The Stone Residency: Harris Eisenstadt’s rhythm/melody feast


Harris Eisenstadt, the subtle and substantive drummer/percussionist/composer, celebrates two decades of investigations and his recent projects at The Stone in NYC Sept. 1 through 6 with a circle of collaborators whose excellence seems to preclude their commerciality. That ain't right, as Eisenstadt and the distinctly creative musicians in his ensembles (including Canada Day and Golden State, both on the Stone residency schedule) make music that's intriguing and melodious. Why originality, a broad and deep musical vocabulary plus ease with form … [Read more...]

Jazz images Made in Chicago: PoKempner sees Steve Coleman, Greg Ward & Onye Ozuzu, Gary Bartz and more

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Marc PoKempner may be best known for his photos of pre-presidential Barack Obama, Chicago's reform mayor Harold Washington and the blues -- but his jazz photography illuminates what we hear by refreshing how we see it. Here are some of his complex compositions in bracing color from the Pritzker Pavilion stage in Millennium Park, incorporating "The Screen" that blows up live video of the events, such as performances in the city's current free-admission Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz series (programmed for the past 11 years by the Jazz … [Read more...]

China, Dave Koz learns, is hot for sax

Dave Koz Zhengzhou with kids 2015

Where will a new jazz audience arise? How about China? Not only have plans been announced to open a Blue Note Jazz Club in Beijing -- since 2012, Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Jason Lee has helped pave the way by booking big name and somewhat lesser-known instrumentalists for tours reaching into "second tier cities" (populations between three and seven million) across the vast country. Lee's most recent import was Billboard chart-topping, oft-Grammy nominated, 25th-year-of-career-celebrating contemporary jazz saxophonist Dave Koz. "I don't … [Read more...]

Ten albums introducing Ornette Coleman’s musical evolution


An outpouring of media tributes has followed my hero Ornette Coleman's death at age 85 on June 11. But many commentators writing of his music -- including good ones like Marc Myers in Jazz Wax and Ben Ratliff of the New York Times -- have focused mostly on Coleman's breakthrough recordings from 1958 and '59, overshadowing music from the last 45 years of his life. This is unfortunate, considering Ornette was an artist of ever-evolving and expanding creativity. So here are ten albums -- not in chronological order -- offering ready entry to … [Read more...]

Ornette Coleman returned music to freedom and basics

Ornette halo

Sad news this morning: Ornette Coleman died at age 85. Triumphant news: Ornette Coleman returned music to its free-from-cant basics, emphasizing emotional communication and intuitive human interactions over any other elements in the dynamic, multi-faceted, immediate art form. I included several interviews with Ornette -- whom I consider the most fascinating and broadly insightful man I've met -- in my book Miles Ornette Cecil -- Jazz Beyond Jazz. I've written about Ornette several times on this blog. My obituary commissioned by National … [Read more...]

Bob Belden’s most personal music: Black Dahlia


Bob Belden, the saxophonist-composer-arranger who died of a heart attack May 20 at age 58, was an enormously gifted, brave, original and productive musician. Last February he led his band Animation on a four-day performance tour of Iran, the first American to do so since 1979 -- and videos he created with Bret "Jazz Video Guy" Primack, one of which I've embedded below, provide clear examples of his individualistic, iconoclastic point-of-view. I admire and enjoy Belden's album Miles From India, and several of his other jazz-related … [Read more...]

Jazz Chicago this week — starting with NEA Jazz Master Joe Segal


Too much jazz in Chicago this week to write at length about it all, but also too much to ignore: Congrats to Joe Segal, proprietor of the Jazz Showcase forever, at various spots, inducted as an NEA Jazz Master. I owe Joe Segal big time, as he encouraged my 17-year-old interests in jazz and even let me in free to hear jazz masters of the years gone by, especially tenor saxophonists Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Forrest, Coleman Hawkins. . .and Sun Ra. This had me coming back for more. . . Such as Dee … [Read more...]

Bernard Stollman’s ESP disks: Medici of ’60s beyond jazz

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Bernard Stollman, record producer of Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman, the Fugs, Sun Ra and many other iconoclastic musicians of the 1960s up to now on his ESP Disk ur-indie record label, died April 19 at age 85. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stollman -- as well as Marzette Watts, Milford Graves and Frank Lowe -- about ESP for The Wire in 1997, and have posted the resulting article in my sidebar "Interviews." Subscribe by Email | Subscribe by RSS | Follow on Twitter All JBJ posts | … [Read more...]

Big money for campus buildings for music


Last week big money was donated to construction of music buildings for two major U.S. universities. An anonymous Princeton alumni couple have pledged $10 million for a new music building at the New Jersey campus, and the University of Missouri has received $10 million, its largest gift ever for fine arts, from Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield for a proposed School of Music building. Of course, not a penny of that $20 mil goes to musicians, and musicians trained in those spaces may find that funds for their future careers are a bit tight, too. The … [Read more...]

Ann Meier Baker, NEA director of Music and Opera, on her new job and NEA Jazz Masters


I'm pleased to have interviewed Ann Meier Baker, who was appointed last October as the National Endowment for the Arts' director of Music and Opera – a position that includes responsibilities for the U.S.'s federal support of jazz, such as the induction of NEA Jazz Masters, celebrated with a live-streamed concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 20. Ms. Baker follows Wayne Brown, who left the Endowment after 16 years to become president and CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. She took up her post in January 2015, … [Read more...]

Guggenheim fellows include jazz-beyond-jazz creators


Four stellar jazz-beyond-jazz musicians -- orchestra composer-leader Darcy James Argue, trumpeter Etienne Charles, saxophonist Steve Lehman and scholar-composer/improviser-electronics innovator-trombonist George E. Lewis, all practiced stretching the definition of "jazz"without breaking it -- have been named 2015 fellows of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among 175 "scholars, artists, and scientists [a]ppointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise . . .chosen from a group of over 3,100 applicants." The "prior … [Read more...]

Doris Duke Performing Artists and JJA Jazz Heroes: Tale of two honor rolls


Six musicians identified with jazz have been named 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artists receiving $275,000 each, and 24 "Jazz Heroes" have been certified by the Jazz Journalists Association after nominations from local jazz communities across the U.S. Are comparisons between these two very different lists of honorees instructive? The Doris Duke Performing Artists are AACM co-founder-composer-pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, trumpeter-composer Ambrose Akinmusire, innovative big band composer-arranger Darcy James Argue, alto … [Read more...]

Steve Lehman and Cory Smythe as jazz-beyond-jazz artists

Steve Lehman-Cory Smythe

When saxophonist Steve Lehman performs, I try to hear him whatever the setting. His octet, concertizing in Philadelphia for Ars Nova Workshop Saturday, March 21, plays richly microtonal yet melodically entrancing and rhythmically propulsive, synchronized music -- partaking of a concept called "spectralism" -- that brings to mind both Dolphy and Messiaen. In a sax-bass-drums trio, Lehman , honored in 2014 with a Doris Duke Performing Artist fellowship, is the complete, compelling post-modernist. He has genuine affection for and comprehension of … [Read more...]