Archive for jazz video

Album Review: Harmony of Difference – Kamasi Washington

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2017 by curtjazz

KAMASI WASHINGTON – Harmony of Difference (Young Turks)

kamasi - harmony of differenceSaxophonist Kamasi Washington turned the jazz world upside down two years ago with his aptly titled, 2 CD, 174-minute debut album, The Epic. After such an expansive beginning, we all wondered what he would do for an encore. So here now, is Harmony of Difference, which once again, is creating major buzz among forward-thinking jazz lovers. It shares some things with its heralded forerunner; the arrangements are dense, insistent and never dull; Mr. Washington’s tenor is still edgy, yet melodic. However, Washington and company have opted for the “less is more” approach, as Harmony of Difference is an EP, clocking in at a scant 32 minutes, with only one of the six performances exceeding five minutes in length.

Personally, I love the brevity. For as good as The Epic is, it did get weighed down in spots by its, dare I say, “Epic-ness”. This time around we are treated to five short, expressive excursions, that take us through a survey of many modern jazz styles, from soul jazz, to post-bop, to Brazilian. “Desire”, the opener, owes its lush, melodic groove to those great Bob James arrangements during the heyday of CTI Records. “Humility”, is a horn driven, bop based, workout that packs a lot of great things into a little under three minutes, including terrific solo turns from Cameron Graves on piano, Dontae Winslow on trumpet and Washington on tenor. “Perspective” is irresistible pop soul jazz, reminiscent of some of the fine, early work of another Washington, named Grover. And “Integrity” takes us on a nice trip to Rio by way of the West Coast Get Down collective.

Finally, there is “Truth”, the 13 ½ minute centerpiece of this EP, which was first released last spring, at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial, along with an accompanying short film, directed by AG Rojas. It is a perfect counterpoint to the concision of the preceding selections, as the track builds, layer upon layer, keyboards, then guitar, then vibraphone, brass and finally, a wordless vocal choir. Once it builds to a crescendo, Washington steps in with a head nodding, groove permeated solo, which is then followed by the choir and orchestra, returning to triumphantly restate the theme. It is anthemic, beautiful and deceptively simple.

Though Harmony of Difference is much shorter than its predecessor, it is no less of a complete musical statement. It is a luminous example of what I see, as 21st century jazz.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars – Another triumph for Kamasi Washington and company.

Birthday Video Tribute: Thelonious Monk is 100!

Posted in Video Vault with tags , on October 10, 2017 by curtjazz

Thelonious Sphere Monk…

The name is synonymous with jazz. His quirky and hip look (the suits! the glasses! the hats!), is synonymous with jazz, his style of speaking, his impromptu dancing, his compositional style, with its melodic dissonance and odd twists, all are the epitome the music and its singular lifestyle.

Don’t Blame Me 

IMO, Monk is jazz’s greatest composer, next to his idol, Duke Ellington. Artists of all ages and abilities have performed some of his music: “‘Round Midnight”; “Straight, No Chaser”; “Epistrophy”; “Pannonica”; “Ruby, My Dear”; “Well, You Needn’t” and so many more of the classics of jazz.

I Mean You

Thelonious Sphere Monk, Jr., was born 100 years ago, in Rocky Mount, NC on October 10, 1917. He died on February 17, 1982, at the home of his dear friend, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. Many others, who are far more qualified, have written so much more about Monk, so I’m just going to share four video clips of some great live performances, featuring his longtime saxman Charlie Rouse, drummer Ben Riley and others.

Rhythm a Ning

Happy 100th Birthday, Monk! Thank you for all the gifts that you gave us.

‘Round Midnight

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (So Far): Closer Look, Pt. 2 – Instrumental Albums

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

Let’s now look at my top 10 albums (and one EP), on the instrumental side:

Akua’s Dance – Akua Dixon (Akua’s Music)

Cellist Akua Dixon has collaborated with musical greats of numerous genres, from classical to Broadway; from R&B to, of course, jazz. Whatever the idiom, she brings a gorgeous tone and an unfailing sense of lyricism, to the music. On Akua’s Dance, her third project as a leader in the last six years, she plays a baritone violin, which is basically an over-sized cello.  The full and present sound of the instrument, along with her hard swinging backing trio, including the welcome addition of guitarists Freddie Bryant and Russell Malone, make this her best solo album, by far. She covers all bases, from fun jazz (“Dizzy’s Smile”), to an irresistible cover of Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo”, to a compelling, worldly-wise vocal on Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away”. This album doesn’t sound like anything else on this list and that’s a great thing.

