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The National Endowment for the Arts has been directed by the US House Appropriations Committee in its report to Interior to continue the American Jazz Masters Fellowships and dump its proposed American Artists of the Year honors. The report also supports continuation of the NEA's National Heritage Fellowships program (but not its Opera Honors) and recommends a 2012 NEA budget $19.6 million less than it got in 2011, $11.2 million below what the NEA asked for.
July 12, 2011 5:10 PM | | Comments (1)
md_horiz.jpg"Life is glorious and vibrant and joyous at points, but it is essentially tragic. That's not a unique David Simon perspective." So sayeth David Simon, (pictured left; right is a Mardi Gras Indian portrayed by Clarke Peters), executive producer with Eric Overmyer of Treme, in a long interview on Salon conducted by Matt Zolar Seitz.  The HBO series about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which ended its second season last Sunday night, is unique as a musical drama for its grounding of psychologically acute and entertaining characterizations in a verifiably real social context -- an accomplishment attributable to Simon's hard-boiled yet compassionate philosophy and journalistically-influenced creative practices. It's all laid out in the interview, which also makes a strong case for the centrality of cities to the future of America.
July 5, 2011 1:29 PM | | Comments (0)
"Do Watcha Wanna," the season finale of Treme, had everything I watch the series for: 

  • Compelling characters embodied by terrific actors; 
  • plausible and suspenseful quick-cutting across and interweaving of plot strands;
  • confident command of realities afflicting post-Katrina/pre-Gulf oil spill New Orleans, and
  • the extraordinary depiction of living, breathing, hugely enjoyable music as a central factor in peoples' lives, whether or not they're professionally involved.
July 4, 2011 2:11 PM | | Comments (3)
The American Composers Orchestra readings of short symphonic works by jazz-oriented composers which I wrote of in my CityArts column and posted about here are now available to hear, thanks to Lara Pelligrinelli at NPR's A Blog Supreme. The 23rd annual BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra concert, featuring "New Works for Big Band" and the naming (not yet publicized) of the winner of the 11th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize. I'm looking for a third item regarding really large scale opportunities for jazz composers (and listeners), but the student competitions, festival appearances, and other emanations of a tradition which by the logic of the marketplace ought to be pretty much over are too plentiful to start to mention (ok, here's one: Savannah's 6th Annual Patriotic Big Band Salute on July 4 starring Jeremy Davis and the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra).
July 3, 2011 10:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Jazz and its evolution goes on everywhere - as bass guitarist/bandleader/composer/producer Yacoub Abu Ghosh explained and demonstrated to me in Amman, Jordan last March. Ghosh and his Stage Heroes performed at their weekly gig at Canvas Cafe Restaurant Art Lounge. His new album As Blue As The Rivers of Amman is due to drop July 2. 

June 29, 2011 5:46 PM | | Comments (0)
The American Composers Orchestra gave eight jazz-oriented composers a year to work up five minute pieces and composer-mentors to help, then staged readings conducted by George Manahan during one of the busiest weeks of the jazz summer. Read about it in my latest CityArts column.

Harris Eisenstadt, drummer and composer, and his score for "Palimpset" - photo courtesy of ACO. Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies partnered on this project.
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June 27, 2011 10:07 PM | | Comments (0)
The National Endowment for the Arts's final designated Jazz Masters are all worthy: drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Von Freeman, bassist Charlie Haden, singer Sheila Jordan and trumpeter-educator-organizer-gadfly Jimmy Owens have had long and profoundly influential if not broadly celebrated or financially rewarded creative careers. So much the worse that this 30 year program highlighting genuine American artistic heroes has been zeroed out in the 2012 budget, to be replaced by proposed "American Artist of the Years Awards" that will toss jazz musicians into a mix including every kind of artist working in the performing arts (defined as dance, music, opera, musical theater and theater), with a de-emphasis on long-demonstrated artistry (I've blogged about this in detail previously). 

The Jazz Masters announcement was made in conjunction with announcements of new NEA National Heritage Fellowships and NEA Opera Honors recipients; both those programs have also been eliminated in the NEA's 2012 budget.
June 24, 2011 9:16 AM | | Comments (3)
I turned to the recordings of Gil Scott-Heron after writing that he should have and did known better than to abuse drugs as he did, leading to his decline and demise. They make me ever more impressed with his scope and intensity, in both long ago and recent work. His 2010 recording "Me and the Devil" fully justifies the black and white zombie pulp of the video by Coodie and Chike that accompanies it. It's a horror song of a burned out, psychotic soul, a new link in an American tradition running from Edgar Allan Poe through Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf to Jim Thompson, George Romero and Martin Scorsese.

