Tuesday, April 1, 2014

News of Past Guests, April 2014 Edition

April 1st.  No foolin.  On NPR's A Blog Supreme today, Lara Pellegrenelli talks to guitarist Matt Stevens (who was just here with Linda Oh Sun Pictures) about his debut album, due out on Concord Jazz later this year. Stevens will also appear with his band on WBGO's The Checkout: Live on Wednesday, April 2 in a concert that will be webcast live (and archived) on NPR Music.

Drummer Rudy Royston (Tom Harrell Quintet, Miles-Versace-Royston Trio), whose new album 303 we noted back in January, is the subject of a feature article by John Murph in this month's Jazz Times.  And that DownBeat cover story on Ambrose Akinmusire we mentioned last month?  Now online.  Ambrose is also interviewed by Josh Jackson on the latest April 8th podcast of WBGO's indispensable The Checkout. (Meanwhile, drummer/bandleader John Hollenbeck [Claudia Quintet] appears with singer Theo Bleckmann on the April 15th edition of The Checkout, discussing their album Songs I Like a Lot.)

The uncategorizable new album of through-composed, Indian-beat-cycle-based, large-ensemble music by drummer Dan Weiss (David Binney, Rez Abbasi), entitled Fourteen, has appeared to rave reviews.

Also just out (on April 15th), the latest by Dave Douglas: Riverside, a collection of music inspired by Jimmy Giuffre, with Canadian brothers Chet and Jim Doxas and legendary bassist Steve Swallow (who played in one of Giuffre's trios).

Past (and future) RJA guests are well represented among this year's Jazz Journalists Association awardees: Joe Lovano took both the Multi-Reeds and Tenor Sax category, Anat Cohen won Clarinetist of the Year, Craig Taborn (Michael Formanek Quartet) was voted top pianist, and Regina Carter is primo--er, prima--among violinists.  Are we surprised?  Readers, listeners: we are not.

Finally: Humboldt's own Bob Doran has gotten around to posting his complete set of photos--great ones--from February's concert by the Omer Avital Quintet.  See for yourself:

Monday, March 3, 2014

News of Past Guests, March 2014 Edition

New albums:
  • Vijay Iyer's ECM debut features music written not for his longtime trio but for piano, electronics and string quartet.  It's called Mutations.  Nate Chinen has a profile of Iyer in the Sunday, March 9 edition of the New York Times, and Chinen and fellow jazz critic Ben Ratliff discuss Iyer and the new album in the latest Times "Popcast."
  • Ambrose Akinmusire's second Blue Note release, the imagined savior is far easier to paint, will be out on March 11th, but it's currently streaming (in preview) courtesy of NPR Music's "First Listen." (We hear tell It's official: Ambrose also graces the cover of the April DownBeat.  AND he was recently interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered.)
  • And even though Omer Avital's new one, New Song, won't be out on CD in the States until summer, the digital-download version is available now from all the usual suspects (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play)--and, for audiophiles, in 24-bit/88.2 kHz "Studio Master" format from Qobuz.
  • On his latest release, Multiplicity: Leave the Door Open, the prolific guitarist Joel Harrison co-leads a group with Indian sarod master Anupam Shobhakar. The rest of the band: Gary Versace (Miles-Versace-Royston, John Abercrombie Organ Trio), Hans Glawischnig (Miguel Zenon Quartet), and Dan Weiss (David Binney Group, Rez Abbasi's Invocation Quintet), plus special guests including David Binney.
  • Finally: everybody's talking about the new album, Southern Comfort, by our final guest this season (in a co-presentation with Center Arts), violinist Regina Carter.  NPR ran a feature on All Things Considered, and the Wall Street Journal did a long review (well, okay--it's a double-review, of Southern Comfort and Vijay Iyer's Mutations).

Speaking of Omer Avital: it was great to see Friend of the RJA Bob Doran show up with the "big" camera slung over his shoulder for the first time since...oh, you know.  The preliminary evidence is right here.  (And here's hoping there'll be more!)

Rene Marie is always busy.  This time it's an appearance on NPR's Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater, as part of the vocal trio "Two Skirts and a Shirt," with Allan Harris and Carla Cook.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

News of Past Guests, February 2014 Edition

Catching Up On Our Reading Dept.: There's a really nice profile of trumpeter Tom Harrell in the January DownBeat, which is now available online.  The prolific composer/bandleader/recording artist, whose Colors of a Dream made our Top 10 list for last year, will have two albums out in 2014, and he's currently writing for and performing with at least four different groups.  What does he want to do next? "As [Gerry] Mulligan said, 'I just maybe want to play one more tune.'"

