Henry Threadgill’s tribute to Butch Morris @ WinterJazz Fest 10

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Composer-reedist Henry Threadgill created a stunning tribute at WinterJazz Fest 10 in New York City last night to honor his great friend Lawrence Douglas "Butch" Morris, who died just short of his 66th birthday on January 29, 2013. The nearly hour-long piece had two movements -- a long, complex, multi-layered improvisation based on Threadgill's score of shifting intervallic cells, and after a brief pause, a wrenching,  climactically exultant tutti that distilled his characteristically angular and disjointed yet coherently emphatic expressivity, … [Read more...]

Recommended 2013 jazz-beyond-jazz recordings

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I'm interested in the jazz beyond "jazz" --  a genre very subjectively defined as exciting, enticing, sooo real recorded music to my ears. This list of "Best of 2013" follows from the format critic Francis Davis designed for the NPR Music Jazz Critics' Poll, with one significant difference.  Francis asks, reasonably enough, that contributors to his poll refrain from voting for albums on which they've labored in some professional capacity. But I'd be remiss not to say I think two of last year's best records were Organ Monk's American … [Read more...]

Unforgettable sounds and best videos of Yusef Lateef

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I'll never forget (I hope) Yusef Lateef's flute wafting out from the stage of  the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival . . . Or his head-shaved, suited image on the cover of the boldly-named album 1984 (released in 1965, and not as dark as I'd expected) . . . Or his galvanizing spontaneous duet with percussionist Adam Rudolph at the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center . . . Indeed, Dr. Yusef Lateef enjoyed and shared with all who'd listen a fabulously creative, accomplished life to age 93, ending 12/23/13. He'd made … [Read more...]

14 performances — varied sounds — in six weeks

Michael Hashim with bassist

In the past 6 weeks I've heard a lot of live music  -- though just a patch on what I'd like to have gotten to. In reverse chronological order: Sunday night 11/24: Adam Rudolph improvisationally conducting five flutists from his Go: Organic Orchestra at The Stone, then adding in his Moving Pictures septet. Earlier in the eve: trombonist Roswell Rudd blowing "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill" over a chorus of union member singers, as well as with the cast of his Trombone For Lovers cd (Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet, guitarists Gary Lucas and Rolf … [Read more...]

Let us now praise, help and hear should-be-famous jazz men

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Two celebratory benefit jazz concerts in New York City this weekend: tonight (11/22) a tribute to alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe featuring his fellow altoist Oliver Lake, poet/cultural critic Amiri Baraka, tubaist Bob Stewart and guitarists Kelvyn Bell and Vernon Reid, among others at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn; Sunday (11/24) starting at 4 pm a 78th birthday show for trombonist Roswell Rudd at (le) Poisson Rouge, where keyboardist John Medeski, slide-trumpeter Steven Bernstein, singers Bob Dorough and Fay Victor, guitarists Gary … [Read more...]

Gordon Marshall, Boston music poet

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Boston-based poet Gordon Marshall has published 12 collections of his works, and is currently blogging on The Flash: jazz, noise, psych from the house scene in Boston. There he writes prose. All his poetry is musical, whether directly about music or not. See also my report about Boston doubling down on jazz. Different Colors The silence of the streets In the outdoor night Remembered to Miles Davis' Pangaea, the bopping beat Electric, going nowhere And everywhere, Sonny Fortune Sax loping a loop around The city street I remember, Under … [Read more...]

Boston doubles down on jazz

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Boston -- historically stuffy but blue-blood liberal, devoted to higher education, high finance and professional sports -- is now doubling down on itself as a world-class jazz city. Berklee College of Music, nearly 4500 students strong and  an economic engine onto itself, is generating energy that enlivens Boston's  neighborhoods, drawing in general audiences with such outreach events as the Beantown Jazz Festival, the free street fair held last weekend. JazzBoston, a non-profit grassroots  organization, has announced that its 2014 … [Read more...]

Chicago Jazz Festival ’13, in Marc PoKempner’s photos

Rudresh expresses appreciation of the crowd

Photo-journalist Marc PoKempner, a long-time collaborator and one of my bffs, has a clear eye as well as a sharp ear for music. He captured some of the diversity and vigor of the 35th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, August 28 - Sept 1  2013. Click on these photos for the better, enlarged view.             Marc knows what he likes: Irresistible dance music and genuinely moving what-have-you. It's always fun to ride with him, looking and … [Read more...]

New Orleans’ post-modern piano professor Jon Batiste and his “harmoniboard”

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Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human were among the emerging young charismatics vying to revitalize jazz at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival, August 10th and 11th, and as a post-modern New Orleans piano professor  of "social music" he approached his art from many directions. A scion of five-generation Louisianan musical royalty, 26-year-old Batiste can boogie, rock, play out, get traditional -- he sings, jams, comps and sometimes fronts with what he calls his "harmoniboard." Aka "melodica." And people like it. What's not to like? Though it's … [Read more...]

Bluesman Buddy Guy @ 77 years young

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"People don't know the blues," guitarist/singer/songwriter Buddy Guy, who turned 77 today, told a packed house at Iridium Jazz Club  in NYC last night. The show was video-taped, presumably for a PBS showing next fall. "They say the blues is sad, but when B.B. King sings 'I got a sweet little angel, I love the way she spreads her wings,' I don't know what's sad about that." Guy's own set, featuring his tight quintet, two backup singers and guest guitarists Quinn Sullivan (his amazing 14-year-old protege) and Gary Clark Jr., featured songs … [Read more...]

My BBC Newshour riff on Cecil Taylor, Kyoto Award winner

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Last night I improvised a profile of Cecil Taylor for BBC Newshour (June 21, "Severe Flooding in India"), on the announcement that the great pianist/composer/improviser has been honored with the prestigious, $500,000 Kyoto Award. My triptych Miles Ornette Cecil - Jazz Beyond Jazz, of course, includes a lot of my writing/thinking on Cecil -- who I aver is and will be known widely for a long time by that one name alone --  but I get fresh enthusiasm and ideas about music (not only his music, but certainly that) whenever I listen to or even just … [Read more...]

Kyoto prize to pianist/improviser Cecil Taylor

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Cecil Taylor, whose intense, lengthy and complex piano improvisations have redefined jazz and redesigned his instrument, has been awarded the 2013 Kyoto Prize for "Arts and Philosophy: Music." Former recipients include Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Witold Lutoslawski and Nikolaus Harnoncourt -- all musicians/composers of Western European classical lineage. Prizes for individuals who have "contributed significantly to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and … [Read more...]

New portraits of late, great jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller

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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...]