May 29, 2011 3:18 PM | | Comments (2)
Gil Scott-Heron, dead at age 62, was a poet, prophet and spokesperson of the black urban American experience. A merciless and unsentimental truth-teller when he emerged on the scene in the '70s, by telling Afro-identified kids dancing to Motown and grooving on psychedelic rock that "the revolution will not be televised" he meant that the real revolution in Civil Rights and human conduct was not a show, that those who wanted to make it happen or enjoy its results had to liberate themselves from sitting on the couch zoning out, that there was dirty work ahead.

I heard him in 1970 at Colgate University on a bill with the Last Poets -- one reason why the rise of poetry slams and rap didn't seem like anything new to me when they came along a decade later. I didn't listen to him much, but I heard and mostly respected what he had to say -- and anyway, Scott-Heron's message wasn't aimed at me. I admire that he reached his target audience, without compromising his vision.
May 29, 2011 8:41 AM | | Comments (2)
The NEA zeroes out its Jazz Masters program, the Grammys cuts categories so pop best-sellers regain prominence vis a vis less obviously commercial stars, but the Jazz Journalists Association's 15th annual Jazz Awards -- to be held June 11, 2011 with an afternoon gala with all star music at City Winery, NYC, satellite parties hosted by prominent fans and grass roots organizations around the U.S. and streaming live video on the web at -- hails loud and clear the achievements of the jazz music and media makers. (See that website for a list of all the nominees).   

maria schneider &.jpeg
Pianist Randy Weston, trumpeter Wallace Roney's Sextet, soprano sax/flutist Jane Bunnett with pianist Hilario Duran, and the Hammer Klavier Trio from Hamburg will play up a storm at the gala to further demonstrate the power and beauty of what we're talking about. This photo of orchestra leader Maria Schneider the year she won four Jazz Awards shows what such honors can mean to a musician.
May 23, 2011 1:00 PM | | Comments (1)


Jazz Beyond Jazz

What if there's more to jazz than you suppose? What if jazz demolishes suppositions and breaks all bounds? What if jazz - and the jazz beyond, behind, under and around jazz - could enrich your life?


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Howard Mandel HM2.for%20web.jpg I'm a Chicago-born and New York-based writer, editor, author, arts producer for National Public Radio -- for more than 30 years, a freelance arts journalist working on newspapers, magazines and websites, appearing on tv and radio, teaching at New York University and elsewhere. I'm president of the Jazz Journalists Association. more

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Archives: 349 entries and counting

Interviews & Articles

Rashied Ali (1935 - 2009), multi-directional drummer, speaks 

A 1990 interview with drummer Rashied Ali, about his relationship with John Coltrane.

On The Corner program notes, Merkin Hall concert 5/25/09 

Miles Davis intended On The Corner to be a personal statement, an esthetic breakthrough and a social provocation upon its release in fall of 1972. He could hardly have been more successful: the album was all that, though it has taken decades for its full impact to be understood.

Joe Zawinul at 65, The Wire 

Interview with Joe Zawinul, The Wire, 1996

Jazz Festivals 

....good for cities, musicians, audiences. Hear it on NPR audio_icon.gif

The Makers of Jazz Beyond Jazz 
Over the course of three decades, I've been privileged to get behind the scenes and meet heroic creators of jazz as well as up-and-comers, innovators and exemplars of many other genres. Please enjoy these archival interviews and articles.

more A & I


Jazz Beyond Jazz
Matt Kassell's Cold Jazz
Ted Panken's Today Is The Question
George Colligans Jazz Truth
David Hadju's The Famous Door
Matt Miller's tuneOUToptIN
Richard Mitnick's Musicsprings
A Blog Supreme (NPR)
George Grella's The Big City
Sebastian Scotney's LondonJazz
Alex W. Rodriguez's Lubricity
All About Jazz blogs
All About Jazz home
Andrea Cantor's JazzInk
The Bad Plus' Do The Math
Bob Lewis' Jazz My Two Cents Worth
Bret Primack, Jazz Video Guy
Jim Macnie's Lament for a Straight Line
Carl Wilson's cross-genre Zoilus
David R. Adler's Lerterland
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music Blog
David Ryshpan's Settled in Shipping
Dean Minderman's St. Louis Jazz Notes
Don Heckman and The International Review of Music
Doug Ramsey's Riffides
Forrest Dylan Bryant's Jazz Observer
Fred Kaplan's Jazz Messenger
Guardian (UK) jazz coverage
Hank Shteamer's Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches
James Hale's Jazz Chronicles
Jazz Foundation of America
Jazz Journalists Association's Jazzhouse
Willard Jenkins' Independent Ear
Kazue Yokoi's exblog (in Japanese)
Larry Blumenfeld's Listen Good
Marc Myers' Jazzwax
Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives
Nate Chinen, The Gig
Neil Tesser, Chicago Jazz Music Examiner
Pamela Espeland's Bebopified
Plastic Sax, Jazz in Kansas City
Peter Hum's JazzBlog
Tim Posgate's Canadian 'jazzlife'
Rock & Rap Confidential
Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz
U of Guelph's Improvisation, Community and Social Practice
Ralph Mirlello's Notes on Jazz

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