Charlie Haden, anchoring free play

Dewey Redman. Charlie Haden and Branford Marsali

Charlie Haden, who died July 11 at age 76, was the man who anchored the free flights of many musicians to the foundations of music: rhythm and harmony. This photo by Enid Farber shows how I felt about being around him, Dewey Redman and Edward Blackwell (not pictured; the saxophonist is Branford Marsalis, but the occasion was a Blackwell tribute concert).   Haden was a man who made connections. Ornette Coleman, who Charlie called his guru, was able to extend blues and jazz beyond limits of convention to flights of melodic … [Read more...]

Jazz and beyond “jazz” — NYC to Chicago

ornette, threadgill, murray, roney

Jazz above and beyond established conventions of jazz in and around NYC last month was super abundant -- and I'm going to miss a lot about this scene when I move base of operations to Chicago in mid-July. In the past 30 days I heard:  The Eric Dolphy Freedom of Sound 2-day conference/concerts at Montclair State University, NJ May 30 and 31, the JJA's NYC Jazz Awards party at the Blue Note (with music by Stephanie Richards Trumpet Quartet, beautiful Sheila Jordan singing with great bassist Cameron Brown and for a finale pianist Elio … [Read more...]

NEA 2015 Jazz Masters – who stretched “jazz”

joe segal

The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters of 2015, announced today, are musicians Carla Bley, George Coleman and Charles Lloyd -- all personal favorites who provoked my earliest interests in jazz going beyond "jazz." So here are listening recommendations -- and my special shout out to Jazz Master Joe Segal of Chicago's Jazz Showcase  (receiving the A.B. Spellman Award for Jazz Advocacy) who let teenage me in free to hear real jazz to begin with: Coleman Hawkins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Jimmy Forrest, Sun Ra, Rahsaan, Mingus, great … [Read more...]

Hail visionary Charles Gayle (from The Wire, 1994)


Saxophonist and pianist Charles Gayle has one of the largest, most urgent and original saxophone sounds to be heard since the 1990s. That was 20 years after he moved from Buffalo to NYC and started playing on the streets, then was "discovered," promoted and booked by Michael Dorf, operator of the original Knitting Factory. Today (June 11) Gayle is receiving Lifetime Achievement honors and performing with three ensembles at the 19th Vision Festival. I interviewed and profiled Charles for The Wire in March, 1994 -- and read part 2, as originally … [Read more...]

Attn time-travelers: Dolphy & Ayler this week in NY/NJ


If saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler, icons of bust-loose and beautiful improvisation, were alive today . . .they'd be pleased by and maybe attending the festival and concert in their honor this week in Montclair, NJ and Brooklyn. Dolphy died of undiagnosed diabetes in 1964, and Ayler either jumped or was pushed into the East River in 1970, however their music is imbued with immortal spirit. Eric Dolphy: The Freedom of Sound Festival is an extraordinary convening of musical survivors and admirers of the flutist/bass clarinetist/alto … [Read more...]

Celebrating Ornette! from Philly, in photos

ornette portrait santa

Ornette Coleman, genius musician and major inspiration to this blog and blogger, turned 84 on March 9. His son Denardo threw a family 'n' friends party in celebration, which I was privileged to attend. Denardo graciously allowed me to bring Hungarian photographer Sánta István Csaba, who created this portrait of one of the creative heroes of the 20th and 21st century (and all other photos on this page, but Sound Evidence's image of Ben Schacter and Jamaaladeen Tacuma). Ornette Coleman has exemplified the big, natural, fundamental idea of … [Read more...]

Evolving jazz beyond jazz in March & JazzApril


Leading up to and so far during Jazz Appreciation Month, I've heard some stunning, challenging and engaging if not always 100%, brilliantly revelatory music that goes beyond the strictest (old) definitions of jazz. I'm just getting to post about certain performances (here's a preview: -- having been busy with grassroots organizations and activists in 22 cities publicly celebrating local Jazz Heroes, part of the Jazz Journalists Association's JazzApril efforts to raise media profile of jazz (broadly defined) throughout especially the USA, … [Read more...]

What’s April for jazz?


We're past April Fools Day  so I can safely say "Happy JazzApril" --  a shorthand hailing Jazz Appreciation Month (April, so designated in 2001 by the Smithsonian), culminating in International Jazz Day (April 30, first celebrated  in 2012 by UNESCO as advised by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz). These officialized jazz occasions -- IJD with an all-star concert to be webcast live from Osaka, Japan, JAM with US gov't sanction, and both events endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- are good opportunities for jazz enthusiasts to … [Read more...]

“The Point Being” be here now with all you’ve got: Ray Anderson & Sarah Weaver

Bloom Lake Anderson Zollar

Trombonist Ray Anderson and composer/conductor Sarah Weaver at Roulette last Sunday hit a collaborative sweet spot. Their unusually mixed, all-star ensemble at Brooklyn's creative music concert hall wove highly individualized solos into a continuous 50-minute set based on loose, humorous writing and spontaneous textural swells.  Photographer Sánta István Csaba took photos while I just listened -- also to the opening piece performed by Slide Ride, the four-man trombone unit in which Anderson takes part. Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, … [Read more...]

A weekend alt-guitar fest (photos)


The New York Guitar Festival this past weekend (Jan 17-19) featured master classes and three nights of "alternative guitar summits" curated by composer-guitarist Joel Harrison at the performance space Subculture. Photos by Sánta István Csaba from Friday night's 30-minute sets by four trios, show the young men (all men) in the throes of plectralism and drumming -- and the audience digging it. Introducing Will Bernard and the Pleasure Drones, playing rockin' surf jazz -- familiar bluesy chords sequenced for suspense and dramatic … [Read more...]

NEA 2014 Jazz Masters’ investiture photo gallery

Jimmy Owens and Kenny Barron playing a piece by the late Frank Wess at the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters ceremony

Photographer Sánta István Csaba flew from Budapest to attend the NEA's 2014 Jazz Masters awards ceremony, and here are some of his fresh images. I'm reporting about the event for Down Beat, so must reserve most of my comments prior to publication. The entire three-hour event can be watched at the NEA's website. However, many controversies could arise from the program. The most notable within the Allen Room itself as the evening unfolded concerned new Jazz Master Anthony Braxton's 40+ minute peroration. I've followed Braxton's … [Read more...]

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

henry butch 2

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


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...]