Meanwhile, over at Peter Hum's Jazzblog.ca, hosted by the Ottawa Citizen, Doug Fischer has a lengthy and engaging interview with guitarist John Abercrombie, whose latest album 39 Steps came out last year on ECM.

Last month we told you about drummer Rudy Royston's new album; this month it's another long overdue debut by a top-drawer drummer: Jeff Ballard, co-leader of the FLY trio, has released Time's Tales on the revived "Okeh" label. His trio is rounded out by guitarist Lionel Loueke and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

News of Past Guests, January 2014 Edition

Is the 26th of the month too late to wish you a Happy New Year?  Probably.  Our excuse: we're still recovering from our second annual Jazz Connect-slash-WinterJazzFest trip to New York, where we hobnobbed with musicians, writers, and assorted jazz geeks, and heard (are you ready?) the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet, The Cookers, the Melissa Aldana Crash Trio, Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project, Nate Wooley's Seven Storey Mountain, a few minutes of the Mary Halvorson Septet, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Ben Goldberg's Unfold Ordinary Mind, Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, Theo Bleckmann & Ben Monder, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Ralph Alessi's Baida Quartet, Slavic Soul Party doing Duke Ellington, Mark Helias Open Loose, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, a few minutes of Henry Threadgill's Butch Morris tribute, the Miguel Zenon Quartet, the Oran Etkin Quartet, the Fred Hersch Trio, Regina Carter's Southern Comfort, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition, and the Torben Waldorff Quartet.  (Tired yet?  So were we.)

The very nature of WJF--where brilliant music is happening in six different places at once--is that unless you're multidimensional or come equipped with a Calvin and Hobbes "Duplicator," you end up passing on a whole lot of fantastic stuff.  (Hence the occasional "few minutes" qualifiers above.) Among the sets we most hated missing:  René Marie and her trio, augmented by the horns of Etienne Charles and Wycliffe Gordon, at the impossibly tiny Zinc Bar. René's December 2013 Jazz Times cover story is now available to read online.

Otherwise, January is a slow jazz-news month.  We'll keep our news-feed tuned to tonight's Grammys to see how Donny McCaslin and Fred Hersch (both nominated for "Best Instrumental Jazz Solo") fare.  [Update, January 29: darn that Wayne Shorter!] And we'll look forward to February, when drummer Matt Wilson--who we hear is planning big things for his 50th birthday this year--begins hosting Playdate on Newark's WBGO, one of the premiere jazz stations in the country. (The idea behind Playdate?  To uncork some of the hundreds of hours of vintage live performances that have been ageing in WBGO's caves.  We can't imagine a more delightful curator/sommelier than Matt.  All the programs will be archived as free podcasts, just like the excellent Checkout.)

Matt's Quartet (with Jeff Lederer, Kirk Knuffke, and Chris Lightcap, with special guest John Medeski) has also just released the first must-buy album of the new year, Gathering Call.  Two words:  it swings.  Okay, four:  it swings like hell.  Samples at Amazon & iTunes, but if history is any guide, it should soon be available for purchase & streaming at the Palmetto Records website.

Also out with a new album--his first, incredibly enough, as a leader:  everybody's-go-to-drummer Rudy Royston, who's visited Humboldt County in the company of trumpeters Ron Miles and Tom Harrell, and who currently holds the drum chair in Dave Douglas's quintet.  303 (the area code for Denver, where Royston lived in his formative years) is out on Douglas's Greenleaf Music label. Rudy is also the guest on the latest Greenleaf Music podcast, "A Noise from the Deep."

And last (for now) but not least in the "New Album" Department: Phronesis, whose new disc, Life to Everything, recorded live at last fall's London Jazz Festival (just weeks after their appearance at the Morris Graves), drops in April, but can be pre-ordered now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

News of Past Guests, December Edition

Happy, Happy.  (You know: holidays.)

Notice anything funny about the sky last night? Ben Allison's new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today (with Steve Cardenas, guitar; Brandon Seabrook, guitar and banjo; and Allison Miller, drums), is out today, and you can buy it and stream it on Ben's website.  The band played live on WNYC's Soundcheck last Tuesday, November 26th (player embedded below), and they were featured on NPR's All Things Considered on December 1st.  "Audacious sci-fi jazz," the Denver Post calls this music.

Elsewhere on the airwaves: saxophonist Noah Preminger was in the studios of Newark's WBGO a few weeks ago, playing and promoting his latest album, Haymaker, on The Checkout.  You can hear the show by clicking that link just a few words back, and you can hear the entire album at the Palmetto Records website.  Anat Cohen (see last month's post) came to the same studio a few weeks later with her brothers Avishai and Yuval to perform live selections from their new album Tightrope.

