Jazz masters in the Azores

My focus shifts to the mid-Atlantic: for the next week I'll be hearing newly honored NEA Jazz Master Lee Konitz, pianist Joachim Kuhn, the Hot Club of Portugal Septet, reedist Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet and a band led by NYC multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter at the 10th annual Festival de Jazz de Ponta Delagada -- where I'm also delivering a talk on "Jazz Now -- and It's Future" (during which I will tell all). Ponta Delgada is the largest city in the Azores, islands 700 miles west of Lisbon with a lengthy history as a port between Europe … [Read more...]

Colbert & Coleman: Name that tune

A reader asks: "Could you please post the name of the [Ornette] Coleman song sampled for that sketch" on Steven Colbert's Comedy Central show of October 9?Colbert pulled one of his trademark reverses, ridiculing the vast emptiness of smug superiority by goofing on a 10-second snatch of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musician's live recording Sound Grammar. Research suggests the excerpt Brother Steve C swung along to so sillily before remarking, "God, that's unbearable. Ergo it must be good!" was from the first track on the album, "Jordan" (named … [Read more...]

Live in New York, it’s jazz beyond jazz

Presentations of jazz that break all sorts of bounds, pushing far beyond stale conventions -- jazz beyond jazz -- are so prevalent in Manhattan that the energy expended just being on the scene can leave me too drained to report on the good stuff. Five shows in the past month -- Dee Dee Bridgewater's Mali project at the Blue Note, Myra Melford's new quartet at Roulette, Richard Bona and Lionel Loueke in the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center, James "Blood" Ulmer with Vernon Reid's neo-blues band at the Jazz Standard and an evening celebrating … [Read more...]

Colbert’s tin ear

Steven Colbert plays a pointed dance on the funny-bone, but misled his "nation" unintentionally at least once  last night in the segment "Who's Not Honoring Me Now." At 12 minutes into the show, he sniffed at the MacArthur Foundation's award of a $500,000 fellowship to saxophonist Miguel Zenon, tongue-in-cheeking "Never give money to a jazz musician -- they'll just blow it on heroin and berets." Then he listened to a moment of Zenon's mellifluous style, boppin' along to it. But: "It's not genius level jazz if it sounds like music," Colbert went … [Read more...]

Jazz time-out of the year?

A major international jazz festival right now in Washington D.C.? How odd: Is it the End of Times? Are we fiddlin' while Rome burns? Or could it be a new beginning? Ignore the credit crisis, the vp debates, end-game positioning by the One and the Other, Rosh Hashanah and Eid, Cubs and White Sox both in the playoffs -- here's the under-promoted but highly impressive fourth annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, Oct. 1 - 7! Balancing Kennedy Center concerts with "jazz in the 'hoods"  (club and arts center gigs mostly but not only NW), sophisticated … [Read more...]

Alaska Airlines to the rescue: Portland Jazz Fest revived

The Portland Jazz Festival, pronounced dead on September 8 due to the pullout of Seattle-based title sponsor Qwest Communications, now rises from its ashes on the wings of Alaska Airlines and an advisory board of local businesses and individuals. According to a press release issued today by PDX Jazz, the fest's umbrella organization, "the 6th Annual Alaska Airlines Portland Jazz Festival presented by The Oregonian A&E will take place, as scheduled, Februrary 13-22, 2009." The 10-day fest's theme will be the 70th anniversary of Blue Note … [Read more...]

Berklee College, Boston: a jazz education mecca

Young people flock to Berklee College in Boston expecting practical education in the most under-capitalized of arts: jazz and related forms of contemporary popular music. With some 4000 enrollees pursuing BA programs in composition, film scoring, production and engineering, music business/management, songwriting, performance, etc., Berklee is by far the largest of 160 institutions in the U.S. and another dozen internationally offering degrees and/or certificates in jazz studies, as detailed in the current (October) issue of Down Beat.Berklee is … [Read more...]

Help Pandora — save online radio

The free and highly entertaining online radio website Pandora.com -- one of the most readily accessible portals to music you'll probably enjoy, but never heard before -- needs help from all listeners to pressure the Senate to pass a bill supportive of its continuance. At issue is the backbreaking level of royalty payments being urged on this site and others like it by lobbyists for the National Association of Broadcasters, those giant broadcasters (think Clear Channel) who would monopolize the airwaves with formulaic playlists promoting a … [Read more...]

Presidential politics and jazz: Show of hands

Google "Obama" and "jazz" and this Jazz Beyond Jazz post comes up second! The search engine flatters, so here's more research on the connection/support of the jazz world for the candidates, and the candidates of jazz (as a fundamental American cultural phenomenon). This concert seems indicative of most jazz musicians' preference:(gen'l admission: $100; vip seats and post-show reception: $250; students/seniors, $50).Comparable events last week in Cincinnati, Ohio and Oct. 12 in Kansas City MO, with Dick Gregory as keynote speaker on the occasion … [Read more...]

Bad news from the Northwest: Portland Jazz Fest dies

The demise of the Portland Jazz Festival was announced today by press release from its membership umbrella organization PDX Jazz, cancelling plans for February 2009 due to the pullout by title sponsor Qwest Communications. Despite concerted attempts by festival producer Bill Royston, no other funder stepped up to support the five-year-old festival's modest budget with high returns, and the result may be due to the U.S.'s overall economic downturn.The festival -- two weeks every February starting in 2004 -- filled burgeoning Portland's boutique … [Read more...]

Who decides who’s an NEA Jazz Master

The National Endowment of the Arts panel determining recipients of the annual Jazz Masters Fellowships is a small one. In the interest of transparency, the NEA has supplied the names of panelists who chose the class of '09. It comprises five previously named Fellows, one "layperson," one independent record producer, and two longtime jazz adminstrator-activists (who both happen to be honorees of the Jazz Journalists Association's "A Team").Of course, if John McCain becomes president, it's all moot (as Lee Rosenbaum reports, the GOP has no arts … [Read more...]

Meet the NEA’s new Jazz Masters

The National Endowment for the Arts' latest class of official "Jazz Masters" includes vocalist and guitarist George Benson, drummer Jimmy Cobb, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, harmonica and guitar player "Toots" Thielemans, trumpeter Snooky" Young, and recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder.  All estimable choices, each receiving $25,000, opportunities to participate in photo shoots and public appearances and introduction an official ceremony on October 17 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Plus, Steve Wonder has won the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for … [Read more...]

Chicago hears Ornette Coleman — This is our music

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 listeners of all ages, genders, races, religions -- Americans and visitors from abroad, too -- enjoyed the directly expressive, highly personalized music of Pulitzer Prize-winner Ornette Coleman as the finale of the outdoor Chicago Jazz Festival last Sunday night. The attentive, mellow and celebratory audience response, including a standing ovation throughout the 5000 seats nearest the bandshell in Grant Park, suggested that improvisation created without a priori conventions or artificial constraints, which Coleman … [Read more...]