 

Back to Earth – Farnell Newton (Posi-Tone)

Portland, OR based Trumpeter/Composer/Educator Farnell Newton is one of the hardest working cats in the music business. Over the last few years, he has released a couple of very strong contemporary jazz projects (Class is Now in Session; Ready to Roll) and a fascinating collection of impromptu improvisations (10 Minute Trumpet Jams). On Back to Earth he has come home, with his first straight-ahead album in over a decade. And it is pure dynamite. Newton shows off his powerful chops and his flawless sense of swing, in a set of inventive originals, such as the soulful “Gazillionaire” and impressive covers, like a take on Freddie Hubbard’s classic “Arietas”, that does the legend proud. I’ve enjoyed all of Mr. Newton’s work over the years but I know that I will be reaching for Back to Earth, long after the end of 2017.

Boundary Issues – Chris Greene (Single Malt)

Like Farnell Newton, saxophonist Chris Greene’s star shines mostly on a regional basis, in this case, it’s Chicago. Regardless of his address, the dude just keeps dropping first-rate projects, that make me wish I lived closer to Chi-town, or that he toured more often. Boundary Issues, is an enjoyable set, that is very accessible but not at all patronizing. Mr. Greene’s saxophone is as rich and inventive as always and I have to give special props to Steve Corley for his next-level drum work. Most memorable track: a Silver meets Marley version of “Nica’s Dream”.

Brothers Under the Sun – Steve Nelson (HighNote)

Steve Nelson is one of the three best jazz vibraphonists alive today. But you may not have heard of him because he drops projects under his own name about as often as we experience a solar eclipse. He has spent most of his career elevating the works of others but when he steps out in front, it is an unequivocally special event. His latest album, a quartet date, is no exception. It’s a swinging mix of standards and originals, many of them composed by his friend and frequent musical partner, the late, great pianist, Mulgrew Miller. Brothers Under the Sun, is an elegant, swinging, good time from beginning to end; an exquisite musical statement and a subtle but fitting tribute to a giant who left us too soon.

Made in America – Bobby Watson (Smoke Sessions)

I love the concept of this album as much as I do the music. Saxophonist Bobby Watson, has created a tribute to a number of influential African Americans; some who are well known, such as Sammy Davis, Jr. and Butterfly McQueen; and a few others, such as Bass Reeves and Major Taylor, who sent even me scrambling to Google more about them. But Made in America is not a dry history lesson; it is a living, energetic, creative and unapologetically  jazzy appreciation of those who paved the way, sometimes at great cost. It’s also quite evocative, as Watson has dropped in smile inducing references, such as quoting “Wild Blue Yonder”, in the Wendell Pruitt tribute (“Aviator”) and Lewis Nash “tapping” out the rhythm on “G.O.A.T.” (for Sammy Davis, Jr.). This project succeeds on all levels. Kudos to Mr. Watson and all involved.

The Music of John Lewis – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, feat. Jon Batiste and Wynton Marsalis (Blue Engine)

John Lewis, the pianist and guiding light of the Modern Jazz Quartet, passed away over 16 years ago. For many, their knowledge of him begins and ends with the MJQ. However, John Lewis was one of the great jazz composers of his time and one of the most affecting blues pianists that I’ve ever heard. The biggest surprise is that it has taken so long for there to be a full-scale, recorded tribute to his music. Perhaps, it’s because only Wynton and the JLCO could do it right. The most pleasant surprise for me, is the stellar work of Jon Batiste on piano. I knew of Mr. Batiste and I knew he had an impressive musical pedigree but, through no one’s fault but mine,  I’d mostly heard him in his day job, as musical director for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Mr. Batiste, who is just 30, is a fantastic pianist, who embodies Lewis’ elegant swing, while adding a few of his own touches. The JLCO and Mr. Marsalis are of course, at the top of their game, the arrangements are inventive and the Lewis compositions selected, from “Django”, to “Two Bass Hit”, to “Spanish Steps”, are his absolute finest. As prolific as Mr. Lewis was, there is definitely need for a Volume 2 (and 3, for that matter). Let’s hope someone hears me.

