Ornette honored and playing in Prospect Park June 2014

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In honor of Ornette Coleman's 85th birthday (today, March 9), here's my report from the last time he performed in New York City -- at an extraordinary concert in his honor with Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, Sonny Rollins and many more at Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Originally published in The Wire. Ornette Coleman is contemporary music's great and radical idealist, for a half-century demonstrating how the whole world might harmonize by people expressing their innate individuality, even as he hews to his roots in the … [Read more...]

New Yorkish New Orleans and Chicago Diva at Symphony Center

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Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9 -- that's pianist Henry Butler, brassy brassman and arranger Steven Bernstein, and their touring NYC-based all-stars -- plus beloved local singer Dee Alexander with her trio were double billed on a cold, cold night last week (Feb. 27) at Chicago's downtown Orchestra Hall in Symphony Center. It was the first time I've been to hear jazz at the 2500 seat concert venue, built in 1904 as designed by architect Daniel Burnham to be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's home, since returning to Chicago eight months ago, … [Read more...]

Jazz composers meet symphony orchestra challenge

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The American Composers Orchestra's Jazz Composers Orchestra Initiative rides again -- application deadline April for a two part intensive beginning August 2015. I blogged about at length about the Buffalo Philharmonic's 2013 reading of  first symphonic works by five highly skilled performer-composers who otherwise would be hard-pressed get a chance to write for such an ensemble. Subsequently I interviewed Rufus Reid, Richard Sussman, Anita Brown, Joel Harrison and James Newton about the experience, an article just published -- please … [Read more...]

Hail to college jazz radio stations like WHPK

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WHPK, Chicago's Hyde Park-based non-profit jazz-broadcasting community radio station at 88.5 fm, held its annual Black History Month gala last Saturday (Feb 21) with music by reedsman Ari Brown's quartet celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). International House, where the party was held, was an appropriate setting, as it's one of the venues where the AACM's found an early audience for the next step in evolution of organized sound beyond the then-prevalent high energy "new … [Read more...]

Pedrito Martinez’ Cuba-in-Cold-Midwest tour

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Conguero Pedrito Martinez brought his charismatic Afro-Cuban quartet to Chicago's City Winery last night (Feb. 15), pleasing an upbeat crowd at the supper set (and no doubt later show, too) with an up-to-date performance of roots rhythms, solo and group singing and tightly synchronized, syncopated play. Accompanied by fleet keyboardist Edgar Pantoja-Aleman, electric bassist Alvaro Benavides, and percussionist Jhair Sala (mostly on cowbell and bongos), Martinez slapped, tapped, thumped and bumped his congas and bata drums to … [Read more...]

New Frequencies fest in SF: community jazz-beyond-jazz

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Inexhaustible Angelique Kidjo singing her ya-yas out about serious issues amid an onstage throng -- the Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco at noon on a Saturday reviving Cuban conga with free-styling dancers -- women prominent among the fervently unfettered improvisers and daring composers leading ace ensembles.  The New Frequencies festival: Jazz@YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) put this all out last week for a multi-generational Bay Area audience that embraced edgy, energized now music that crossed most genre … [Read more...]

Jazz men and women — and jazz itself — honored

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Tonight (Oct. 24) will be a Great Night in Harlem, as pianist Herbie Hancock, winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's 2014 Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz, receives likewise recognition at the Jazz Foundation of America's gala fundraising show (goal: $1.7 million to help health-, housing- and employment-challenged jazz and blues musicians), genuinely studded with stars and heartfelt tributes. The concert at the Apollo Theater, being broadcast live by New Orleans radio station WWOZ starting at 8:30 pm Eastern time, includes the … [Read more...]

Another free Chicago jazz festival: Hyde Park and local stars

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The 8th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival Sept 27 and 28th was as mellowly festive a scene as has ever graced the Midway Plaisance, the grassy fields between University of Chicago's faux Gothic buildings, originally created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Photo-journalist Michael Jackson created portraits of local fans and players such as Irvin Pierce, last-minute tenor sax sub for altoist Oliver Lake (who had been scheduled to perform with soon-to-be-famous singer Dee Alexander, but was deterred by the strange airline tower … [Read more...]

Beautiful Coltrane birthday — celebrate with “Offering”

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Today, Sept 23, is a beautiful 88th birthdate of the late revered and intrepid saxophonist/composer John Coltrane, celebrated with the release of Offering, the first professionally prepared cd of his November 1966 concert at Temple University. This is the most significant addition to Coltrane's ouevre since the 2005 discovery by Library of Congress researcher Larry Appelbaum of the concert Trane did in 1957 with Thelonious Monk at Carnegie Hall. Coltrane fans won't want to miss it. Uninitiated adventurers approaching this album may be shocked … [Read more...]

The funeral at the Hideout, with Survival Unit III

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After nine years, the free-thinking Immediate Sound  Series ended at Chicago's indie-alt. Hideout on Sept. 17. Survival Unit III, the decade-old but only  occasionally united ensemble of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee (from Poughkeepsie) and Chicago-based cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang performed highly sympatico improvisations before a rapt and appreciative audience of aficionados and sometimes-collaborators, most of whom seemed to know each other. It was a warm, colorful, informal scene, promoted by its organizer … [Read more...]

Guelph’s jazz fest/colloquium of cosmic improvisation, Deutsch pix

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The Guelph Jazz Festival last week (Sept 3 through 7), held in a mostly placid river-run university town about 60 miles west of Toronto, climaxed with a blast-off to other worlds fueled by the Sun Ra Arkestra (led by saxophonist Marshall Allen) and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie dance troupe. Photographer Lauren Deutsch captured the ecstasy of concert-goers joining musicians and movers onstage, more eager than Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to clamber aboard the aliens' spaceship. Attendees at that … [Read more...]

Chicago Jazz Fest highlights a la PoKempner-vision

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No one was shot at any jazz festivals held throughout the U.S. over Labor Day weekend, unless artists and audiences captured by photography count. Marc PoKempner was among the expert photogs creating views of the sounds at the 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival. Marc is especially good incorporating into his compositions the huge video image projected behind artists on the stage of the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. Some fest highlights he depicts: Cecile McClorin Salvant, as powerful an actress as she is nuanced a singer, making … [Read more...]

Chicago Jazz Festival club tour images

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The 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival (mostly free) kicked off Wednesday with a trolley tour of neighborhood clubs. Marc PoKempner captured performers' and crowds' spirits in his images: The Jazz Festival continues tonight -- Saturday -- with headlining vibist Gary Burton receiving JJA Jazz Awards for his playing and Best Book of the Year -- Learning To Listen, his autobio-graphy. Also on the bill tonight: trumpeter Tom Harrell's Colors of a Dream, bassist Dave Holland's quartet Prism, and Chi's own sax colossus Ari … [Read more...]