Gil Scott-Heron, hard-eyed realist, dead of self-inflicted escapism

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 … [Read more...]

Jazz-beyond-rock: Tony Williams addressing today’s emergency

Spectrum Road -- electric guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Jack Bruce, keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Cindy Blackman -- playing high energy, high volume music at the Blue Note (NYC) this weekend inspired by the jazz-rock amalgam the late, great Tony Williams created 40 years ago, seems utterly cutting edge. Or is it just my old ears, getting deaf to quieter subtleties? … [Read more...]

Big fun news: Santana weds Blackman, Herbie & Wayne play


The rare notable jazz wedding to celebrate: Beyond-jazz, rock & Latin guitarist Carlos Santana to drummer Cindy Blackman, who's had a great recording year, issuing Another Lifetime, her smashing tribute to the late Tony Williams) and driving Organ Monk, Greg Lewis's trio album that made my top 10.Santana's best albums after the first one always have had a outward reach -- Abraxis, Caravanserai, his spiritualized rave up Love, Devotion and Surrender with John McLaughlin and organist Larry (Khalid Yasin) … [Read more...]

Seasonal electricity: jazz “fusion” in NYC

Fusion, fission, energy and virtuosity reign supreme over coming holiday weeks as jazzers beyond genre constraints fill New York clubs. Starting tonight (Dec. 9) double-necked guitar madman Dave Fiuczynski fires up Iridium with ripping alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and jam-band idol John Medeski on keybs; jazz sambas and tangos, ex-Milesian Mike Stern and smooth trumpeter Chris Botti, soul-drench organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and the Bad Plus follow. Details here, at my new column for City Arts-New York. And below -- Fuze, vocalist Dean … [Read more...]

Italy here I come

The Siena Jazz Workshop has me present my book Miles Ornette Cecil - Jazz Beyond Jazz (buy it for your Kindle!) Sunday, July 25 at 10 am (yes, in Siena, Italy). Can you suggest unmissable music in Tuscany (or Vetirbo through July 31? … [Read more...]

Miles’ beyond jazz, today and tomorrow

Miles Davis is still at it -- in Prospect Park, the Highline Ballroom, (le) Poisson Rouge, Carefusion Jazz Festival's Carnegie Hall concerts, also overflowing the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as per my City Arts - New York column and enriching the glorious Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (June 25 - July 5).  Though he died of exacerbated living at age 65 in 1991, the influence of Miles' trumpet and his breakthrough "directions in music" vibrates through urbane international cultural as strongly now as ever. … [Read more...]

Mike Zwerin, jazz journalist, musician, bon vivant dies at 79

A trombonist in Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool band, memoirist whose The Parisian Jazz Chronicles set a standard for wit and candor in self-examination, and writer for the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg News, Mike Zwerin died April 2 in Paris, where he'd lived since 1969. Recipient in 2009 of the Jazz Journalists Association's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award, Mike was an inspiration ever since I read his reports from the jazz scene in the Village Voice in the 1960s, and I'm glad to say I got to … [Read more...]

George Avakian, jazz records hero, at 91 speaks of Miles

George Avakian is a jazz hero who's done more than anyone else in the record business ever to ensure America's greatest music endures. Inventor of the reissue, the jazz album, the liner note, producer of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, among others, on his 91st birthday March 15, Avakian gave a fascinating interview to Marc Myers, posted at, Much of it's about re-launching Miles' career. Also, here's Doug Ramsey's report on Avakian from last year. Subscribe by Email | Subscribe by RSS … [Read more...]

best review ever of Miles Ornette Cecil — Jazz Beyond Jazz

I'm humbled by writer-poet-performance artist Kirpal Gordon's appreciation of and insight into my book on the avant garde through the models of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, in the just-posted NOLA issue of Big Bridge magazine. He's captured my intent and says I accomplished what I meant to. See if you agree. Subscribe by Email or RSS All JBJ posts … [Read more...]

Cecil and Miles in NYC (and India)

Taylor, the pianist beyond genre (age: 80) and still-groundbreaking music of Davis, the trumpeter/conceptualist (dead 18 years) are at major Manhattan venues this week, continuing to provoke and gratify. Cecil Taylor performs at the Blue Note tonight (Thursday, May 28) while "Miles From India," mixing veterans of Davis' electric bands with South Asian improvisers, has a four-night stand at Iridium. And last Monday, Davis' prophetic On The Corner was revisited at Merkin Concert Hall. … [Read more...]

PBS fundraising week: jazz & soul tv abounds

What gets New Yorkers to watch and/or contribute to PBS? Jazz, blues, r&b -- American vernacular music, of course.I assume it's time for WLIW's spring fundraiser, for instance, because "New York Public Television" has scheduled for one evening (March 11) of prime time the smooth r&b couple Ashford and Simpson in performance at Feinstein's at Loews Regency; photogenic trumpeter Chris Botti  performing with John Mayer, Josh Groban, Steve Tyler and the Boston Pops, and the 1959 broadcast "The Sound of Miles Davis," featuring music from the … [Read more...]