Best Thanksgiving 2011 jazz in New York City


The holidays are the best of times and the worst of times for hearing music in New York City. Hosting friends and family, or being a guest on a visit, is great, until it pales. That’s when we look for entertainment options, and going out for jazz seems like the most sociable, something-for-everybody activity. The main stages typically book artists who will please casual as well as hard-core audiences. This year these big draws are two. Maria Schneider, whose orchestra has its annual residency at the Jazz Standard, and multifarious pianist … [Read more...]

Turntablism — avant noise or early music?


Onstage at the Japan Society before concertizing with Otomo Yoshihide, Christian Marclay told a crowd, "You're going to see us do some things you'll think are interesting, but you have to understand how shocking it was to do this in the '80s, when people treated records as something precious." And thereby Marclay, famous recently for his Venice Bienalle-winning film/video/time mosaic "The Clock," posed the question looming over his performance in duet with Yoshihide, hailed for 20 years as among Tokyo's "most adventurous sound creators." Is … [Read more...]

Shemekia Copeland roils Jazz at Lincoln Center with roadhouse blues


A blues-belter with a beautiful big voice and cred in the rockin', bawdy, electric tradition, Shemekia Copeland brought a funky good time to the elegant Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center last Thursday night (and probably Friday, too), backed by a a tight four-man band, carrying a slew of fresh and catchy songs. It's unusual to hear a woman in her early 30s be so powerfully plain-spoken, whether with a wide smile ("I'm a wild, wild woman, and you're a lucky man")     or haunting shiver ("Never Going Back to Memphis" from her … [Read more...]

Iraq vet and New Orleans avant-gardist WATIV on first visit to NYC

hm with wativ william thompson

Composer and improvising keyboardist William "WATIV" Thompson -- Mississippi-born, New Orleans-based and an Iraq war veteran who I profiled for NPR in 2005 (podcast below) when he was posting laptop computer music he created in Bagdad during free time from his counterintelligence duties -- made his first visit to New York City last week. I met him for coffee near New York University, saw him the next night at le Poisson Rouge hearing electronics innovator Morton Subotnick and the night after that took him and his companion along with my NYU … [Read more...]

West Side Story @ 50 — the soundtrack’s the thing

west side story poster

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of West Side Story -- the movie, released October 18 1961,  not the play which debuted on Broadway in 1957 -- for my column in CityArts - New York, I listened to the Bernstein/Sondheim music in many variations. Here's my report, slightly revised for the web: For West Side Story, the score's the thing. Even first exposure to either the 1957 original Broadway cast album or the 1961 Academy Award-winning movie soundtrack reveals this music to be the peak of the golden, pre-rock age of American song. Leonard … [Read more...]

Marian McPartland choses “Piano Jazz” successor: Jon Weber

jon weber

Pianist and NPR "Piano Jazz" host Marian McPartland, age 93, has found a worthy   successor to her post interviewing and duetting with musicians --  Jon Weber, an extraordinarily fluent keyboard artist with encyclopedia depth on many of the earliest styles of American improvised music. Though rather under-recorded, Jon excels at the most intricate (and frequently obscure) compositions of the great stride piano masters (James P. Johnson at their head) as well as writing and arranging his own works, which fall into the modern-mainstream … [Read more...]

Bennie Maupin talks to me

maupin wise

Reedist Bennie Maupin, whom I interviewed in the Jazz Talk Tent at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2006, says "One thing about Detroit, you learn how to make money." Another thing he recalls from his youth: "There's a lot of noise here because of the factories, and early on I listened to things that were basically noise. Now I incorporate those elements into my music in certain ways." Maupin has made beautiful recordings under his own name recently, but is probably still best known for playing bass clarinet throughout Miles Davis' Bitches Brew … [Read more...]

MC to stars @ Jazz Foundation Loft Party benefit

perc. Neil Clarke (left, standing) and MC HM, JFA loft party 2010

MC JazzMandel: At the Jazz Foundation of America's Benefit Loft Party tonight (Oct. 29), 7 pm to midnight, Manhattan, my room has -- Tom Harrell's Quintet, pianist Marc  Marc Cary, preeminent bassist Ron Carter with fine guitarist Gene Bertoncini, turbanated organist Dr. Lonnie Smith with alto sax/Mardi Gras Indian Donald Harrison and N.O. drummer Herlin Riley (yeah!), magisterial Randy Weston's African Rhythm Quintet, and DC-based blues/r&b updater Memphis Gold. It's a great lineup to raise funds for the nationwide safety-net for … [Read more...]

Marilyn Crispell’s “private” solo piano web-tv concert


Marilyn Crispell is an improvising pianist of deep concentration and beautiful touch, who at 7:30 pm EDT tonight (Thursday, Oct 27) offers at modest cost a "private" solo concert, the webcast of a three-camera shoot, from a soundstage near her residence in Woodstock NY. This is the first I've heard of a jazz-related performer performing essentially via pay-per-view, but given the advances in capture and playback quality (plus having Burrill Crohn, a filmmaker who knows Crispell well, directing the video) the project makes perfect sense. Why … [Read more...]

Surprise: Birth and re-birth of jazz journalism outlets

Jennifer Peabody, Associate Publisher, and Scott Menhinick, Editor/Publisher of

Double-barrelled rare upbeat jazz news: The husband-wife team behind publicists Improvised Communications (plus a couple helpers) launch, an online "trade journal for jazz" And a composer-improviser from Oregon saves Cadence magazine, founded in 1976, from demise. Scott Menhinick and his wife Jennifer Peabody are doin' it themselves and hoping to share information on jazz business with others, while pianist-composer-publisher David Haney is turning his talents to taking longtime low-tech Cadence online, with multi-media … [Read more...]

Don’t laugh at Harry Belafonte (laugh with him)

Belafonte on Colbert

Don't laugh at Harry Belafonte, the incomparable American/world roots folk musician and popularizer, for being caught on tv asleep or meditating last week. Laugh with him during his appearance with Steven Colbert  which he amazingly turns into a genuinely musical  and touching duet on "Jamaican Sunrise." Even Colbert gives it up to Belafonte, whose wit is quick. Indeed, at age 84 the man is a bundle of energy and sharp observation. He's been busy promoting his autobiography My Song, basking in a profile burnished by the laudatory HBO … [Read more...]

Jazz Audience Initiative study posted, webinar set

Byron Stripling leads the Columbus Jazz Arts Group Orchestra

The Jazz Audience Initiative, a 21-month research project of Columbus, Ohio's Jazz Arts Group, has posted its final reports and scheduled a webinar for October 21 (free registration available) to discuss them. Among the main points: Musical tastes are socially transmitted. Jazz has relatively diverse audiences. People pay to hear specific artists. Local programming shapes local preferences. Young listeners are eclectic. Many paths lead to jazz. Jazz listeners like informal settings. The JAI study, funded largely by a $200,000 … [Read more...]

Jim O’Neal, Living Blues founder, ill and uninsured

jim o'neal

Jim O'Neal, founder in 1970 of Living Blues magazine and a serious independent researcher into American roots music, is among the 59 million Americans without health insurance, and has lymph cancer. A series of benefit concerts are scheduled to raise funds for his treatments and a fund has been set up at Commerce Bank in Kansas City to accept direct donations: checks to: Jim O'Neal Blues Fund, P.O. Box 10334, Kansas City, MO 64171 or donations via Paypal to the account I met O'Neal and LB's co-founder, his now ex-wife … [Read more...]