Oscar Peterson: Consolidator, conservator

All due respect to the formidable pianist, dead at age 82 -- Oscar Peterson's jazz has never been my personal cup of tea. A consolidator and conservator rather than a explorer and originator, the man mastered jazz conventions established by the generation before him, and found joy in spinning endless variations that celebrated rather than questioned them. … [Read more...]

Applause for AACM in New York

Richarda Abrams calls the names of performers at concerts produced by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians-New York in a proudly stentorian voice, and Friday's concert season-ender of saxophonist Mantana Roberts' quartet and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's trio was typically earnest, iconoclastic and rousing. But it's almost a cry in the wilderness. More than 40 years since its founding in Chicago and almost 25 since its establishment in NYC, the non-profit AACM cooperative still has a mostly underground reputation, though … [Read more...]

Spitzer bows re online sales tax

In a remarkable response to protest from this website (and ok, perhaps some others), New York State governor Elliott Spitzer "believes that now is not the right time to be increasing sales taxes on New Yorkers" and "has directed the Department of Tax and Finance to pull back its interpretation that would require some Internet retailers that do not collect sales tax to do so." … [Read more...]

Surviving the Warhol Economy

Elizabeth Currid's The Warhol Economy -- "How Fashion, Art & Music Drive New York" -- argues that the creative capital conjured by artists and their ilk is more significant to the success of modern metropoli than more prosaic, dependably lucrative industries. So, she says, NYC ought to support nightlife and other semi-social structures that bring the creatives together to mix and match (simultaneously attracting the duller but well-heeled financial services types, realtors and lawyers), also subsidize artists' workspaces and affordable … [Read more...]

Confession: Deaf to Gospel

I may burn at the stake for political incorrectness, but it's the truth: I have an intense aversion to gospel music. My distaste dates to a haunting childhood vision in which an overwhelming Mahalia Jackson is routed by a malevolent clown. … [Read more...]

Guitars and jazz tradition, popularism, innovation

Jazz at Lincoln Center opened its canon to Swing Era guitar heroes Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian last week, while John Scofield, one of the instrument's current avatars, disappointed in performance of This Meets That with his trio + Scohorns. Where does the six-string ax belong, and what's it to do? … [Read more...]

Singers of the songs

Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corrine Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza and Leonard Cohen are not voices necessarily dear to fans of serious jazz, but Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter don't alone make River: The Joni Letters a must-hear. … [Read more...]

Herbie enriches Joni

A decade ago, pianist Herbie Hancock established his "New Standards" initiative, aiming to wed sophisticated improvisation to a contemporary American pop songbook (post-Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, et al). At last, after several disastrous attempts, he's justified such a project with River: The Joni Letters -- infusing well-known high art pop songs by inimitable Joni Mitchell with the depth of lyrical, inspired jazz. … [Read more...]

Monk at 90, Monk Forever

Thelonious Sphere Monk (Oct. 10, 1917 - Feb. 17, 1982) should be celebrated today on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and always for the indestructible resonance of his compositions, pianism and performance style. He is an authentic icon of the American alternative, the possibility of us each becoming, and making sense of, who we uniquely are. It's easy to hear Monk's influence in present day jazz -- as easy as listening to a parade of 18 jazz and classical keyboardists in 10-15 minute increments from 5 p.m. to 9:15 this evening (Oct. 10) at … [Read more...]