If you’re familiar with my Twitter Feed, you know that on Mondays (#MusicMonday as it’s known in the Twitterverse), I usually at some point during the day will ask followers to check out the music of a living, working musician that they are unfamiliar with.
I do that because as much as I love the jazz classics, I realize that if this music is to have any hope of a future it will come not at the hands of Miles, Monk and Diz but with the musicians who are out there today, working and creating music that is influenced not only by the past masters but by what is happening out there now. So if by dropping that little reminder each Monday, I can get someone to dig and then support ($) someone new, maybe I will have done a little something.
As I’ve done this, I’ve had people reply with the request that I give them a few suggestions of artists to familiarize themselves with. Those who are playing and recording great music but have managed to miss the general attention of much of the jazz public.
So even though this is a Wednesday, I’m going to start what I hope to make a Monday tradition – “Jazz Under the Radar”; in which I’ll suggest a few artists who might have missed your attention but are definitely worth checking out.
We’ll start with a few trumpet players and we’ll switch the categories up each week. There will be a video clip and a link to the artist’s website, if any, and to an album or two that you can currently purchase. Here are four, in alphabetical order:
A protegé of the late tenor giant Joe Henderson, Ms. Franks (or “Coupe” as she is often called) has been on the scene for over 20 years, logging credits with Henderson, Kenny Barron and Herb Ellis among others. She first caught my ear on My Appreciation, a 1991 studio jam session that was released under Bill Cosby’s name. She has released a number of albums over the years, including Suit of Armor, her solid 1992 debut as a leader, which featured Henderson and her most recent, Two Oceans a two disc set on which she is backed by Luis Perdomo, Mimi Green and Rodney Green.
Check out the clip below and “Coupe” might just catch your ear, too.
When have been sought by artists from Jay-Z to Fred Hammond to Maxwell to Charles Tolliver, to perform on their projects, you know that you’ve got it going on. And Mr. Harrold certainly does. He counts Eddie Henderson and Jimmy Owens as teachers and Wynton Marsalis and Tolliver as mentors, so his knowledge of jazz traditions is excellent but since he’s in his early 30’s hip-hop has also had a strong pull. His technique is very strong, with the power of Morgan and the swagger of Hubbard. Harrold has one album to his credit as of today, 2009’s Introducing Keyon Harrold on Criss Cross. Rest assured, you will hear more from him.
The 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival had just begun. Vocalist Audrey Shakir was about 15 minutes into her set, when her trumpet player stepped forward to deliver a killer solo on the song that they were playing and then another on the next tune. I had never seen this young man before and his name wasn’t immediately announced so I put out an APB into the Twitterworld: “who is the young cat playing trumpet with Audrey Shakir? He is the real deal!” A few minutes later the answer came – Melvin Jones. At about the same time, Ms. Shakir disappeared from the stage for the rest of the set. We later found out that she had wilted under the blazing Memorial Day weekend sun. Mr. Jones and the band picked up the ball and ran with it. Most of the audience barely noticed the singer’s absence.
Melvin Jones returned with his own set for the 2012 AJF. As you will hear in this clip that I recorded then, the previous year was not a fluke. The Atlanta-based Memphis native has one album out. The title is Pivot. It is worth checking out.
By the way, the saxophonist in the clip is Mace Hibbard, another very good musician who’s under the radar.
This Seattle-based cat is like Ms. Franks, a 20+ year veteran of the jazz wars. He’s a fine soloist with a buttery middle tone and an easygoing swing. He writes memorable compositions that tend to stick with you after hearing them just once. He’s also a compelling writer, having written extensively about his musical life in his blog “One Working Musician”. His recorded work reflects the indie spirit of Mr. Parker’s hometown and it’s refreshingly unconventional. I suggest that you start with the most recent two: No More, No Less, which was a Curt’s Cafe Best of 2009 selection and Five Leaves Left a distinctive Nick Drake tribute from 2011.
But don’t take my word for it, just listen to “Bashert”. Then try to get that subtly beautiful melody out of your head afterwards.
Well, those are four but there are many more. If you’re familiar with all of them, then count yourself fortunate and look for others. If one of these names is new to you, check them out. Support the music of living, working musicians.
Next week, we’ll feature saxophonists.
Until then, the jazz continues…