Jayne Cortez — poet, activist, muse of the avant garde — dies, age 76


Jayne Cortez, a no-nonsense poet who often declaimed her incisive lines of vivid imagery tying fierce social criticism to imperatives of personal responsibility with backing by her band the Firespitters, died Dec. 28 at age 76 (according to NYT obit, age 78). Her deep appreciation of American blues and jazz was another of her constant themes; her son Denardo Coleman played drums in the Firespitters, with whom she recorded six albums. An activist in the Civil Rights movement, organizer of Watts writing and drama workshops, founder of the … [Read more...]

2012 Top Jazz Beyond Jazz recordings


Checking out new recordings is the motivation of much jazz journalism, though at top-10 time having so much new stuff can be a bedevilment, if not a curse. Here's a baker's dozen of my favorites from among the 11-some-hundred sent by record labels, publicists and, increasingly, the artists themselves. They reward multiple listenings, so I keep learning about them. Maghostut Trio – Live at Last (RogueArt) -- In  Oct 2003, five months before his death, Malachi Favors Maghostut,  the profoundly sure bassist who co-founded the AACM and … [Read more...]

My suggestion for 2014 NEA Jazz Master: Reggie Workman

Things may be somewhat up-for-grabs at the National Endowment for the Arts, with chair Rocco Landesman  stepping down at year end (NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa will serve as the agency's acting head), but assuming the show will go on I urge Reggie Workman (b. 1937, Philadelphia) receive a 2014 NEA Jazz Masters Award. Workman is an oak of a bassist who has helped sustain, secure and advance jazz before and since the revolution started by John Coltrane. He's been a messenger of jazz with many of the music's leading lights … [Read more...]

“Latin” Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri, both innovator and conservator

Eddie Palmieri at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Dec. 15 2012, photo by Sánta István Csaba

Eddie Palmieri is a new NEA Jazz Master -- to be inducted Jan. 14 in a ceremony at Dizzy's Club in Jazz at Lincoln Center, to be webcast live. He is, contradictorily, the spark-plug/conservator of the Americas' indefatigable Afro-Caribbean music. He turned 76 yesterday (Dec. 15), celebrating with a a "career retrospective" featuring his jazz band and dance ensemble at JALC's Hall. Here's Palmieri's portrait with his timbalero José Claussell, taken last night by Sánta István Csaba, a Budapest-based photographer currently visiting New York … [Read more...]

DeJohnette the jazzer of 54 artists getting $50k USA fellowships

Jack DeJohnette

Drummer/composer/pianist Jack DeJohnette, an NEA Jazz Master, is the sole jazz-associated artist among 54 fellows selected by United States Artists (not a governmental organization) from 438 applications to a grants program initiated by United States Artists in 2006. USA fellows received $50,000 in unrestricted funds. Citing "cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts," USA also rewarded the … [Read more...]

Found in Heidelberg: Transatlantic jazz connections

Alte Aula, Heidelberg University

The Enjoy Jazz Festival in south-western Germany two weeks ago culminated in an unexpected celebration of jazz's deep traditions, led by formidable saxophonist Archie Shepp and serene reeds explorer Yusef Lateef. It was a fitting end, also, for an international symposium titled "Lost in Diversity: A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Social Relevance of Jazz," held at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies at Ruprecht Karls Universität Heidelberg (est. 1386), which convened musicians, scholars, journalists and presenters to forge new … [Read more...]

Critics, scholars, musicians @ Enjoy Jazz Fest, Lost in Diversity conference

Dr. Christian Broecking, conference organizer

International jazz journalists, academic scholars, presenters and musicians rarely meet together, but that's the plan for the "Lost in Diversity" conference  during the 14th Enjoy Jazz Fest, which I'm attending tomorrow (Nov 7) through Sunday in Heidelberg, Germany. Curated by ethnomusicologist and sociologist Dr. Christian Broecking of the Heidelberg Center of American Studies in the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (oldest in Germany, founded 1386), this is the only such transatlantic summit meeting I've heard of since "Jazz in the Global … [Read more...]

NYC jazz this weekend, post-Sandy

Flatiron Building, 23rd St. at X of Broadway and 5th Ave. in NYC, without lights

A lot of jazz joints are "dives" -- in basements -- but since Hurricane Sandy it's not flood waters keeping cellars like the Village Vanguard, the Jazz Standard, Fat Cat, 55 Bar (Sat: open with candlelight), Cornelia Street Café and Smalls closed. There's simply no electricity. So they, like every other music venue below 26th St. (including the Blue Note, which hopes to be back Saturday, with Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke; Village Bistro, Arthur's Tavern, the Metropolitan Room, the Jazz Gallery, Jazz at Kitano -- which is on Park Ave. … [Read more...]

We’ve got rhythm: Masters meet prodigies @ Jazz Foundation Loft Party


NEA Jazz Masters pianist Randy Weston and alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, both 86, played the same room as two astonishing 12-old prodigies -- trumpeter Geoffrey Gallante and organist Matthew Whitaker (see their video clips, below) -- at the Jazz Foundation of America's annual benefit Loft Party Saturday night  (Oct 27),. It proved again that America's improvised, vernacular art form appeals to kids of the 21st century as to 70-year world-class professionals. Entertaining a suitably diverse, all-age audience, these musician spoke same language, … [Read more...]

There is nothing like a blog (the freelancer’s recourse)


I've been a freelance writer for almost 40 years and it hasn't gotten easier, but I'm glad to have this blog. Why? is the question to be addressed at the JJA's webinar "Blogging: Tales from Veterans" by Pamela Espeland (Bebopified), Willard Jenkins (The Independent Ear) and Marc Myers (JazzWax), which I'll moderate, on Tuesday Oct. 16, 8 pm edt (we'll end in time so we can watch the President in a Town Hall "debate" with that other guy). The webinar is free but pre-registration is required. Having been frequently published by DownBeat, … [Read more...]

Jazzers for Obama in NYC tonight


The Jazz for Obama talent pool fundraising for the re-election of the President at Symphony Space  (2537 Broadway, NYC) tonight is stellar. Roy Haynes, Joe Lovano, Brad Mehldau, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Jim Hall, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ravi Coltrane, Arturo O'Farrill, Kenny Garrett, Geri Allen, Jeff 'Tain" Watts, Christian McBride, Gretchen Partlato, Claudio Acuña, Ralph Peterson, Henry Grimes, Aaron Goldberg, Greg Hutchison know with whom their best interests lie, and it isn't the candidate who intends to cut funds … [Read more...]

MacArthur ignores jazz musicians and improvisers

Claire Chase, photo by Stephanie Berger

The new list of MacArthur fellows, just released, features not one musician from the world of jazz among the 23 distinguished Americans who will receive $100,000 a year for five years. Two musicians are named among the fellows: Claire Chase, flutist and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Chris Thile, mandolinist of Nickle Creek and the Punch Brothers. I congratulate them both, as well as the other honored writers, artists, scientists, and a historian, economist, social services innovator. But … [Read more...]

Muhal Richard Abrams: Outsiders’ Insider, Insiders’ Outsider


Hear keyboardist-composer Muhal Richard Abrams play solo and leading a drummerless quartet tonight, 9/21/2012, at 8 pm at the Community Church or New York (40 E. 35th, between Madison and Park Ave.). It's the first concert of the season produced by the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the 47-year-old organization which he co-founded and has presided over, officially or otherwise.  Now 82, Muhal is a deft herder of cats, a painter of unforeseen visions and an American genius whose works haven't had a high profile … [Read more...]