Archive for jazz

JAZZ LIVES!!! 10/20/16 – Trumpet Tribute (featuring Kenny Dorham)

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Jazz in Charlotte, Obscure Trumpet Masters, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2016 by curtjazz

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz – Thursday, October 20: Trumpet Tribute – featuring Kenny Dorham

kennydorham_unamasOn this week’s edition of JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, it will be all about the trumpets.

With the birthdays of Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie all taking place this week, plus the Grammy winning jazz trumpeter Ashlin Parker, paying tribute to the underappreciated trumpet master Kenny Dorham, in The Jazz Arts Initiative’s JAZZ ROOM this Friday and Saturday, it is a perfect time for a Trumpet Tribute, from 6 pm – 9 pm, Thursday on CharlotteCommunityRadio (CLTCRadio).

He was a trumpet player of exceptional gifts; a composer of jazz classics, such as “Blue Bossa” and a better than average vocalist. Nevertheless, McKinley Howard “Kenny” Dorham (1924-1972), often gets lost among the glut of trumpet stars of the 1950’s and 60’s. He was a member of Art Blakey’s original Jazz Messengers and he replaced Clifford Brown in Max Roach’s group after Brownie’s tragic death. Dorham’s recordings as a leader are some of the most enduring of the era, including Afro Cuban, Quiet Kenny, ‘Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia and Una Mas. He also made memorable music as a sideman, especially with his frequent musical partner, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. Together, they made three classic Blue Note albums over a two year period, under Henderson’s name: Page One; Our Thing and In ‘n Out.

ashlin-parker

Ashlin Parker

Charlotte native Ashlin Parker plays with large and small ensembles nationally and internationally. His solos have been described at various times as being lyrical or fiery, with throaty growls or “brilliant vibrato,” and with lightning staccato runs or “superb legato” phrasing.  When part of a front-line, Ashlin can bring energy, bite, and zest to a performance through engaging in “fine counterpoint duets” or spirited trading with other horn players.  His newest ensemble, the Trumpet Mafia, is considered “an immensely talented band.”

Ashlin shared in the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble for the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s album, Book One.  Following Book One, Ashlin has recorded with numerous artists, including Ellis Marsalis, Harold Battiste, Dmitry Mospan, James Partridge, Terence Blanchard and Jason Marsalis. Ashlin has been teaching various aspects of jazz, including improvisation, theory, repertoire, arranging, and performance preparation in private lessons, courses, summer institutes, jazz camps, and master classes for more than ten years.  He has been leading the jazz trumpet studio in the Music Department at the University of New Orleans since January 2011.

Be sure to join me on JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, as we honor the musical legacy of Kenny Dorham and play the music of Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Hargrove and  Ashlin Parker; Thursday, October 20; from 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT); on CLTCRadio.

Don’t miss Ashlin Parker as he pays tribute to Kenny Dorham, in the Jazz Arts Initiative’s THE JAZZ ROOM. Friday, October 21, at 6 pm & 8:15 pm and Saturday, October 22, at 7 pm and 9:15 pm. For ticket information, visit www.thejazzarts.org

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, airs LIVE every Thursday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm via CharlotteCommunityRadio.orgCLTCRadio.org OR use the Mixlr app where you can listen and chat with our hosts and guests alike.

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“Goodbye” – Jazz Musicians We Lost in 2015 (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2015 by curtjazz

As the year comes to a close, let’s remember a few more of the jazz  musicians that passed away this year. Instead of my insufficient words, we will let their artistry speak for them:

Mark Murphy (Vocals)

Lew Soloff (Trumpet)

Clark Terry (Trumpet, Vocals)

Allen Toussaint (Piano, Vocals, Composer)

Phil Woods (Saxophone)

We will be playing the music of these great artists throughout January 2016 on Curt’s Cafe Noir. Click HERE to listen.

 

“Goodbye”: Jazz Musicians we lost in 2015 – Part 1 of 2

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , on December 31, 2015 by curtjazz

As the year comes to a close, let’s remember a few of the jazz (and influential blues) musicians that passed away. Instead of my insufficient words, we will let their artistry speak for them:

Bob Belden (Saxophone, Composer, Arranger, Producer)

Marcus Belgrave (Trumpet)

Ornette Coleman (Saxophone)

Wilton Felder  (Saxophone, Bass)

B.B. King (Guitar, Vocals)

We will be playing the music of these great artists throughout January 2016 on Curt’s Cafe Noir. Click HERE to listen.

