Jazz best lists of 2009

Chicago Trib cultural critic Julia Keller decries year-end "best of" lists for their "chilly, retrospective nature,"for  their by-definition 12-month perspectives trumping spontaneous enthusiasm, and for their reinforcement of consensus. Nonsense. Here are three opportunities to see what jazz critics are recommending as 2009's hot recordings, and there's some consistency, but most of the choices are highly individualistic and certainly reflect musical currents of right now --  … [Read more...]

Experimental singer, frankly in need. Who isn’t?

Mossa Bildner, an indefatigable vocalist and performance artist, is the subject of today's "The Neediest Cases" column in the New York Times, because having suffered as a freelancer from the economic downturn, she's been facing eviction. "This could happen to anybody," she told the newspaper, and though asking for help "was a strange position to find myself in . . I didn't feel ashamed." … [Read more...]

House kudos to Miles’ Kind of Blue. So what?

At age 50, Miles Davis' album Kind of Blue has been officially and unanimously hailed by the US House of Representatives. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) sponsored H.Res 894, which on Tuesday passed 409 to 0, recognizing the "unique contribution" of the 37-minutes of modal improvisation trumpeter Davis and his stellar sextet recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959. The honor is richly deserved, and if you have to ask why, spend some quality time with the music. To learn more about it, I recommend Ashley Kahn's … [Read more...]

That’s not jazz, Spaniard tells saxophonist

Larry Ochs' Sax & Drumming Core may not be al gusto for everyone, but should Spain's Civil Guard decide whether it plays "jazz"? At the Sigüenza Jazz Festival a disgruntled purist demanded his ticket money back claiming he was subjected to "contemporary music" rather than jazz fitting his definition; pistol-packing cops backed him up (which makes me wonder what they thought of last week's concert by Digital Primitives). Read the Guardian account here. … [Read more...]

Treasures of YouTube: Dolphy, flute; Mingus “Meditations”

Eric Dolphy solos beautifully then uses his bass clarinet for the ensemble line of bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus "Meditations on Integration" in this 1964 clip, which warms my dank, chill afternoon in Brooklyn. Jaki Byard on piano, and dapper Danny Richmond, drums. howardmandel.com Subscribe by Email | Subscribe by RSS | Follow on Twitter All JBJ posts | … [Read more...]

Best beyond “jazz” CDs of 2009

My 10 top CDs of 2009 blow past conventions to enrich jazz, blues, new and unusual music. They're chosen from almost 1000 I received for review -- an abundance of fine releases since November 2008, the full year following Barack Obama's election to president.Maybe it's coincidence that fresh thinking, spirited energy and practical creativity runs high  at this moment in history -- or maybe it's that 2009's challenges require musicians like everyone else to find new answers to the tough questions: how to find joy amid gloom, work to … [Read more...]

Far downtown weekend adventures

Far out improv, high concept contemporary composition, new jazz scholarship and "cut loose" music from Guadeloupe flood Lowest Manhattan (all the way to Staten Island) this weekend. The folks who bring us the Vision Festival stage 28 hours of multidisciplinary improvisation starting tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. at Clemente Soso Velez Cultural Center; Mode Records throws itself a benefit marathon concert featuring Philip Glass, John Zorn and Robert Ashley, among many others on Saturday at Abrons Art Center; jazz scholars convene for The Louis … [Read more...]

Trouble — or transition — at Jazz.com?

Stepping down from presiding over Jazz.com two years after its launch, editor, author and pianist Ted Gioia isn't saying much about what's up with the site that has become a major web resource and destination. Naturally, this leads to wondering what has become of the promise and potential of jazz on the web. … [Read more...]

Wynton le Chevalier Marsalis

A survey in my latest City Arts column of the music of trumpeter-composer Wynton Marsalis, in the jazz spotlight for 25 years. Founder and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, educator, activist, humanitarian, winner of a Pulitzer and multiple Grammies, Wynton stands tallest in my book when he just plays jazz. … [Read more...]

Performance night of beyond-jazz critics

Monday 11/16, NYC: writer-guitarist-conductor Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar plays the Blue Note, and the late journalist-reedsplayer Robert Palmer is celebrated by biographer-world musician John Kruth, historian-memoirist-social commentator-radio producer-singer-songwriter Ned Sublette, and the Master Musicians of Jajouka with at Le Poisson Rouge. Are the inmates running the asylum?    … [Read more...]

Winners and their blues

Winners of this blog's first Blues Lyric Contest are suitably troubled -- and all get Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson Play the Music of Ray Charles DVDS to ease their weary minds. All have expressed regrets they can't get to  Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts of Wynton and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra celebrating for Mary Lou Williams' centennial or  alto saxist Maceo Parker, so sadly those tix go wanting. But that's the blues for ya. . .  … [Read more...]

Midnight (EST) deadline, blues contest entries

Prizes of Jazz at Lincoln Center tix for this weekend and dvds of Wynton Marsalis with Willie Nelson for the best blues lyrics or prose poem will be determined at 12:01 tonight (11/11/09). Several stunning (!?!) efforts have been received -- via the comments box below -- but I'm not publishing any of them until all the tries are in and the winners have been chosen. Is it hard to write a blues lyric? See my examples from yesterday, or search the web for classics, which are plentiful. Three to five choruses fitting a standard 12-bar blues form, … [Read more...]