Post Cool: Vol 1; The Night Shift – Carol Morgan (Self-Produced)

This disc appeals to me for so many reasons: First, it’s by Carol Morgan a trumpet player whose picture is in the dictionary under the phrase “criminally obscure”. Second, her front line partner is tenor saxophonist, Joel Frahm, who is next to Ms. Morgan in the aforementioned “photo”. Third, the music is fabulous. Nothing fancy, no big stars or pyrotechnics – it’s just four real pros, (Martin Wind – bass and Matt Wilson – drums, a couple of stellar musicians, round out the quartet – no piano), playing like it was the 2 am set in a small, smoky club. No frills, just damn good music. There are standards of the jazz canon (“Strollin'”, “Night in Tunisia”, “On a Misty Night”), given fresh life. There are also a couple of fine originals from Ms. Morgan’s and Mr. Frahm (“Night”, “Song for Mom”, respectively) that are very worthy additions. As of now, this set is only available via Ms. Morgan’s website (www.carolmorganmusic.com). It’s worth the trip because, while you’re there you might want to sample some of her other fine work.

Reach – Christian Sands (Mack Avenue)

Christian Sands first came on the jazz scene 15 years ago as a child prodigy who displayed flashes of brilliance that predicted a very bright future. Now at 27, with a number of high profile gigs under his belt, including his current spot as Christian McBride’s pianist of choice; Mr. Sands has dropped, Reach, his first major label album. Suffice to say those early predictions were accurate. His virtuosity on the keys has matured to the point where his runs are truly substantial.  His most impressive area of growth is as a composer. Sands wrote 8 of the album’s 10 songs, including impressive tributes to two of his influences; Chick Corea and Bud Powell. He has also composed a killer Latin track (“Oyeme!”) and a head nodding hip-hop groove (“Gangstalude”) . Additionally, there is an ominous, seven minute deconstruction of “Use Me”, the Bill Withers classic, featuring some killer jazz-rock guitar from Gilad Hekselman. Reach is a fine announcement of arrival from this young veteran.

Sabiduria – Eddie Palmieri (Ropeadope)

The greatest living bandleader in Latin Jazz has just turned 80 and he shows no signs of slowing down. As befitting someone who has been a major musical figure for six decades, the list of heavy hitters who join him for the celebration is impressive – Joe Locke is on vibes, Pretty Purdie, on the drums, Ronnie Cuber and Donald Harrison are two of the saxophonists, Marcus Miller, on bass and the list goes on. Sometimes, having so many guest stars can lead to confusion but that’s not the case here as Sabiduria is the strongest and most appropriately eclectic musical statement that I’ve heard from Mr. Palmieri in at least 15 years. There are tracks rich with history and some that explore new ground. And we’ve also got Locke and violinist Alfredo de la Fe, trading hot solos on “La Cancha”. Happy Birthday to “The Sun of Latin Music”. From the looks of things, he’s going to shine for quite a while more.

Serenade for Horace – Louis Hayes (Blue Note)

Another awesome octogenarian, Louis Hayes makes his Blue Note Records debut, as a leader, with this gorgeous, swinging tribute to his old boss Horace Silver. Thankfully, Mr. Hayes is experienced enough to not do a note for note regurgitation of the Silver classics, which are still fresh in most jazz fan’s minds and readily available. Instead, Serenade for Horace manages to capture the joyous spirit of Silver, while still making these tunes, some of which are over 60 years old, sound as if they were fresh compositions. A lot of this is due to the out in front presence of Steve Nelson on the vibes. Apart from his early work with Milt Jackson, Silver rarely worked with a vibraphonist, so Nelson leading the way on many of the tracks is invigorating. Gregory Porter drops by to sing his own new lyric on “Song for My Father”. Even if you own the Silver recording of all of these tunes, this disc is worth your while.

A Tribute to Art Blakey [EP] – Tony Allen (Blue Note)

Hell. Frickin’. Yeah!!! This is not a full album but a four song EP with an album’s worth of badass playing, as the legendary king of Afrobeat, Tony Allen, pays tribute to another percussion monster, the great Art Blakey. I love almost everything about this project – the song selection (“Moanin'”; “Night in Tunisia”; “Politely” and “Drum Thunder Suite”); the fresh sound of all of these familiar Blakey classics, when filtered through an Afrobeat lens; the cool, Buhaina-esque cover photo of Mr. Allen; the fact that the whole disc is begging to be sampled into a hot, hip-hop groove. So what don’t I love? It’s only four songs. It was just enough to make me want more. More Tony Allen and more Afrobeat Blakey, please!

