Archive for ravi coltrane

Best Jazz Albums I Heard in 2016

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2016, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by curtjazz

melissa-morganLet’s start with a confession: I got to hear fewer jazz albums this year than in any year in the past two decades. Which is a shame, because there was a TON of worthwhile music released during the year. My crazy schedule in 2016 often limited me to snippets or tracks from discs that I vowed to get back to, but never did.  So, here’s my list of the best albums that I actually got to hear during the year. Also, there’s a track from an extremely promising young artist, who needs to put more on the market, ASAP; a couple of outstanding 2015 releases that didn’t catch my ear until 2016; and finally, a few of the many fine 2016 releases that I plan to catch up with in January:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
ArtScience Robert Glasper Blue Note
Back Home Melissa Aldana Wommusic
Beginning of a Memory Matt Wilson Palmetto
Book of Intuition Kenny Barron Trio Impulse
Chasing After the Wind Gregory Tardy Steeplechase
Convergence Warren Wolf Mack Avenue
Days Like This Melissa Morgan CD Baby
Do Your Dance Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Feet in the Mud Mimi Jones Hot Tone
In Movement DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison ECM
Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Sunnyside
Live at Maxwell’s DE3 Sunnyside
Nihil Novi Marcus Strickland Revive/Blue Note
Notes from New York Bill Charlap Impulse
Once and Future Brian Charette Posi-Tone
Perfection Murray, Allen and Carrington Motema
Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club Black Art Jazz Collective Sunnyside
Restless Idealism Roxy Coss Origin
Soul Tree Ed Cherry Posi-Tone
The Sound of Red Rene Marie Motema
Stranger Days Adam O’Farrill Sunnyside
Take Me to the Alley Gregory Porter Blue Note
TriAngular III Ralph Peterson Trio Onyx/Truth Revolution
The Way We Play Marquis Hill Concord
Written in The Rocks Renee Rosnes Smoke Sessions

2016’s most compelling single in search of an album:

  • “Chicken Day” – Harvey Cummings II

Two 2015 albums (heard in 2016) that deserved to be on last year’s list:

  • Back to the City – Amos Hoffman (CD Baby)
  • Some Morning – Kim Nazarian (CD Baby)

Probably excellent 2016 albums that I look forward to hearing as soon as possible:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
#KnowingIsHalfTheBattle Orrin Evans Smoke Sessions
Away With You Mary Halvorson Octet Firehouse 12
Day Breaks Norah Jones Blue Note
Habana Dreams Pedrito Martinez Group Motema
Harlem on My Mind Catherine Russell Jazz Village
Inner Spectrum of Variables Tyshawn Sorey Pi
Madera Latino Brian Lynch Hollistic Music Works
San Jose Suite Etienne Charles Culture Shock
Something Gold, Something Blue Tom Harrell High Note
Upward Spiral Branford Marsalis Okeh

 

 

 

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)

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.

Album Review: Chick Corea – The Vigil

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2013 by curtjazz

chick corea - the vigil

THE VIGIL – Stretch Records CJA-34578-02 www.concordmusicgroup.com Galaxy 32 Star 4; Planet Chia; Portals to Forever; Royalty; Outside of Space; Pledge for Peace; Legacy

PERSONNEL: Chick Corea, piano, Motif XF8, Moog Voyager; Tim Garland, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Charles Altura, electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Harien Feraud, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Pernell Saturnino, percussion; Gayle Moran Corea, vocals; Stanley Clarke, bass; Ravi Coltrane, saxophone

At 72, an age when many are looking to take things a bit easier, Armando Anthony Corea is busier than ever. For the past decade, the 20 time Grammy Winner has been releasing new albums at the rate of a little over one per year. There have been trio dates, duos with Gary Burton and a couple of Return to Forever reunion tours. I think that those RTF reunions had an effect on Chick because his new album The Vigil has a decidedly RTF flavor.

Don’t misunderstand; The Vigil is not a Return to Forever album. Mr. Corea spends about half the time playing acoustic piano and he even drops a traditional 4/4 swing on a couple of tracks but after the last few projects with Burton, Eddie Gomez, the late Paul Motian, et al, I thought that perhaps Mr. Corea had said goodbye to his electric self after RTF played their last live sets in 2011. Thankfully, he had not. The album cover, with its decidedly L. Ron Hubbard-esque artwork, should tell you right away that the ‘Electric Chick’ is still with us.