We've already told you about René Marie's new stunner--it will almost certainly top our "Best of 2013" list--but you should go back/scroll down and have a look-n-listen for yourself if you missed our previous postRené lights up the cover of the December issue of Jazz Times, and if history is any guide, that cover story should be available on the JT website in a few weeks.

Every month, WBGO and NPR Music team up to broadcast/podcast Live at the Village Vanguard. Several past RJA guests have been featured on the program since it started up a few years back (if you check out our artist web pages, you've probably heard some of those performances already), and coming up on December 10th at 5:30 Pacific Time, it's drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade, who came to the Arcata Playhouse last spring as part of Joel Harrison's Spirit House, and who will appear on LATVV with his long-running Fellowship Band.  As you can well imagine, the show has an awesome archive.

The Grammy nominations are out, and while cats in the jazz world often complain that the people who make those nominations don't know much about jazz, this year, at least, they got one thing right, nominating Donny McCaslin in the "Best Improvised Solo" category for his burning solo on "Stadium Jazz," from his latest album Casting for Gravity. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

News of Past Guests, November Edition

If we'd been keeping up with WBGO's excellent program, The Checkout (one of the places we go regularly to, um, check out what's new in contemporary jazz), we'd have known when we last posted that Ralph Alessi had been featured on the September 25th episode, talking about his new album, Baida, and about illustrious bandleaders with whom he's worked as a sideman. Listen to the segment by following the link above.  And while you're there, why not subscribe to The Checkout's podcast?

Phronesis appeared at Finland's Pori Jazz Festival last summer, and YLE Radio 1 has just posted an audio stream of their 59-minute set.  Listen to it right here until November 21.

Drummers Ches Smith (Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth) and Gerald Cleaver (Michael Formanek Quartet) are both profiled in the November issue of Jazz Times, which typically puts much of the content from its print edition online after a lag of several weeks. The Jazz Times website is also a good place to go for archived articles and breaking news, like this report of Vijay Iyer's imminent ECM debut and the debut performance of Myra Melford's "Language of Dreams," commissioned by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and featuring her new group "Snowy Egret."

Speaking of online content: Dave Douglas's "Listening Test" (from Jazz Times' October issue) has just gone live. Dave shows off his good ears and his broad knowledge of jazz history.

Remember that René Marie Eartha Kitt tribute we told you about last month, I Wanna Be Evil?  It's out, and we're pretty sure it's her best album yet.  (RJA bump? She penned the liner notes just days after her date at the Graves.)  You can find a couple of short video teasers for the album on YouTube, along with this full-length performance of "I'd Rather Be Burned As a Witch," the scorcher that opens the album (as always, we recommend changing the video quality to 1020 HD and watching in full-screen mode):

René talks about making the album on the November 12th edition of Jeffrey Siegel's "Straight No Chaser" podcast (don't be thrown by the two-minute silence after the theme music).  And speaking of podcasts, here's something we didn't mention earlier: this past summer, René did a 19-episode podcast for Jazz Times where she talked frankly and off the cuff about music and...well, all kinds of stuff with Lee Mergner. It's a lot of fun, and you can download every 'cast for free at the iTunes store.

The 3 Cohens--Anat, Avishai, and Yuval--have a new album out on the Anzic label called Tightrope.  You can download it at Anzic's Bandcamp store.  Pianist Fred Hersch joins the Cohen on several tracks, including this one:

Anat is also the guest on the latest edition (November 8) of NPR's Piano Jazz.

[Added November 14th:] Trumpeter Tom Harrell's new album on High Note is called Colors of a Dream. Regular members of his quintet are joined by also saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and second bassist Esperanza Spalding, who adds some airy Portuguese vocals to Harrell's classic "Sail Away":

album coverMulti-reedist Marty Ehrlich, meanwhile, has a new album of works for jazz orchestra called A Trumpet in the Morning.  Members of his "Large Ensemble" include several other RJA visitors: pianist Uri Caine and bassist Drew Gress (Uri Caine Trio), trumpeter Ron Horton (Ben Allison's Man Size Safe), and drummer Matt Wilson.

Ben Allison.And speaking of Ben Allison: Ben will be performing with his new quartet (which comprises Steve Cardenas, guitar; Brandon Seabrook, guitar and banjo; and Allison Miller, drums) on WNYC's Soundcheck on Tuesday, November 26th, in support of the band's new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today, due out December 3d (and available in digital format on iTunes and Amazon now).  In the meantime, the Soundcheck blog is streaming a track from the album, "D.A.V.E. (Digital Awareness Vector Emulator)":

Friday, October 25, 2013

When I heard that Vijay Iyer had won a great fellowship and had assumed an endowed chair at Harvard--both achievements announced in the same week!--I was gratified to find this out on the web: his PhD dissertation, available for all to see, read and study. 

How cool.