Best Jazz Albums of 2015: A Closer Look – Part 2 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015 with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2015 by curtjazz

 

The  next five albums in our Best of 2015 include a second album from a singer-songwriter who lays waste to the sophomore jinx; a couple of albums from saxophonists demonstrating that hip-hop influenced jazz is coming into its own and in impressive fashion; another in a long line of excellent albums from one of the best under 40 jazz pianists around, and a striking second album from a veteran trumpeter, coming 15 years after his first.

In that overcrowded arena known as “female jazz singers”, Seattle-based Eugenie Jones manages to stand apart from the crowd. Where many will make a passing nod to jazz and then run to the relative safety of R&B and Pop; Ms. Jones has planted herself firmly as a jazz singer. While most will also stick to the safety of covering well-worn standards, Ms. Jones has filled both of her outstanding albums with her own engaging compositions. This fact alone differs differentiates Eugenie, as she is one of the very few African-American women singer-songwriters in jazz today. And finally, the lady can sing as well as she can write, which makes the deeply personal Come Out Swingin’, a refreshing slice of adult oriented mind candy. Eugenie Jones has released two first-rate albums in the last three years and she is an intelligent, thoughtful composer in the tradition of Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone. Fans of true jazz singing, it’s time for you to sit up and take notice.

Let me start by stating that this album is “funky like nine cans of shaving powder” (with much respect to the Ohio Players).

On this, his third album, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis delivers copious doses of pure groove. Like his previous acclaimed disk, Divine Travels, Days of FreeMan is a trio date; and oh what a trio it is! Lewis is joined by Rudy Royston on drums (he seems to be everywhere these days) and an unappreciated “free funk” master, the great Jamaaladeen Tacuma, on bass. To prep for this project, Mr. Lewis spent hours shedding with the albums of KRS-One, Tribe Called Quest, Don Cherry and Medeski, Martin & Wood, among others. His concept was to have his sax act not as a singer but in the role of a hip-hop MC, while Tacuma and Royston dropped killer beats behind him. And it works! The album is in parts jazz, funk, hip-hop, avant-garde and so much more. Mr. Lewis takes what was Miles striving to accomplish with On The Corner and updates it for the 21st century. Days of FreeMan is wondrously creative and stankingly funky, at the same time.

  • The Epic – Kamasi Washington (Brainfeeder)

Kamasi Washington has had quite a year. His saxophone work on hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar’s groundbreaking album To Pimp a Butterfly, has led to Washington being hailed as “The John Coltrane of Hip-Hop”. He followed that triumph with the release of his own debut album, a 3 CD set, appropriately titled The EpicIt has achieved the rare feat of captivating traditional jazz fans and hip-hop fans alike.   What makes this music spectacular is the wide musical palette it touches. Washington uses multiple bassists and drummers on some tracks as well as a 32 piece orchestra and a 20 voice choir. The sound is understandably big at times, reminding me of Max Roach’s and Donald Byrd’s acclaimed voice choir albums of the sixties. It is also beautifully intimate, especially when Washington or trumpeter Ingmar Thomas take the lead on some of the ballads. And despite the album’s length, it rarely feels like excess. It sounds like an extremely talented young cat, laying down the ideas that he has been storing up for years. The Epic is raw, soulful, beautiful and well worth your time.

Orrin Evans seems to have staked out an annual spot (or two) on our Best Of list. The reason is simple – he is one of the best jazz pianists around, under the age of 40. Whether in big band, small group or trio settings like this one, Mr. Evans swings hard and makes you listen when he solos. Evans is also continuing to grow as a composer, with a triumvirate of his pieces, the reflective, “Ruby Red”, the angular, breathless “Tsagli’s Lean” and the soulfully cool “Professor Farworthy”, standing apart as highlights of this album. There’s also the welcome presence of guitarist Marvin Sewell on a couple of  tracks, including a fine take on “A Secret Place” that does justice to the late Grover Washington, Jr. The Evolution of Oneself is another strong addition to the discography of an artist who has never made an album that was not worth repeated listening.

Full disclosure – Larry Young’s Unity is one of my “desert island” discs. So although I wasn’t very familiar with trumpeter Alex Norris and his work before Extension Deadline, he and his group had my attention from the opening notes of the title track. A Maryland native, Mr. Norris has been on the scene for a couple of decades, working mostly in the Latin Jazz field. His work as a leader has been fairly limited. His last album under his own name, A New Beginning, was released in 2000. On this album, he is joined by saxophonist Gary Thomas, George Colligan on the organ and Rudy Royston (yes, him again!) on the drums. Don’t be confused by the group’s name. This is not an organ blowing session, out of the Earland/McDuff  school but some damn fine post bop. There are seven hard-driving originals, including “What Happened Here?” which sounds like a lost track from Unity and one cover, a pretty version of Bobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem”, which gives Norris a chance to display his lyrical side. This excellent album caught me by surprise but I’m glad I noticed. I just hope that Alex Norris won’t wait another 15 years before fronting a session.

