Jazz beyond Jazz: November 2008 Archives
So much music, so little time -- it's absurd to whittle down this year's "best" recordings to 10, an act that merely bows to convention. Why not 15? 25? 50? -- if there are that many albums that reward repeated listening with enjoyment and revelation.
I make no claims for the following list being definitive -- I haven't yet had a chance to hear once many of the some 1100 promising cds that arrived for consideration of review since November 1 2007. But I guarantee that none of these recommendations are made on the basis of anything except my liking how they sound, and I didn't work directly (write liner notes, pr material or consult) regarding any of them. As always, comments on my choices or choices of your own are invited and I urge you to try some out-of-the-ordinary sounds -- sure beats "Jingle Bells," even by the Million Dollar Quartet -- right away!
The jazziest scene at the second night of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Monk Festival was in the fifth floor atrium, during intermission of simultaneous concerts by pianist Danilo Perez's trio (reprising his cd Panamonk, in the Allen Room) and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra performing members' arrangements of Monk's music in big band settings led by Wynton Marsalis, with featured pianist Marcus Roberts (in more formal Rose Hall).
Between sets all-age, all-hipster-style attendees mingled in the buzzy, high ceilinged room. Especially fashionable young couples gazed out upon the lights of Columbus Circle, Central Park and 59th Street and sometimes at each other. Films of Monk were projected on a large screen while a excitedly engaged, unannounced piano trio, lit but not raised off the floor, jammed on Monk themes. Arrestingly artful album covers of Monk's lps were displayed on stands politely guarded by low ropes; high end drinks and snacks were sold at kiosks around which the multi-generational crowd surged. CDs and Monk paraphernalia were available at one table, sponsorship info for J@LC at another, and brewer Doug Moody was pouring free samples of his tasty Brother Thelonious Belgian-style abbey ale at a third. The mood was lively as a village fair, in perhaps unfair contrast to the seriousness of intent palpable at the LCJO's concert, from which I'd come.
The phenomenon of Guitar Hero is unaccountable to most musicians. Why would anyone spend hours miming moves with a fake instrument when given similar time investment you could make music yourself, live, and with friends? Nonetheless, the game is the Christmas season's most highly anticipated music item. As for disappointing early sales reports for "World Tour," its just-released new edition, aren't sales down for everything, everywhere?
Here's my flick at stimulating the music economy -- consumer alerts to recommended new cds by guitar heroes who can really play: David Fiuczynski, Mary Halvorson, Toninho Horta,Charlie Hunter, Bireli Lagrene, plus special mentions of Rez Abassi, Bruce Eisenbeil's Totem and Elvin Bishop.
Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a super-serious-with-a-sense-of-humor Philadelphia-based quartet paying homage to Ornette Coleman with its hot new album This Is Our Moosic.The cd's cover photo cops and mocks the oh-so-cool look of Coleman's earth-shaking quartet on its classic 1960 release This Is Our Music
-- but more impressive is the young band's music, which in its leader's explicit liner notes endorses Coleman's revolutionary "free jazz" concept and in ensemble play expands upon it without being imitative. A nominee for best album of the year?
It's odd that of all the nuances of expression jazz can convey, the thrill of victory and celebration of success is hard to find among the music's classics. Barack Obama's heartening win of the presidency prompts me to search out joyous music, but I can't think of a movement akin to the bells ringing in Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" in the repertoire of Miles, Ornette, Cecil or Coltrane, Mingus, Monk, Bird and Diz, or Ellington, Basie and Goodman. The crowning last chorus of Armstrong's "Tight LIke This" comes to mind, though the satisfaction bespoke in the trumpeter's final ringing notes seems to reflect gratification that's more personal than socio-political. Where's jazz's happy party music?