jazz, cannot.

However as the title of this post indicates, there is hope on the horizon. Over the past three years, there have been a number of younger men that have showed up on the scene who are quite good. Many are as versed in hip-hop as they are in the standards and they bring to the stage a sound that is fresh and promising.

Here are five that I find interesting. These are not the only five good young male jazz singers, just a few who have my ear at the moment. I have also cheated a bit in that one is slightly over 40 but he is too good to pass up because of that minor technicality.

In alphabetical order:

Ori Dagan

Born in Israel and raised in Toronto, Mr. Dagan is also a classically trained pianist. He is the best scat singer of this quintet and his improvisations, which have at times taken him from English to Hebrew and back again, are often a joy for these jaded ears. He has two albums out, which put the fun back in jazz singing: S’Cat Got My Tongue and Less Than Three

José James

The likely breakout star of this group, Mr. James has dropped successful albums on the jazz and the hip-hop sides of the street. His appearances on Letterman, Leno and other mainstream shows have helped to juice his rise. But make no mistake about it. This cat can SANG. Think of the crooning ability of Al Green mixed with jazz sensibility of Bill Henderson and you’re on the right track.  His latest album, No Beginning No End on Blue Note, is a strong mixture of multiple genres. However to really hear José James the vocalist, you should also check out For All We Know, a duet album of standards that he did in 2010 with pianist Jef Neve, on Impulse! Records.

Gregory Porter

Mr. Porter has become an “overnight sensation” at age 41. Though he doesn’t have the mainstream profile of José James, he has turned the jazz world on his ear and with his powerful yet vulnerable tenor voice, he has even made some inroads into the adult R&B world, as evidenced by his 2013 R&B Grammy nomination. His two albums 2010’s Water and last year’s Be Good are standouts, that earned a place on their respective year’s Curt’s Cafe “Best Of” list.

Milton Suggs

Chicago born, Atlanta bred and now living in NYC, Milton Suggs has garnered attention not only for his powerful baritone voice but for his impressive gifts as a lyricist, which he fully  displayed on his latest album, the appropriately titled Lyrical, Vol. 1 ( a Curt’s Cafe Best Jazz of 2012 selection).  Mr. Suggs lyrics evince a fearless creativity that is reminiscent of Jon Hendricks but with a hip-hop undercurrent that should help to keep those of his own generation listening. Definitely someone to watch. Also check out his previous album Things To Come.

Sachal Vasandani

Blessed with boyish good looks and a smooth, crooning vocal timbre. Mr. Vasandani could have easily opted to go the route of slicksters like Michael Bublé. Instead, the fact that he has toured and recorded with Mr. Hendricks and he has appeared as a guest vocalist on recent albums by artists such as Gerald Clayton and Don Braden, says a lot about Mr. Vasandani’s artistic integrity. Yes, he can sing “The Very Thought of You” in a style that is swathed in velvet but then he will turn right around and bop his way through an impressive rendition of “Monk’s Dream”; something that the Bublés of the world wouldn’t even try. Check out his two most recent albums, We Move (2009) and Hi-Fly (2011).

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“So…What do you serve in your Cafe?”

Posted in The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on November 2, 2009 by curtjazz

Hi Y’all!

Thank you for coming this far with me.  Perhaps you’ve heard my web radio station “Curt’s Café” and wanted more information about what you heard there.  Or, maybe you’ve read my reviews or my column “Browsing the Bins” in Jazz Inside Magazine (formerly JazzImprov). Whatever brought you here, I’m grateful for your time and attention and I’ll try to make it worth your while. 

 The title of this first post comes from a question I’ve been asked by people online, who hear the music and then assume that my “café” has four walls and a kitchen.  Though I do know my way around a stove, the plan is for my café to remain a virtual one.