Tracks from these and all of the other albums in our Best of 2015 list can be heard on our 24/7 streaming station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from now through most of January 2016. Click HERE to listen now.

Best Jazz Albums of 2015: A Closer Look – Part 1 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015 with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by curtjazz

CamaraderieThe first six of our Best Jazz Albums of the year, have an international flavor – with recordings from a beloved veteran of the contemporary side of the ledger; an album that is the result of a chance meeting of two world music giants; a free jazz player, who decided to “come inside”; a great saxophonist paying homage to the greatest; an auspicious debut from a rhythm section stalwart and  a soulful guitar talent, who deserves much wider recognition.

Marcus Miller, producer/composer and above all, bassist extraordinaire made his Blue Note Records debut with this powerful set, which drew inspiration from the music of various locales historically impacted by slavery. But this is not a downer by any means; it is Marcus Miller after all and the music is as funky and varied as anything that the master has dropped in the past decade. With guest turns from, among others, Etienne Charles, Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway, Keb Mo and Chuck D (yes, Chuck D!), the album jumps out at you from the first notes of “Hylife” and doesn’t let go until the last note of “I Can’t Breathe”. It’s got enough groove to keep Miller’s contemporary fans happy, while it is ambitious and varied enough to put a charge into those who need the stimulation.

Grammy nominated Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca and Malian vocalist/guitarist Fatoumata Diawara met by chance at a small Paris recording studio. After talking for a few minutes they were both wowed by how much they discovered that they musically had in common. In 2014, they embarked on a 45 day tour that included among the stops, the Jazz in Marciac Festival, where this explosive recording was made. Incredible musicianship and the unbridled joy of musicians discovering new things about each other with each performance, is what makes this album stand out. I’m hoping that they bring this group to the U.S. Until then, this album and the videos on YouTube, will have to keep me sated.

The 2008 Monk Saxophone Competition winner, who is mostly known for his work with the wisecracking avant-garde group Mostly Other People Do The Killing, has undergone a number of emotional upheavals over the past couple of years, including the loss of loved ones and musical mentors. Out of those losses came this album, his most melodic and straight ahead effort in many years. There are hard driving swingers, moving ballads and drum tight section work from Iragbagon’s working group, which includes pianist Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and drummer Rudy Royston. There’s also trumpet master Tom Harrell, who guests on three tracks. Though I admit, that Irabagon’s outside work has mostly left me cold, I loved Behind the Sky, when I first heard it and I’m finding new things to enjoy with each listen.

Though Rudresh Mahanthappa intended this album to be a tribute to Charlie Parker, there are no Bird tunes among the tracks. They have all been written by Mahanthappa. Instead, the saxophonist gives us Bird’s essence through his own consistently inventive perspective. This is not bebop. It is unflinchingly and proudly 21st century modern. Bird Calls stretches conventional boundaries and even breaks them on occasion. And that is what separates this effort from the often tired category of “tribute albums”. To hear Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker influences, you’re going to have to know something about both artists, and for that alone, this album should be at the top of many lists.

Carlos Henriquez has occupied the bass chair in Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since 1998, shortly after his high school graduation. The South Bronx native finally takes the spotlight on this album and shows what he has learned over the past 17 years. The Bronx Pyramid deftly mixes jazz traditions with the music of Puerto Rico that Henriquez learned during his youth. This album is danceable, it is listenable and it is above all, captivating. Henriquez is a deft soloist and the woody sound of his bass is never far from the center of your ears. Guest turns from some of Henriquez’s JLCO mates and from the great vocalist Ruben Blades are the icing on this sumptuous cake.

A Detroit native and current resident of the Los Angeles area, Jacques Lesure’s clean, souful lines and straight ahead style have made him a favorite sideman over the years for greats like Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine and Les McCann over his 30-plus year career. He has only recorded a few dates as a leader but each one is first rate. Camaraderie, is no exception. With support from fellow pros Eric Reed,  Warren Wolf, Nat Reeves and Willie Jones III, this album swings like crazy. From originals such as the appropriately titled “Grantgomery”  to tasty covers like James Williams’ “Affaire d’Amour”, there is not a weak track in the bunch. Excellent jazz!

