Jazz beyond Jazz: August 2008 Archives
The best thing about the Chicago Jazz Festival is that it's curated by an independent committee of people (mostly from the Jazz Institute of Chicago) who really love music, rather than being overly influenced by promoters, booking agents and managers representing a few big name artists who are trying to fill blank dates during their big tours.
Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater's first-time ever tribute to the late Betty Carter, her mentor, electrified the crowd at Grant Park Friday night -- after drummer Thurman Barker led a brilliant set by stalwarts from Chicago's avant garde-leaning Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and trombonist Julian Priester soloed throughout original repertoire written by local trombonist T.S. Galloway in honor of the fabled Du Sable High School band director Capt. Walter Dyett. This is not a schedule that could have been imagined by anyone but Chicagoans intimately aware of the Chicago Jazz Fest's 30-year history.
Sonny Rollins at 78 is still a saxophone collosus, as he demonstrated leading his touring sextet Thursday night to open the Chicago Jazz Festival. His bent posture, shock of white hair and strong features give him the air of an Old Testament prophet, and his stamina may not be all it was when he was younger, but he brought wisdom, humor and intensity to an upbeat and swinging rendition of Irving Berlin's "Falling In Love Is Wonderful," sweet warmth to Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" (backed only by his rhythm section), and for a finale uproarious energy to a bare-bones Chicago blues. Read Neil Tesser's article in the Chicago Reader for background on how Rollins cleaned up his act in Chicago, circa 1955, which accounts for his affection for the city to this day.
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A city's jazz scene is best measured not by an annual festival -- though Sonny Rollins free at the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavillion in Chicago's Millennium Park on Thursday night was a fine thing. The real signs of Chicago's jazz depth and diversity are evident in the unique "club tour" (aka pub crawl), which the Jazz Institute of Chicago cleverly designs to introduce listeners to local musicians playing small venues way outside the downtown Loop.
World Music, a phrase that literally should include all cultures' sounds but as a genre has become narrowed, softened and commercialized, is being re-invigorated by a new cadre of bloggers with interests in adventure and discovery as well as analytic study, according to Ross Simoninini in the Village Voice Aug 20 - 26 issue. At last, it's easy to reach beyond those pleasant Putumayo greatest hist packages ("guaranteed to make you feel good") for fuller access to what's played and heard all over the globe.
Free jazz fests across the U.S. mark summer's glorious end. Manhattan's Charlie Parker festival (held Saturday Aug. 23 and Sunday 24 in Marcus Garvey park uptown and Tompkins Square Park downtown), the Chicago Jazz Festival (which formally starts Thursday Aug 28 with Sonny Rollins at downtown Grant Park's Petrillo bandshell) and the Detroit International Jazz Festival (celebrating Detroit-Philadelphia music connections, Aug 29 - Sept. 1 on multiple stages along the river at Hart Plaza and down the street at Campus Martius Park) and smaller events such as the Fox Jazz Festival in Menasha, Wisconsin have become traditions.
The wonderful web radio giant Pandora.com -- and lesser web radio sites, too -- are reportedly about to be done in by per-song performance royalty rates doubled last year by a federal panel. Pandora's founder says he'll have to shut it down soon if the terms can't be changed. Read the whole story in the Washington Post, and wonder who has it in for the free dissemination of music that we don't know but might like anyway.
Alto saxophonist Greg Osby debuted a sextet with vocalist, electric guitar and vibes at the Village Vanguard, and pianist Lafayette Gilchrist brought an unusually horn-heavy band from Baltimore into (Le) Poisson Rouge, opening for guitarist Vernon Reid's rockin', scratchin' Yohimbe Brothers. Is this the shape of jazz to come?
What's it mean that the back catalogs of record companies documenting 100 years of American music are now wholly owned by the Japanese Sony Corporation, which has bought out Bertelsmann, its German partner in the four-year-old behemoth music corporation Sony BMG?