New portraits of late, great jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller

mulgrew 3 4s

Some places news still travels slowly: Photographer Sánta István Csaba, based in Budapest, just learned of the untimely death on May 29 of  pianist and educator Mulgrew Miller, and sent three portraits of the highly regarded, largely beloved man that Mulgrew's people will want to see:                 Santá explains: Just came back from Transylvania and usually I'm isolated from all the news when I'm there. In January I met Mulgrew two times, once in the Dizzy's … [Read more...]

Delmark Records turns 60 — deep in the catalog’s classics


Congrats to Bob Koester, indie owner and producer of Chicago's Delmark Records, on the label's 60th anniversary, which it celebrated over the weekend -- and lucky are listeners to jazz beyond jazz for the broad yet niche-like taste that has informed his Quixotic efforts from the start. Not that I was there in 1953. No -- I discovered Koester's Jazz Record Mart (the old location on Grand Ave.) the day after Christmas 1967, becoming quickly, completely absorbed in the vast, vivid, unexpected worlds of music and culture the tiny shop seemed to … [Read more...]

The localization of International Jazz Day


I'm just thrilled UNESCO partnered with the Monk Institute to produce the second International Jazz Day, April 30 -- the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month (so designated by the Smithsonian Institute) and what the Jazz Journalists Assoc., over which I preside, called JazzApril. The rest of this post might be considered self-promoting, 'cause I'm going to kvell over how the JJA celebrated the localization of this global event and why I think it's important. So read on only if you're interested in Louis Armstrong, trumpet music, Jazz Heroes, … [Read more...]

Jazz Day reasons to be cheerful

Jazz Heroes, designated in 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association and 25 local North American communities

On the second International Jazz Day, let's celebrate -- 1) A glorious legacy of enduring music; 2) The dedication to the art form of musicians and their supporters now, worldwide; 3) The recognition by government officials and institutions of jazz as an entity that will not be silenced or co-opted; 4) Access as never before, via the internet, to jazz historical and present; 5) The rise of jazz education 6) The widespread popularity of jazz festivals 7) Jazz that retains its essence while inviting, embracing, absorbing … [Read more...]

Jazz composers @ the Buffalo Philharmonic Orch – JazzApril week 4

Jazz composers listen to classicalists' feedback

Five jazz-associated composers took on the heady task of writing eight-minute works for full symphonic forces, introduced to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and worked up for performance by conductor Matt Kraemer on Tuesday and Wednesday this past week, thanks to Earshot /Jazz Composers Orchestra Initiative, organized by American Composers Orchestra. As an "embedded journalist" (along with Frank J. Oteri, founder and editor of I observed the whole process closely, privy to private critiques and discussions composers Gregg … [Read more...]

Jazz videos for troubled times, JazzApril week 3


Is it hard to sustain four weeks of Jazz Appreciation Month? With the defeat of gun-control measures, bombings in Boston, ricin attacks on the President, fertilizer explosions in Texas -- promotion of jazz as a positive cultural entity might have seemed less than relevant. But when I addressed students at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, as a substitute for temporarily ailing vocalist Lisa Sokolov, the value of jazz to America (and the world) seemed as powerful as ever. I've subbed for Lisa before, and enjoy introducing … [Read more...]

William Parker, my DownBeat feature from 1998

Howard Mandel c 1998/published by DownBeat, July 1998, under headline Beneath the Underdog (the editor's reference to Charles Mingus's autobiography): There's an anchor for New York's downtown free jazz and improv "wild bunch": his name is William Parker. The steadfast bassist has a huge, deep-rooted sound and concept, tied to more than 25 years of hard-won experience in the noble if often misunderstood, under-appreciated and underestimated world of the avant garde--a term he uses without pause. "If jazz is the underdog, avant garde jazz … [Read more...]

Matthew Shipp, my feature for The Wire, 1998

This is a complete version of the feature on pianist Matthew Shipp I wrote for The Wire, published in February, 1998 Is this the face of New York's jazz avant now? Pianist Matt Shipp's mug can be wide open, inquisitive, or guardedly blank, his expressions range from the distracted to the transcendent. On the street, he may appear deep in thought; call his name, and he looks up, preternaturally awake, bright and alert, as though he's been watching you right along. Up close in conversation, Shipp is by quick turns chuckling, quirky, candid, … [Read more...]

Happy 80, Morton Subotnick!


Today -- April 14 --  is the 80th birthday of one of America's greatest musical game-changers, Morton Subotnick, the man who: co-founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center; envisioned and developed the electronic synthesizer as a tabletop orchestral palette; created Silver Apples of the Moon, the first  composition intended specifically for the long-playing vinyl record and home listening; as first director of multi-media at the Electric Circus, effected the birth of techno and electronic dance music; advanced electronic audio … [Read more...]

JAM week 2: Edsel in Mali, Charnett solo, Gamak, Bria Skonberg


Second week of Jazz Appreciation Month: pianist Edsel Gomez talked  in my NYU "World Music" class of working with Malian musicians on Dee Dee Bridgewater's extrafine Red Earth project; Ralph Simon, producer of late lamented Postcard Records and soprano saxist, had a private with me consultation on resuming jazz activities; Bassist Charnett Moffett at Birdland, midtown, for a showcase of The Bridge, his new solo recording on Motema Music, for which I wrote liner notes; Immediately thereafter:  Gamak (Rudresh Mahanthappa, … [Read more...]

Yusef Lateef, the Autophysiopsychic’s valedictory


An elder of African-American culture, a master improviser, a heroic performer, recording artist and educator, a genius who denounces the term "jazz" (but is an NEA Jazz Master) and reviles all the "vulgarity" which has traditionally been associated with the music but has never abjured blues, grit and funk -- multi-reeds specialist Yusef Lateef at age 92 earned the reverent attention of a full house at Roulette in Brooklyn on April 6.   Performing a set of more than an hour's length with only percussionist Adam Rudolph and a bit of … [Read more...]

Before Tarantino, there was Ebert (and Muddy Waters)

Russ Meyers and Roger Ebert

I'm as sad as any Chicago-born & raised movie fan about the death of Roger Ebert, who I saw regularly in the Chicago Sun Times/Chicago Daily News offices when I was a copyboy there in the '70s, but to whom I never spoke. And I take umbrage at the characterization of him as a "middle-brow" -- because Ebert was not that, rather the best kind of populist critic, as the New York Times obituary suggests. "A critic for the common man" is the Times headline. "His opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture," writes … [Read more...]

Early days of JazzApril

photo courtesy of the New York Times

Jazz in NYC and vicinity early in Jazz Appreciation Month: Since Monday, April 1 I've -- heard the all-star Monterey Jazz Fest on Tour band at the Blue Note Jazz Club, and singer Imani Uzuri w/band there, too; learned about the James Moody Democracy in Jazz Festival (sponsored by TD Bank) at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC, Newark), and NJPAC's upcoming jazz season; joined representatives of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan had lunch with pianist Edsel Gomez and Alex Webb, … [Read more...]