Tracks from all of our Best Jazz Albums of 2015 can be heard on our streaming station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, starting on Sunday, December 27 and continuing through January 2016. Click HERE to listen.

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2015

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015, Jazz in Charlotte with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by curtjazz

Well, well ,well…What a difference a year makes…

Eugenie Jones | Come Out Swingin'Last year this time we jazz lovers were once again fending off the usual spate of “Jazz is Dead” announcements from various “serious” publications and also from a satirical “writer” named Django Gold, who thought it would be funny to pen an article, purporting to be Sonny Rollins, claiming to hate jazz.

Now, perhaps because jazz has proven to have more lives than Freddy Krueger, there have been in the past couple of months, an article in The Washington Post and an article/pictorial in Vanity Fair, celebrating jazz and [gasp], the young musicians that represent its future.

This kind of national-level publicity, along with what is happening on  local scenes (such as right here in Charlotte, NC, with the Jazz Arts Initiative, led by my friends, drummer Ocie Davis and flutist Lonnie Davis) has given my cynical middle-aged heart, a smidgen of hope for what is ahead for the music that I love.

I was also greatly encouraged by the tremendous crop of first-rate jazz recordings this year. A major contributor to this is that the jazz world has all but broken free of looking for the approval of the major record label conglomerates. For new jazz recordings, indie labels and self releases have become the rule, not the exception. In fact on my list, only six of the 25 albums have some sort of tie to what would be considered a major label.

And the music itself, cuts across a spectrum of styles, influences and even chronological ages – from vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant who is 26, to the legendary Tony Bennett, still relevant and vital at 89; from instrumentalists such as Albert “Tootie” Heath, the youngest of The Heath Brothers, at 80; to the exciting twenty-somethings who lead some of the tracks on the wildly creative compilation, Supreme Sonacy, Volume 1.

Yes friends, jazz is still very much alive and kicking some butt. And without further ado, here is a list of 26 recordings that kicked my butt in 2015, in alphabetical order by album title. As usual, we will follow this list with discussions and clips from each of the albums over the next few days. In each title is embedded a link to a place to purchase the CD or download of each recording.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Glorious Kwanzaa and Happy New Year, everyone!

A New Gift from JLCO: “Big Band Holidays”

Posted in New on the Playlist, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2015 by curtjazz

Big Band HolidaysMy late father often said “The best thing to do in a hurry, is nothing.” As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to truly appreciate the enduring wisdom in those words – for I’ve so often discovered that I make my biggest errors, when I do things for speed and not for pleasure. Such is the case with my post a couple of days ago about my favorite new Holiday Jazz Albums.

Since I decided last weekend that I was going to write something every day for the rest of the year to atone for my lack of activity over the last six months, I’d became totally focused on putting something out there, even if I hadn’t really thought it through. So when I completed the post on new Christmas Jazz, I dropped a few words and a couple of videos, and declared my mission accomplished, even though I felt as if I was missing something…it didn’t matter; at least I was making my self-imposed deadline.

I was missing something. Something that I had heard and enjoyed more, , than most of the albums in the original post – it was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Big Band Holidays; an album far richer and more complex than its simplistic title (and pedestrian cover art) would suggest.

Every December for over a decade, Wynton Marsalis, and the JLCO have come together with some of the great vocalists in jazz to perform their arrangements of some of the classic songs of the season. Thankfully many of these concerts were recorded. This year, Blue Engine Records, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s house label, assembled some of the choice selections from 2012 – 2014 concerts and released them as a compilation – featuring three of the best vocalists in jazz today, Rene Marie, Gregory Porter and Cecile McLorin Salvant and strong arrangements from some of the bands in house pros like Victor Goines, Sherman Irby and Ted Nash, plus a nod to the new testament Basie Band by including Ernie Wilkins classic arrangement of “Jingle Bells”. Big Band Holidays is a terrific jazz album first and a good Holiday album second, which is why I will probably be listening to it beyond next Friday night.

As you can see, these performances were also caught on video, so we can share a few of them with you. May these performances prove to be as timeless as my dad’s words.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

 

Jazz 2015 – Watch This Space!

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2015 by curtjazz

Sometimes, time can get away from you…

I knew it had been a minute since my last blog post but I looked today and realized that I hadn’t done anything new since an Atlanta Jazz Fest recap in late May…DANG!!!

Welp. Sorry about that folks! And here’s what I’m going to attempt to do between now and December 31. I’m going to try to post at least something once a day relating to jazz that happened this year. Even if it’s a picture or a video clip accompanied by a few words, I’m going to drop something jazzy…

Of course, this will include my 2015 Best Albums list. Just because I haven’t been blogging, doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening.