And that’s our halftime show. A great first half of the year in jazz. I’ve got a stack of  CDs staring at me on my desk and even more album downloads in the computer waiting to be reviewed and shared with y’all. Gonna be a busy but rewarding rest of the year. More to come, soon. If you missed the complete list, see it HERE

Until then, the jazz continues…

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist 5/18/17 (Final Show)

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2017 by curtjazz

JazzLives_Logo225Our final show on Charlotte Community Radio was Thursday, 5/18/17. I decided to have no guests that evening and just to concentrate on sharing the music with the audience one more time. It was truly, a bittersweet occasion.

Though Charlotte Community Radio is no more, JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz will be back. We are working on a couple of avenues right now and we expect to be back on the air, either terrestrially or on the web, by the fall. Until then, I will be with you in this space, stepping up my blog game again and doing all that I can to keep jazz alive.

As with the previous playlists, this one includes a recording of the show, a full list of the tracks played and some video clips of the songs played that caught my eye.

Keep swingin’, y’all!

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
The Common Ground Kenny Burrell Blues – The Common Ground Verve
Yes or No Wayne Shorter Juju Blue Note
Tu, Yo Y Mi Flauta Adrian Crutchfield Private Party CD Baby
Billie’s Bounce George Benson Giblet Gravy Verve
On the Sunny Side of the Street John Michael Bradford Something Old, Something New CD Baby
I Know You Know Esperanza Spalding Esperanza Heads Up
Searching Roy Ayers Evolution: Polydor Anthology Polydor
I Just Wanna Live Buff Dillard (feat. Nicci Canada) I Just Wanna Live (single) Self-Release
Dizzy’s Dashiki Poncho Sanchez / Terence Blanchard Chano y Dizzy Concord
Chitlins Con Carne Kenny Burrell Midnight Blue Blue Note
Brother Thelonious Helen Sung Anthem for a New Day Concord
Easy Going Amos Hoffman Back to the City Self Release
The Party’s Over Leslie Odom, Jr. Leslie Odom, Jr. S-Curve
Sweet Summer Love Eugenie Jones Come Out Swingin’ Self-Release
Killer Joe Quincy Jones Walking in Space A&M
Sonny’s Playground George Coleman A Master Speaks Smoke Sessions
Love You Madly Natalia M. King Bluezzin’ ‘til Dawn Challenge
I’m an Old Cowhand Sonny Rollins Way Out West Contemporary
Freight Trane Amanda Monaco Glitter Posi-Tone
This Here Theo Hill Promethean Posi-Tone
Isfahan Dayna Stephens Gratitude Self-Release
Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You Nicki Parrott Dear Blossom Arbors
Project S Jimmy Heath Big Band Turn Up the Heath Planet Arts
It’s You Or No One Joris Teepe & Don Braden Conversations Self-Release
Arietas Farnell Newton Back to Earth Posi-Tone
Song for My Father (feat. Gregory Porter) Louis Hayes Serenade for Horace Blue Note
Tell Me Something Good Deep Blue Organ Trio Wonderful! Origin
Nefertiti Joel LaRue Smith The Motorman’s Son Self Release
Blind Man, Blind Man Herbie Hancock My Point of View Blue Note
Why Don’t You Do Right? Jeanie Bryson Some Cats Know Telarc
E Preciso Perdoar Sasha Masakowski Wishes CD Baby
Doc’s Holiday Sean Jones Live from Jazz at the Bistro Mack Avenue

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist 4/27/17

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Under The Radar with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2017 by curtjazz

CurtJazz Studio 225Our show on Thursday, April 27 was our first since learning of the station’s impending demise. No guests that evening; I just spent a lot of the show playing Carolinas based artists and those who had been guests on the show over the last year. A bit sentimental but still some great jazz.

A link to a recording of the entire program is below, as are a couple of terrific video clips from a couple of the tracks on the playlist. Enjoy!

