Chicago Jazz Festival ’13, in Marc PoKempner’s photos

Rudresh expresses appreciation of the crowd

Photo-journalist Marc PoKempner, a long-time collaborator and one of my bffs, has a clear eye as well as a sharp ear for music. He captured some of the diversity and vigor of the 35th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, August 28 - Sept 1  2013. Click on these photos for the better, enlarged view.             Marc knows what he likes: Irresistible dance music and genuinely moving what-have-you. It's always fun to ride with him, looking and … [Read more...]

New Orleans’ post-modern piano professor Jon Batiste and his “harmoniboard”

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Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human were among the emerging young charismatics vying to revitalize jazz at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival, August 10th and 11th, and as a post-modern New Orleans piano professor  of "social music" he approached his art from many directions. A scion of five-generation Louisianan musical royalty, 26-year-old Batiste can boogie, rock, play out, get traditional -- he sings, jams, comps and sometimes fronts with what he calls his "harmoniboard." Aka "melodica." And people like it. What's not to like? Though it's … [Read more...]

Bluesman Buddy Guy @ 77 years young

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"People don't know the blues," guitarist/singer/songwriter Buddy Guy, who turned 77 today, told a packed house at Iridium Jazz Club  in NYC last night. The show was video-taped, presumably for a PBS showing next fall. "They say the blues is sad, but when B.B. King sings 'I got a sweet little angel, I love the way she spreads her wings,' I don't know what's sad about that." Guy's own set, featuring his tight quintet, two backup singers and guest guitarists Quinn Sullivan (his amazing 14-year-old protege) and Gary Clark Jr., featured songs … [Read more...]

My BBC Newshour riff on Cecil Taylor, Kyoto Award winner

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Last night I improvised a profile of Cecil Taylor for BBC Newshour (June 21, "Severe Flooding in India"), on the announcement that the great pianist/composer/improviser has been honored with the prestigious, $500,000 Kyoto Award. My triptych Miles Ornette Cecil - Jazz Beyond Jazz, of course, includes a lot of my writing/thinking on Cecil -- who I aver is and will be known widely for a long time by that one name alone --  but I get fresh enthusiasm and ideas about music (not only his music, but certainly that) whenever I listen to or even just … [Read more...]

Kyoto prize to pianist/improviser Cecil Taylor

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Cecil Taylor, whose intense, lengthy and complex piano improvisations have redefined jazz and redesigned his instrument, has been awarded the 2013 Kyoto Prize for "Arts and Philosophy: Music." Former recipients include Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Witold Lutoslawski and Nikolaus Harnoncourt -- all musicians/composers of Western European classical lineage. Prizes for individuals who have "contributed significantly to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and … [Read more...]

New portraits of late, great jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller

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Some places news still travels slowly: Photographer Sánta István Csaba, based in Budapest, just learned of the untimely death on May 29 of  pianist and educator Mulgrew Miller, and sent three portraits of the highly regarded, largely beloved man that Mulgrew's people will want to see:                 Santá explains: Just came back from Transylvania and usually I'm isolated from all the news when I'm there. In January I met Mulgrew two times, once in the Dizzy's … [Read more...]

Delmark Records turns 60 — deep in the catalog’s classics

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Congrats to Bob Koester, indie owner and producer of Chicago's Delmark Records, on the label's 60th anniversary, which it celebrated over the weekend -- and lucky are listeners to jazz beyond jazz for the broad yet niche-like taste that has informed his Quixotic efforts from the start. Not that I was there in 1953. No -- I discovered Koester's Jazz Record Mart (the old location on Grand Ave.) the day after Christmas 1967, becoming quickly, completely absorbed in the vast, vivid, unexpected worlds of music and culture the tiny shop seemed to … [Read more...]

The localization of International Jazz Day

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I'm just thrilled UNESCO partnered with the Monk Institute to produce the second International Jazz Day, April 30 -- the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month (so designated by the Smithsonian Institute) and what the Jazz Journalists Assoc., over which I preside, called JazzApril. The rest of this post might be considered self-promoting, 'cause I'm going to kvell over how the JJA celebrated the localization of this global event and why I think it's important. So read on only if you're interested in Louis Armstrong, trumpet music, Jazz Heroes, … [Read more...]

Jazz Day reasons to be cheerful

Jazz Heroes, designated in 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association and 25 local North American communities

On the second International Jazz Day, let's celebrate -- 1) A glorious legacy of enduring music; 2) The dedication to the art form of musicians and their supporters now, worldwide; 3) The recognition by government officials and institutions of jazz as an entity that will not be silenced or co-opted; 4) Access as never before, via the internet, to jazz historical and present; 5) The rise of jazz education 6) The widespread popularity of jazz festivals 7) Jazz that retains its essence while inviting, embracing, absorbing … [Read more...]

Jazz composers @ the Buffalo Philharmonic Orch – JazzApril week 4

Jazz composers listen to classicalists' feedback

Five jazz-associated composers took on the heady task of writing eight-minute works for full symphonic forces, introduced to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and worked up for performance by conductor Matt Kraemer on Tuesday and Wednesday this past week, thanks to Earshot /Jazz Composers Orchestra Initiative, organized by American Composers Orchestra. As an "embedded journalist" (along with Frank J. Oteri, founder and editor of NewMusicBox.org) I observed the whole process closely, privy to private critiques and discussions composers Gregg … [Read more...]

Jazz videos for troubled times, JazzApril week 3

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Is it hard to sustain four weeks of Jazz Appreciation Month? With the defeat of gun-control measures, bombings in Boston, ricin attacks on the President, fertilizer explosions in Texas -- promotion of jazz as a positive cultural entity might have seemed less than relevant. But when I addressed students at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, as a substitute for temporarily ailing vocalist Lisa Sokolov, the value of jazz to America (and the world) seemed as powerful as ever. I've subbed for Lisa before, and enjoy introducing … [Read more...]

William Parker, my DownBeat feature from 1998

Howard Mandel c 1998/published by DownBeat, July 1998, under headline Beneath the Underdog (the editor's reference to Charles Mingus's autobiography): There's an anchor for New York's downtown free jazz and improv "wild bunch": his name is William Parker. The steadfast bassist has a huge, deep-rooted sound and concept, tied to more than 25 years of hard-won experience in the noble if often misunderstood, under-appreciated and underestimated world of the avant garde--a term he uses without pause. "If jazz is the underdog, avant garde jazz … [Read more...]

Matthew Shipp, my feature for The Wire, 1998

This is a complete version of the feature on pianist Matthew Shipp I wrote for The Wire, published in February, 1998 Is this the face of New York's jazz avant now? Pianist Matt Shipp's mug can be wide open, inquisitive, or guardedly blank, his expressions range from the distracted to the transcendent. On the street, he may appear deep in thought; call his name, and he looks up, preternaturally awake, bright and alert, as though he's been watching you right along. Up close in conversation, Shipp is by quick turns chuckling, quirky, candid, … [Read more...]