I’m not fond of talking about myself, but I know that a little exposition is needed in any story, even a blog, so here goes.  I’m a native New Yorker (Bronx and Long Island), who has lived in Charlotte, NC since 2000.  I’m married, for almost 20 years, to a beautiful, brilliant and creative woman, who is still yet to realize how remarkable she is.  We have one son, age nine, who is already a jazz fan and keeps us both on our toes. 

My love for jazz started also before I was ten, as curiosity about my older brother’s record collection. It blossomed during my college years, as I worked in the campus music library. It came to fruition in the late ‘90’s as I worked in terrestrial jazz radio and began to write.

Curt’s Café Noir (or Curt’s Café) has been on the air since November 2004. I’d listened to a few Web based radio stations for about a year before that and finally decided to try it myself.  It was originally a mix of jazz, soul, classic R & B and Gospel Music.  We found the jazz segments to be the most popular, so we went all jazz in 2006.

That’s enough about the past.  We “jazz people” spend more time than we should there, which is one of the myriad reasons that jazz is in the fix that it’s in now; but that’s a rant for a future post.  Curt’s Café the blog and the web radio station, will devote a major portion of airtime and blog space to the present and future of jazz.  Please understand that I love the history of this music and I have a deep, abiding respect for those from the past, who created much of what we still listen to regularly.  You will hear much of their work on the station.  However, there’s a lot of great music being made today, by artists who deserve to be heard and must be supported by the jazz loving public, if jazz is to have even the hope of a viable future.  So half of our prime listening hours are devoted to playing music made solely by living and working jazz artists, and not just those named Marsalis, Burrell and Rollins.  I hope that you will listen to these musicians and then support them, by buying their CDs or their legal music downloads.  I then hope you will take the next step and go out to see these artists in a live, paying performance.  While free concerts are nice for the public, they generally don’t pay the artists enough to even cover expenses.  So let’s dig a little bit into our pockets jazz fans, and pay to see the artists that we say we love, so they might see playing jazz as more than just a wallet draining avocation.

For those of you new to the station, we stream 24/7 through Live365.com.  In addition to the living artists, we play a good deal of the classics and rare tracks.  We also stream programs devoted to special interests, like the catalogs of Blue Note, Verve and Original Jazz Classics records.  We have two streams; a commercial stream, for which there is no charge, but like terrestrial radio, does include ads.  We also broadcast an ad-free stream, for which listeners pay Live365.com a monthly fee and in return, they hear programming without commercial interruption.  The choice is yours. Either way, I promise to bring you great jazz. Our programming is traditional for the most part, but not to the point where you can’t hear the young innovators who are the art form’s future, like Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Christian Scott.  You can listen right now, by clicking on the link on my homepage www.curtscafejazz.com or direct, through Live365 at http://www.live365.com/stations/curtjazz?play 

This blog will be an extension of the station.  I will post a new article at least once a week. Sometimes freeing my “mind” so “the rest” can follow; sometimes posting an interview or discussion with some of the cool jazz peeps who I think you’ll find interesting. Additionally, I’ll post short, but useful CD reviews, that will always be candid but never cruel.  Several times a week I will keep you up to date on new tracks that have been added to the playlists and, in a nod to my pop radio origins, a list of the most popular tracks currently heard on Curt’s Café.  Where possible, I’ll also provide links to my past reviews and articles in JazzImprov and Jazz Inside.

Well, now that we’ve met, I hope you won’t be a stranger and that you’ll visit often.  Believe me, I’ve got a lot on my mind about jazz and I plan to share a lot of it with you in this forum.  I don’t promise that you’ll always agree with me, but I hope that you’ll find it interesting enough to keep reading.  I also hope that this won’t be a one way conversation and that you’ll share your thoughts and opinions with me as well.  Feel free to leave your “comments” after each post.  Many of us met on Twitter, so let’s all feel liberated by having more than 140 characters to express ourselves. 

                Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll see you next time, until then, as always, the jazz continues…

If they post blogs in Heaven, Mom and Dad, I love you and I hope you liked this. Say “hi” to “Dr.” Woods for me.