Wynton at his best streaming Jelly Roll & Satchmo live tonight + controversy


Wynton Marsalis plays the immortal jazz of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong tonight  (Dec 29) 7:30 pm & 10:00 pm ET on Facebook and Livestream  live from Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC. This is repertoire that the newly named CBS cultural correspondent relives better than anyone else, and it's great to hear material written for the Hot Peppers, Hot Fives  and Sevens in 2011, 80 to 90 years since it was the very newest music in the world. I highly recommend checking this out -- free, after all -- but I must … [Read more...]

Inside, outside and beyond jazz heroes Sam Rivers & Don Pullen together

Sam Rivers and Don Pullen performed together -- I had completely forgotten. "Capricorn Rising" is an 11-minute almost entirely duet track from a 1975 album of the same name. And in the ensemble Roots the two were joined by saxophonists Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman and Nathan Davis, bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Idris Muhammad, recording the album Stablemates and captured on video, playing "Lester Leaps In" -- perfect example of stretching "jazz" while honoring it (name those quotes and allusions!). howardmandel.com Subscribe by Email … [Read more...]

Don Pullen, late pianist with an arts exhibit tribute


December 26 is a birthday I share with some great musicians -- John Scofield and the late Quinn Wilson, for two. But yesterday I was thinking of a Christmas baby: pianist Don Pullen, 12/25/45- 4/22/95. A Don Pullen Arts Exhibit opens today in Roanoke, VA, his home town, produced by the Jefferson Center and Harrison Museum of African American Art, and that's a fine tribute. But I hate to think that Pullen's music may be falling out of consciousness or access. His very first records with drummer Milford Graves are extremely rare … [Read more...]

Sam Rivers remembered, recommended

sam rivers

Sax and flutist Sam Rivers called me a few months back, out of the blue, from his home near Orlando. "This is Sam Rivers," he announced, Oklahoma-born voice at age 89 88 somewhat husky but energized -- like his horn sounds. "I want to say I've played jazz with everybody from T-Bone Walker to Dizzy Gillespie, and never had a grant or government funding or anything. That's all." A fair if woefully incomplete summation of a 60+ year musical career. Sam Rivers died yesterday (Dec. 26, 2011/b. 9/25/23), and below I point to some of his recorded … [Read more...]

Santa must wear earplugs


I've recovered a vintage JBJ posting from the archive, December 2008 (hence the reference to waiting for the end of the Bush administration. Still waiting. . . )  Yuletide music in the U.S. hasn't gotten better since I first posted this, but it's not for lack of song programmers scraping the bottom of the barrel. Among seasonal kitsch in heavy rotation I've heard Burl Ives warbling "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" enough to times to realize he's really quite glum -- maybe it was the blacklist, maybe the testifying to HUAC as a friendly witness … [Read more...]

Last ditch impressive gifts for fans beyond “jazz”


I refrain from abject product endorsement -- but The Jazz Icons Series 5 is my no-fail recommendation for those favorite (weird?) aunts or uncles obsessed with "culture" -- for parents who space out listening to long, wordless music from their decades' back youth -- for snobs who should meet vernacular jazz in its noblest and most durable form -- best of all, for you yourself.  Six impeccably produced dvds of genuinely iconic -- nay, canonical -- performances by some of our most intensely compelling mid-20th Century American artists: John … [Read more...]

Wynton on CBS: the Artist as Cultural Correspondent

wynton at mike

Wynton Marsalis has in one swoop become the world's most prominent jazz journalist. The 50-year-old trumpeter, composer, bandleader, winner of multiple Grammys in multiple categories, author of several books on jazz (all but one co-written), artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, world-traveling ambassador of the American experience, holder of uncountable awards, degrees and honors, an esteemed lecturer and educator, is the CBS network's new cultural correspondent. Marsalis has previously been a frequent guest on the CBS news … [Read more...]

Week before Christmas, NYC listening beyond jazz


Richard Bona introduces his Mandekan Cubano project at the Jazz Standard, Dec. 27 through New Year's Eve -- as I detail in my new CityArts-New York column. But from now through December 24 there's other strong, new music to check out in, especially at Roulette in Brooklyn. Tonight (Dec. 15) and tomorrow (Dec. 16), trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith celebrates his 70th birthday. First night with his Golden Quartet, his trio Mbira (which has put out the spare, penetrating album Dark Lady of the Sonnets) and String Quartet Plus with vocalist Thomas … [Read more...]

Favorite recordings, 2011 — many more than 10

sonny rollins vol 2

Lists of top projects of the year are expected from arts journalism - my apologies for being so late this year, but I needed to re-visit many of the the 1200 cds and dvds I received as promotional samples from Thanksgiving 2010 - TG 2011.  Here are some favorites -- top 10 I've liked best, and more (even at 30 more, far from exhaustive) -- Favorite New Releases, # 1 - 10 1) Sonny Rollins, Road Shows vol. 2- The grand master American saxophone improviser turned 80 with an inspired New York … [Read more...]

Elliott Sharp @ Roulette – way beyond category

elliot sharp

No label exists for the music of composer-guitarist-saxophonist Elliott Sharp, who performed with two of his Carbon concept ensembles at Roulette in Brooklyn last week. In both quartet (Sharp on 8-string guitarbass with electronic processing, curved soprano and tenor saxes, and musicians playing electric bass, prepared harp and drums) and septet (the quartet plus second electric bassist, pianist and percussionist) formations, vernacular rock rhythms anchored advanced explorations of texture and gesture. Repetition of brief motives slid upon and … [Read more...]

Orchestrating improvisation

karl berger stone

My new CityArts column is about the wave of conducted orchestral improvisation currently sweeping New York City  -- with Karl Berger's Stone Workshop Orchestra and Lawrence Douglas "Butch" Morris's Lucky Cheng Orchestra wrapping up their lengthy Monday night runs, Elliott Sharp reconvening Carbon at Roulette, Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber at Tammany Hall in a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America, Adam Rudolph's Organic Orchestra also in the mix and "soundpainter" Walter Thompson in discussion with aforementioned Dr. Morris … [Read more...]

Kurt Vonnegut deserves better

kurt vonnegut

Christopher Buckley's New York Times Book Review frontpage piece on And So It Goes, Charles J. Shields' biography of Kurt Vonnegut, is as lazy a bit of evaluation as it's possible to pick up a paycheck for. I can't tell from it anything about Shields' book, and nothing about Vonnegut's many novels, either. (See "jazz" content at post's end). How does Buckley -- whose comic novels I've enjoyed (esp. his first, The White House Mess) - - spend his 1500 words about a 500-page life of one of America's best-selling fabulists of the late 20th … [Read more...]

Drummer Paul Motian (RIP) talks, and why he matters


Drummer Paul Motian died November 22 at age 80. He was a unique sound organizer and constant actor on the jazz scene in New York City for nearly 60 years. He spoke to me for Down Beat in 1986 -- an interview I offer in slightly different form below. Of course it doesn't account for 15 more years of music, much of which has been stellar. But Motian's voice -- onrushing, exacting, broken occasionally by his barking laugh, may come through: Drummer Paul Motian, like many a jazz player, lives in the eternal present. "When there were bohemians, I … [Read more...]