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
I’m Old Fashioned Elli Fordyce Songs Spun of Gold Self-Release
Moanin’ Tony Allen A Tribute to Art Blakey Blue Note
It’s Only A Paper Moon Denise Jannah A Heart Full of Music Timeless
Here to Help Chris Greene Quartet Boundary Issues Single Malt
Lucid Lullaby Linda May Han Oh Walk Against Wind Biophilia
Little Pigs Amos Hoffman Back to The City Self-Release
Phryzzinian Man Wynton Marsalis Black Codes from the Underground Columbia
The Coaster Kevin Mahogany Songs and Moments Enja
Epitaph III – J. Mac Chad Eby Broken Shadows Cellar Live
Absolute-Lee Brandon Lee Absolute Lee CD Baby
Johnny Come Lately Don Braden / Mark Rapp The Strayhorn Project Premium Music
Crazy Baby Nicci Canada Twenty Twelve Self-Release
Screwball Mike Hackett New Point of View Summit
Think Tank Will Campbell Think Tank Origin
Chicken Day Harvey Cummings Chicken Day Self-Release
West End Blues John Michael Bradford Something Old Something New CD Baby
Thelonious Ali Jackson Amalgamations Sunnyside
Black Coffee Tenya Coleman Tenya Self-Release
Clapper Dapper Geoff Clapp Bend in the River CD Baby
Unit 7 Ellis Marsalis Sextet Live at Jazz Fest 2014 Self-Release
Afro Samurai Mark Whitfield Grace Self-Release
It Could Happen to You Eric Nemeyer Blessing in Disguise Self-Release
Speak No Evil Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil Blue Note
On the Red Clay Royal Bopsters Project Royal Bopsters Project Motema
Butterfly Gretchen Parlato In a Dream ObliqSound
Red, Black and Green Roy Ayers Red, Black and Green Polydor
Sweet Georgia Brown Anat Cohen Clarinetwork – Live Anzic
Benny’s Bounce Michael Dease All These Hands Posi-tone
Lady Bird Adia Ledbetter Take 2: Rendezvous with Yesterdays CD Baby
Boio Moio Brent Rusinow Old Guy Time CD Baby
Gypsy Ahmad Jamal Blue Moon Jazz Village

 

Birthday Video Tribute – Dizzy Gillespie

Posted in Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2013 by curtjazz

Dizzy GillespieI’ve done a bunch of these birthday video tributes over the years but I somehow missed Birks. Well, let’s rectify that now.

People who know nothing about jazz know his name, his signature bent trumpet and his iconic “puffy cheeks” when blowing his trumpet. He influenced so many who came behind him. There would be no Miles, Hub, Morgan, Shaw, Wynton or Hargrove without Dizzy.

Born on October 21, 1917 in Cheraw, SC, today marks the 96th Anniversary of his birth.

But you didn’t come here for the history lesson, you came for the clips, so here are a few choice ones of the legend at various stages of his illustrious career.

Happy Birthday to John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie!

 “Salt Peanuts”

“And Then She Stopped” (with James Moody)

“Tin Tin Deo”

“Umbrella Man (with Louis Armstrong)

“Manteca” (with the aptly named ‘Dream Band’)

“Swing Low Sweet Cadillac” (From The Muppet Show)

Another Coltrane Birthday Video Tribute!

Posted in Video Vault with tags , on September 23, 2013 by curtjazz

coltrane - favorite thingsToday, September 23, 2013, marks another birth anniversary of John Coltrane (87, if you’re keeping track). I noticed that ALL of the videos in my prior birthday tribute to Trane have been deleted by copyright owners; anxious to protect whatever profits that they feel would be irreparably harmed by allowing the public to see the clips, without lining their pockets first.

So here I am again with another tribute to the Greatest Of All Time. Please enjoy these clips for as long as they are available.

Let’s start with a powerful albeit truncated live version of “Resolution” from A Love Supreme

“Equinox” from Coltrane’s Sound is one of my all time favorite Tranes. It was recorded in 1960 and remained in the Atlantic Records vaults until 1964.

“Afro Blue” in a clip from Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual TV Program. I love watching Gleason, watching Trane!

“Naima” from 1965. It was obviously cold wherever this was shot.

Finally, “Impressions”. The clip is blurry but man, the playing is explosive!!!