Speaking of The Best of 2015. Today’s post will include a sneak preview, with clips from three of the albums that are on the list, vocalist Eugenie Jones; bassist Carlos Henriquez and a Posi-Tone Records saxophone summit, featuring Doug Webb, Joel Frahm and Walt Weiskopf.

Talk to you tomorrow. Until then, the jazz continues…

 

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Saturday on the International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , on May 11, 2015 by curtjazz
Dida Pelled

Dida Pelled

The International Stage has always been one of my favorite spots at the AJF. The smaller stage provides an intimate feeling, yet you are still outdoors. The artists come from areas all over the globe, often bringing a fresh and exciting perspective to jazz. I’ve discovered artists there who have now become some of my favorites. Last year, the International Stage gave me my first exposure to the magnificent vocalists Somi and Cyrille Aimee. In 2012 I heard trumpeter Melvin Jones for the first time and immediately became a fan. And in 2013, the lady considered by many to be the brightest young vocal star in jazz, Cecile McLorin Salvant, performed there. This year the International Stage features two well-known artists as headliners on each of its two nights, plus the usual array global talent who will give us all an opportunity for stimulating discovery.

Looking first at Saturday, May 23:

1:30 PM – North Atlanta School for the Arts Jazz Band

The Bank of America Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the Atlanta metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. The competition focuses on artistic and technical merits and features an outstanding judging panel.  The North Atlanta School for the Arts Jazz Band finished in third place this year, which earned them a $500 scholarship and an opportunity to perform on the International Stage at AJF38.

3:30 PM – Dida Pelled

This young Israeli guitarist/vocalist is a talent to keep an eye on. She plays full-toned guitar lines with a sound reminiscent of a young Kenny Burrell. And she sings in an inviting, winsome voice with just a hint of Blossom Dearie. A recent graduate of the jazz program at The New School in New York, Ms. Pelled has clearly caught the ear of others as she was joined on her debut album Dida Plays and Sings, by Roy Hargrove on trumpet and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. Watch out for her new album, with Sam Yahel on organ, due out this month. This is a set that I will not miss.

5:30 PM – Banda Magda

Banda Magda is an eclectic group of very gifted musicians led by the Athens, Greece born singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/film scorer, Magda Giannikou. Their energetic, musically diverse and downright fun, stage performances have won them fans around the world, including The Kronos Quartet and comedian Louis CK, who performed a duet with Magda on his TV show. Banda Magda’s current album Yerakina, is climbing the World Music charts now, while they are in the studio working on their third album, Technicolor Tigre.

7:30 PM – Alfredo Rodríguez Trio

If the legendary Quincy Jones agrees to mentor an artist, it means that he or she must be bringing killer chops to the table.  “Q” is not only Alfredo Rodriguez’s mentor but he is the co-producer of his Grammy nominated latest release, The Invasion Parade. Since coming to the U.S. in 2009, the Cuban born pianist has turned the Latin and Afro-Cuban music scenes on it collective ear with his dynamite original compositions, and his inventive takes on the Cuban classics that he grew up with. Being able to catch Mr. Rodriguez in a setting like this is a rare treat that should not be missed.

You can hear tracks from these and many other 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival performers on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz station, from 5 pm – 7 pm (ET) daily, through the end of May.

For more information about the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at http://AtlantaFestivals.com 

Tributes to a King – Max Roach – Billy Taylor – Duke Ellington

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on April 4, 2015 by curtjazz

martin luther kingAs most of you know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 47 years ago today in Memphis. Much has been written over the years about that tragic day in American history, including a previous post in this blog. So today, I choose to honor Dr. King with musical tributes from three of jazz’s all-time greats; Max Roach, Dr. Billy Taylor  and Duke Ellington.

Hope you enjoy them…

Max Roach plays a duet with excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 

If You Are Concerned Then Show It – from Dr. Billy Taylor’s Peaceful Warrior Suite – Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King

“Martin Luther King” was the 3rd Movement of Duke Ellington’s Three Black Kings suite; one of the last symphonic works completed by Mr. Ellington. As he lay dying in his hospital room, Ellington dictated instructions for the performance  and orchestration of this piece to his son, Mercer. It was not publicly performed until after Duke’s death.

An added bonus! Here is a fourth clip that I just stumbled upon, describing a meeting between Dr. King and Duke Ellington – both, understandably, were in awe of each other…