Bob Belden’s most personal music: Black Dahlia

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Bob Belden, the saxophonist-composer-arranger who died of a heart attack May 20 at age 58, was an enormously gifted, brave, original and productive musician. Last February he led his band Animation on a four-day performance tour of Iran, the first American to do so since 1979 -- and videos he created with Bret "Jazz Video Guy" Primack, one of which I've embedded below, provide clear examples of his individualistic, iconoclastic point-of-view. I admire and enjoy Belden's album Miles From India, and several of his other jazz-related … [Read more...]

Jazz Chicago this week — starting with NEA Jazz Master Joe Segal

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Too much jazz in Chicago this week to write at length about it all, but also too much to ignore: Congrats to Joe Segal, proprietor of the Jazz Showcase forever, at various spots, inducted as an NEA Jazz Master. I owe Joe Segal big time, as he encouraged my 17-year-old interests in jazz and even let me in free to hear jazz masters of the years gone by, especially tenor saxophonists Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Forrest, Coleman Hawkins. . .and Sun Ra. This had me coming back for more. . . Such as Dee … [Read more...]

Bernard Stollman’s ESP disks: Medici of ’60s beyond jazz

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Bernard Stollman, record producer of Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman, the Fugs, Sun Ra and many other iconoclastic musicians of the 1960s up to now on his ESP Disk ur-indie record label, died April 19 at age 85. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stollman -- as well as Marzette Watts, Milford Graves and Frank Lowe -- about ESP for The Wire in 1997, and have posted the resulting article in my sidebar "Interviews." howardmandel.com Subscribe by Email | Subscribe by RSS | Follow on Twitter All JBJ posts | … [Read more...]

ESP Disks — origins of jazz beyond jazz

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Reviewing a sleeping giant, ESP Disks before its early '00s revival  Howard Mandel c 1997, published in issue 157, The Wire It was a time before psychedelics. Following the seismic cultural disruptions of the mid '50s, rock 'n' roll had hit a period of stasis, enlivened only by the occasional novelty number – the British Invasion had not yet arrived. College kids in the US listened to folk singers and blues of the '30s from the Mississippi Delta; pop music meant Pat Boone serenading Doris Day over a white-picket fence. There were … [Read more...]

Big money for campus buildings for music

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Last week big money was donated to construction of music buildings for two major U.S. universities. An anonymous Princeton alumni couple have pledged $10 million for a new music building at the New Jersey campus, and the University of Missouri has received $10 million, its largest gift ever for fine arts, from Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield for a proposed School of Music building. Of course, not a penny of that $20 mil goes to musicians, and musicians trained in those spaces may find that funds for their future careers are a bit tight, too. The … [Read more...]

Ann Meier Baker, NEA director of Music and Opera, on her new job and NEA Jazz Masters

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I'm pleased to have interviewed Ann Meier Baker, who was appointed last October as the National Endowment for the Arts' director of Music and Opera – a position that includes responsibilities for the U.S.'s federal support of jazz, such as the induction of NEA Jazz Masters, celebrated with a live-streamed concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 20. Ms. Baker follows Wayne Brown, who left the Endowment after 16 years to become president and CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. She took up her post in January 2015, … [Read more...]

Guggenheim fellows include jazz-beyond-jazz creators

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Four stellar jazz-beyond-jazz musicians -- orchestra composer-leader Darcy James Argue, trumpeter Etienne Charles, saxophonist Steve Lehman and scholar-composer/improviser-electronics innovator-trombonist George E. Lewis, all practiced stretching the definition of "jazz"without breaking it -- have been named 2015 fellows of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among 175 "scholars, artists, and scientists [a]ppointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise . . .chosen from a group of over 3,100 applicants." The "prior … [Read more...]

Doris Duke Performing Artists and JJA Jazz Heroes: Tale of two honor rolls

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Six musicians identified with jazz have been named 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artists receiving $275,000 each, and 24 "Jazz Heroes" have been certified by the Jazz Journalists Association after nominations from local jazz communities across the U.S. Are comparisons between these two very different lists of honorees instructive? The Doris Duke Performing Artists are AACM co-founder-composer-pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, trumpeter-composer Ambrose Akinmusire, innovative big band composer-arranger Darcy James Argue, alto … [Read more...]

Steve Lehman and Cory Smythe as jazz-beyond-jazz artists

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When saxophonist Steve Lehman performs, I try to hear him whatever the setting. His octet, concertizing in Philadelphia for Ars Nova Workshop Saturday, March 21, plays richly microtonal yet melodically entrancing and rhythmically propulsive, synchronized music -- partaking of a concept called "spectralism" -- that brings to mind both Dolphy and Messiaen. In a sax-bass-drums trio, Lehman , honored in 2014 with a Doris Duke Performing Artist fellowship, is the complete, compelling post-modernist. He has genuine affection for and comprehension of … [Read more...]

Jazz health is not in its reported records sales

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Terry Teachout in his About Last Night posting "Jazz, by the numbers" conflates falling numbers of jazz cd sales with the health of the music itself. Understandable mixup, way too simple. Feeling he was burned by criticism of his 2009 Wall Street Journal column about the National Endowment for the Arts Survey of ­Public Participation -- in which Teachout wrote of jazz, "Nobody's listening" (later NEA analysis of that survey's findings here) -- he takes pains to proactively defend himself for telling the truth about figures reported by … [Read more...]

Ornette honored and playing in Prospect Park June 2014

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In honor of Ornette Coleman's 85th birthday (today, March 9), here's my report from the last time he performed in New York City -- at an extraordinary concert in his honor with Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, Sonny Rollins and many more at Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Originally published in The Wire. Ornette Coleman is contemporary music's great and radical idealist, for a half-century demonstrating how the whole world might harmonize by people expressing their innate individuality, even as he hews to his roots in the … [Read more...]

New Yorkish New Orleans and Chicago Diva at Symphony Center

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Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9 -- that's pianist Henry Butler, brassy brassman and arranger Steven Bernstein, and their touring NYC-based all-stars -- plus beloved local singer Dee Alexander with her trio were double billed on a cold, cold night last week (Feb. 27) at Chicago's downtown Orchestra Hall in Symphony Center. It was the first time I've been to hear jazz at the 2500 seat concert venue, built in 1904 as designed by architect Daniel Burnham to be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's home, since returning to Chicago eight months ago, … [Read more...]

Jazz composers meet symphony orchestra challenge

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The American Composers Orchestra's Jazz Composers Orchestra Initiative rides again -- application deadline April for a two part intensive beginning August 2015. I blogged about at length about the Buffalo Philharmonic's 2013 reading of  first symphonic works by five highly skilled performer-composers who otherwise would be hard-pressed get a chance to write for such an ensemble. Subsequently I interviewed Rufus Reid, Richard Sussman, Anita Brown, Joel Harrison and James Newton about the experience, an article just published -- please … [Read more...]