This seven song set is Corea’s first album of all original tunes in over a decade. ‘Electric Chick’ throws the first punch on “Galaxy 32 Star 4”; a driving sharp-edged track with Chick burning up his synthesizers with glee and ample support from French bassist Hadrien Feraud and Marcus Gilmore, a world-class drummer whose work I’ve enjoyed for a while before finding out just today that he is the grandson of the legendary Roy Haynes (which explains a lot). Chick is shredding, Gilmore is throwing bombs and Feraud and percussionist Pernell Saturnino are setting a rock solid bottom. It’s a really powerful start. “Planet Chia” brings us ‘Acoustic Chick’ playing those rock infused Spanish rhythms that have been his trademark for decades. British saxophonist Tim Garland does some terrific work on soprano as Chick and Feraud egg him on. A Corea number like this would not be complete without a guitarist. Charles Altura, a name that is new to me does some impressive work here. “Portals to Forever” is an overt nod to RTF with Corea taking us on a 16 minute tour of the group’s signature styles both electric and acoustic. “Royalty” is a tribute to the great Mr. Haynes, Corea’s “hero, mentor and friend”, whom he met when they both played with Stan Getz in the mid 60’s. It’s a beautiful swinger in three with Corea setting down a relaxed line over which Garland blows a Getz-like tenor and Gilmore steps into his grandfather’s shoes; ably moving the tune forward while keeping impeccable time.

The album’s masterpiece however is “Pledge for Peace”; a seventeen minute tribute to the music and spirit of John Coltrane. This work unfurls in sections, like a symphonic movement. The dissonant intro gives way to an up-tempo mid section with Corea, Gilmore and special guest Stanley Clarke feeding off of each other as if they play together every night. After an epic bass solo by Clarke in the middle, it only seems natural to have a Coltrane tenor solo; and so we get one, from Ravi Coltrane, who seems to have fully come into his own over the last two or three years. His solo is one of his most impressive and fully realized that I’ve ever heard from him. There are still slight elements of his dad’s work in it but more than anything else I felt that this was his own style. Ravi may never be able to fully escape his father’s formidable shadow but he has finally carved out his own space. It’s an amazing track.

The core group that plays with Chick Corea on The Vigil is part of a new band that he has put together. That’s very good news. It’s also good news that he has written some very compelling music for this album. Because what it tells me is that we can expect a lot more great performances from a legend who is not going to be content to rest on his laurels.

Album Review – Blanchard’s “Magnetic” Attracts Positive Attention

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by curtjazz

Magnetic coverIt has been thirty years since Terence Blanchard first hit the jazz scene as Wynton Marsalis’ handpicked replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then lead a memorable “young lions” quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison. Since then, Mr. Blanchard has scored over 40 films, including all of Spike Lee’s since Mo’ Better Blues; been nominated for eleven Grammys® (and won five); served as artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz; been a first call sideman and led his own group that has recorded twenty albums. In addition, Mr. Blanchard’s first “Opera in Jazz”, Champion, about the life of the late boxer Emile Griffith, recently premiered in St. Louis.  Suffice to say that Terence Blanchard has been quite busy. His twentieth album also marks his return to Blue Note Records for which he last recorded 2007’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) for which he won the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy.

His new album, titled Magnetic, features ten original compositions, all by Mr. Blanchard or the members of his latest quintet; Brice Winston on saxophone, Fabian Almazan on piano, Kendrick Scott on drums and 21-year-old newcomer Joshua Crumbly on bass. In addition, there are guest appearances by bass legend Ron Carter, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of a legend) and guitarist Lionel Loueke (likely to be a legend). Blanchard has been experimenting with a number of styles, from classical to Latin to hip-hop on some of his recent recordings. Though those experiments were always interesting and often successful, it’s great to find him on Magnetic, back at his base in what is essentially a first-rate post-bop blowing session.

The title track kicks things off. It’s a knotty mid-tempo piece, peppered with staccato horn blasts and various electronics including Blanchard’s use electronics which at times give his trumpet a guitar like sound. “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song” has a mellow funk rhythm over which the group lays down some exploratory solos with Ravi Coltrane’s tenor runs being the highlight, Blanchard’s electronic trumpet sounding like a keyboard and Loueke’s guitar comping in the background. Lionel’s vocalizing and chord runs are subtle at first, then grow in prominence to give the piece a shift in direction. Drummer Scott contributed the hard-driving “No Borders, Just Horizons”, which opens with a powerful two-minute drum solo and then moves surprisingly into a Latin swing over which Blanchard blows one of his best solos on the album before turning things over to Winston’s tenor, which is also in fine form. “Central Focus”, which Blanchard originally recorded on his Simply Stated album twenty years ago and it makes welcome return here with Blanchard showing what he has learned in the ensuing two decades and Scott setting a beat that is impossible to ignore. Winston’s “Time to Spare”, which he originally recorded on his debut solo album three years ago, appears here in an improved version. Winston is more confident and his tenor runs, which show the influence of Joe Henderson, are more self-assured.

