Archive for steve turre

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!

12 Years a Slave – A Jazz Perspective from T.K. Blue

Posted in CD Reviews, Under The Radar with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2014 by curtjazz

T.K. Blue - Follow The North StarWith an outstanding movie now out that has just received a slew of Oscar nominations to go along with its other plaudits, the fascinating autobiography of Solomon Northup is garnering some very well deserved and long overdue attention from the general public. In this case however, jazz cognoscenti can look at all of this Northup hype and say, “where y’all been?” For  the jazz world paid a very impressive, albeit unheralded tribute to 12 Years a Slave back in 2008, with Follow the North Star an album by saxophonist T.K. Blue.

In 2007, Mr. Blue (aka Talib Kibwe) received a commission from the NY State Council on the Arts to compose a suite dedicated to the early African-American presence in the Hudson Valley area of New York. His research led him to 12 Years a Slave and Northup’s amazing story. Mr. Blue then composed a jazz suite as a musical retelling of Mr. Northup’s journey. The suite, titled Follow the North Star, was recorded in the fall of 2007 with Blue being supported by some of New York’s finest jazz musicians including Onaje Allan Gumbs, Steve Turre, James Weidman and Essiet Okon Essiet. The finished album was released in 2008 0n Blue’s JaJa Records Label.

Musically, Follow the North Star is first-rate straight ahead jazz, with a few quasi African embellishments such as Mr. Turre’s famous shells and Mr. Blue’s very competent work on the kalimba.  Mr. Blue’s compositions are extremely strong and the group of committed musicians make it work. This music grabs you with equal parts of ecstatic joy and heartbreaking pain. As I wrote in Jazz Improv Magazine at the time of the album’s release: “Mr. Blue takes us on a wordless but yet richly satisfying journey through Northup’s life, from his ancestry to his return to his family, making all of the painful, harrowing, and joyous stops in between… I found the music to be most compelling when listened to from beginning to end, like a symphonic movement…” (Jazz Improv, July 2008). But in spite of the high quality of the music, Follow the North Star made barely a ripple, even with the jazz buying segment of the population.

So with interest in 12 Years a Slave and Solomon Northup running at an all time high now, it’s a good time for jazz fans to revisit this excellent but virtually ignored work of art.  The CD is available from CD Baby and the mp3 version from Amazon.com. For more information on T.K. Blue, who is also the chairman of the Jazz Studies program at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University, you may visit his website at http://www.tkblue.com. You may also want to check out some of Mr. Blue’s other fine albums, including 2011’s LatinBird (Motéma) and his brand new self released album, A Warm Embrace (CD Baby).

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Sean Jones

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by curtjazz

Trumpeter/Educator/Composer Sean Jones is one of those cats who doesn’t get the props that some others do, but he just keeps on doing things right.  Kind of like a Kenny Dorham for the 21st century, although Jones’ sound is most often compared to that of Miles Davis.  

Like the two aforementioned greats, Mr. Jones has chops for days and is held in high regard by his fellow musicians.  He was the lead trumpet in Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for over five years, until his 2010 departure. He has also recorded with the big band of the legendary Gerald Wilson; with trombone/shells wizard Steve Turre and with rising saxophone star Tia Fuller, among others. 

Oh yeah, he has also recorded six fine albums as a leader. The most recent, No Need for Words was just released on May 23rdNo Need for Words is an album of love songs composed by Jones, but not all are in the traditional “boy meets girl” ballad vein.  He covers all kinds of love and all of the complex emotions that go along with it. It is a complex and stunning album, full of powerful emotion and first-rate musicianship.  If you haven’t heard Mr. Jones before, this is a good place to start.

I’m sure we’ll hear songs from No Need for Words and much more, when Sean Jones plays at the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, this Sunday, May 29; at 5 p.m.  I’ll be there – I hope you will too.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: http://atlantafestivals.com/

For further information about Sean Jones, visit his website: http://seanjonesmusic.com/