The highlight of highlights is “Don’t Run” which features the great Ron Carter on bass and Ravi Coltrane on soprano sax. The tune takes its title from a joking admonition that Carter made to Blanchard to “Stop running from me, man”, when the trumpeter would suggest that they work together. “Don’t Run” is 7 ½ minutes of jazz awesome, with Blanchard, Coltrane, Carter and Scott, just blowing their brains out. Coltrane starts it; with one of his best solos on soprano that I’ve heard to date. Blanchard comes behind him, clearly intending to not be outdone and Carter, is his usual Hall of Fame self.

Magnetic is a mature and winning artistic statement from Terence Blanchard and his quintet. He demonstrates that in spite of the film work, the operas, the Broadway scores and the other things that divide his attention, he remains one of the best jazz trumpet players working today and that he has the recordings to back it up.

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #1 – Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by curtjazz

Last year, we took an impromptu look at the jazz artists nominated for Grammy Awards a couple of days before the telecast. It turned out to be one of our most popular posts in 2012.  Because we don’t want to mess with success, we’ll do it again in 2013.

This time though, we’ll start a bit earlier and continue periodically until the awards are presented on February 10. Let’s start with the jazz equivalent of Record of the Year; Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The Nominees Are:
“Cross Roads” – Ravi Coltrane – soloist (From the album Spirit Fiction [Blue Note])


On Spirit Fiction, Ravi Coltrane starts to fulfill the potential that has long been predicted for him. If it has taken him a while, cut him some slack, being the son of John Coltrane and playing the same instrument as his legendary dad is an insane load to bear. IMO, “Cross Roads” is not the album’s strongest track but it’s nice to see Ravi’s work recognized.

“Hot House” – Chick Corea and Gary Burton – soloists (From the album Hot House [Concord Jazz])


There seems to be an unwritten Grammy rule – if Chick (or for that matter, Herbie) release anything in a given year, it is required to get a Grammy nomination. This album pulled down two noms, one for the title song in this category and another for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Hot House, the album, is very good and “Hot House”, the track, is one of two standout cuts on disc, so the nod is not unexpected. Corea and Burton play with gusto here and their interplay is top-notch. Name recognition makes this one the favorite to take home the trophy.

“Alice in Wonderland” – Chick Corea – soloist (From the album Further Explorations (Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian) [Concord Jazz])


Surprise! Another nomination for Chick Corea (see the above rule). This is a fine performance of the Bill Evans tune by Chick, bassist Eddie Gomez and the late Paul Motian, from their live tribute album to Evans, recorded a couple of years ago. This album is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Mr. Corea is in his element here and he gets great support from his bandmates, both well-known Evans trio veterans. There’s nothing new or really surprising here, but it works. Also stands a good chance to win because of the presence of Chick and two other legends.

“J. Mac” – Kenny Garrett – soloist (From the album Seeds from the Underground [Mack Avenue])


For my money, this is the best of the nominated tracks. “The Real Kenny G” is on fire on this tribute to one his major influences, the great Jackie McLean. Garrett is inspired and he clearly inspires the rest of the band – listen to pianist Benito Gonzalez pushing Garrett before Gonzalez explodes with his own solo. A dynamite track from a dynamite album (which is another of the Best Instrumental Jazz Album nominees). Maybe the Corea votes will cancel each other out and “J. Mac” will emerge victorious. We’ll wait and see (and hope).

“Ode” – Brad Mehldau – soloist (From the album Ode [Nonesuch])


I must start by confessing that I’m not as big of a fan of Brad Mehldau as many other people are. I don’t dislike his playing and I certainly respect his artistry, but his style often leaves me cold. That being said, “Ode” is one of my favorite Mehldau tracks. It has a lighter touch than a lot of his work and because of that, I found myself thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. Again, “Ode” may be blocked by the Corea firewall, but it deserved to be nominated.

These tracks and others from Grammy nominated jazz albums can be heard on Curt’s Café Noir, our 24/7 web radio station on Live365, right up until February 10. We feature these tracks daily, from 4 pm – 6 pm on “The Grammy Show”.

In our next Grammy post, we discuss the Best Jazz Vocal Album nominees. Until then, The Jazz Continues…