Monday, December 26, 2011

RJA Missive

Dear Friends,

Here's hoping your holidays have been full of good food, good
fellowship…and good music.

If Santa didn’t drop enough jazz into your stocking, you might want to
check out some of our favorite CDs of 2011. Bob Doran published an
abbreviated version of our list in last week's North Coast Journal,
but you can find the full list--with links to the record labels'
online stores (and to many other people's year-end picks)--at

And speaking of year’s end: if you're lucky enough to finish 2011
with a little extra money, and magnanimous enough to give some of it
away, then we hope you’ll consider including the Redwood Jazz Alliance
in your year-end plans. Ticket sales pay slightly more than one-third
of our program costs, so we count on the generosity of the community
to make up the difference. And since we’re a 501(c)(3) charity, your
donation to the RJA is tax-deductible. You can mail a check to P.O.
Box 4443, Arcata CA 95518 or give online at

More than anything else, though, we hope you'll support the music by
coming out to hear it. "These days," said Sonny Rollins in October,
accepting his Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement in
performing arts, "we need anything to make America a greater place,
and jazz does that."

Our season resumes March 1 with drummer Harris Eisenstadt and his
group Canada Day.

Until then, may your 2012 be filled with Bright Moments.

---The RJA

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Loralei's Picks

Top 10 2011 – Loralei Saylor

1. Steven Lugerner, “Narratives,” self-released

2. Verneri Pohjola, “Aurora,”

3. Chris Dingman, “Waking Dreams,” self-released

4. Rene Marie, “Black Lace Freudian Slip,” Motema

5. Adam Cruz, “Milestone,” Sunnyside

6. Vijay Iyer with Prassana & Nitin Mitta, “Tirtha,” ACT

7. Jason Parker Quartet, “Five Leaves Left: A Tribute to the Music of Nick Drake,” Broken Time

8. David Binney, “Graylen Epicenter,” Mythology

9. Ambrose Akinmusire, “When the Heart Emerges Glistening,” Blue Note

10. Ben Allison, “Action-Refraction,” Palmetto

Happy holidays to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bright Moments Playlist for Tonight's Show

Bright Moments with the Redwood Jazz Alliance (Music) with Michael Eldridge
2011-12-23 20:00:00 to 22:00:00

20:01:30-20:05:57 (4:27) Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" composed by John Lennon from "Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O" (CD, Other, 2010, added 2010-12-23) on Palmetto

20:05:57-20:08:59 (3:02) John Zorn "Bikkurim" composed by John Zorn from "Masada Guitars" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2003) on Tzadik

20:08:59-20:13:14 (4:15) Don Byron "Oi Tata" composed by Traditional from "Festival of Light" (CD, Other, 1996) on Six Degrees

20:13:14-20:18:40 (5:26) Frank London Big Band "Oh Hannukah Groove" composed by Trad., arr. London from "Festival of Light, Vol. 2" (CD, Other, 1999) on Six Degrees

20:21:30-20:24:17 (2:47) Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from "Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O" (CD, Other, 2010, added 2010-12-23) on Palmetto

20:24:17-20:34:21 (10:04) Aardvark Jazz Orchestra "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella" from "Bethlehem Counterpoint" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2003) on Aardmuse

20:34:21-20:38:29 (4:08) Eric Reed "Little Drummer Boy" from "Merry Magic" (CD, Other, 2003) on MaxJazz

20:41:12-20:46:04 (4:52) Carla Bley "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" from "Carla's Christmas Carols" (CD, Jazz, 2009, added 2009-12-23) on ECM

20:46:04-20:51:50 (5:46) Steve Rudolph Trio "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" from "Christmas with the Steve Rudolph Trio" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2000) on R&L

20:51:50-20:56:10 (4:20) Geri Allen "Angels We Have Heard On High" from "A Child Is Born" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2011) on Motema

20:56:10-21:00:56 (4:46) Rahsaan Roland Kirk "We Free Kings" composed by Trad., arr. Kirk from "We Free Kings" (CD, Private, 1961) on Mercury

21:02:35-21:08:01 (5:26) Karrin Allyson "The Coventry Carol" composed by Traditional from "A Concord Jazz Christmas" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 1991) on Concord Jazz

21:08:01-21:11:04 (3:03) Chris Potter "O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)" from "A Concord Jazz Christmas 2" (CD, Other, 1996) on Concord Jazz

21:11:04-21:14:34 (3:30) Philip Manuel "Go, Tell It On the Mountain" from "MaxJazz Holiday" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2001) on MaxJazz

21:16:45-21:20:02 (3:17) Jon Ballantyne "Christmas Time Is Here" composed by Vince Guaraldi from "Justin Time for Christmas" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 1995) on Justin Time

21:20:02-21:24:14 (4:12) Ray Charles and Betty Carter "Baby, It's Cold Outside" composed by Frank Loesser from "The Spirit of Christmas" (CD, Other, 2009, added 2009-12-23) on Concord Jazz

21:24:14-21:30:40 (6:26) Duke Pearson "Sleigh Ride" from "Ultimate Jazz Christmas" (CD, Other, 2009, added 2009-12-23) on Blue Note

21:30:40-21:35:23 (4:43) The People's Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City "Dance of the Mirlitons" composed by Tchaikovsky, arr. PPLBB from "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2011) on Tzigane

21:38:23-21:41:34 (3:11) Becca Stevens Band "Walking in the Air" composed by Howard Blake from "Walking in the Air" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2011) on Sunnyside

21:41:34-21:48:02 (6:28) John Zorn "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" from "A Dreamer's Christmas" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2011) on Tzadik

21:48:02-21:55:09 (7:07) Tom Harrell "The Christmas Song" composed by Mel Torme/Robert Wells from "Christmas Songs" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 1993) on Milestone

21:55:09-22:02:37 (7:28) Geri Allen "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" from "A Child Is Born" (MP3/IPOD, Private, 2011) on Motema

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eldridge Weighs In

Hard to top Stratton; I won't try. But here's my humble offering, just the same:

First, 10 of my favorite discs of 2011, in no particular order (well, OK, in alphabetical order):

  • Ben Allison, Action-Refraction (Palmetto)
  • Etienne Charles, Kaiso (Culture Shock)
  • Adam Cruz, Milestone (Sunnyside)
  • Dymaxion Quartet, Sympathetic Vibrations (self-released)
  • Steven Lugerner, Narratives (self-released)
  • Rene Marie, Black Lace Freudian Slip (Motema)
  • Verneri Pohjola, Aurora (ACT)
  • Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)
  • Tunnel Six, Lake Superior (OA2)
  • Sam Yahel, From Sun to Sun (Sunnyside)

And since neither rules nor algorhythms govern the blog, I'll follow with a slew of honorable mentions that I like just about as well as any of the ten discs above:

  • Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note)
  • Bill Carrothers Trio, A Night at the Village Vanguard (Pirouet)
  • Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds)
  • Aaron Goldberg/Guillermo Klein, Bienestan (Sunnyside)
  • Joel Harrison String Choir, Music of Paul Motian (Sunnyside)
  • Orchestre National de Jazz/John Hollenbeck, Shut Up and Dance (Bee Jazz)
  • Noah Preminger, Before the Rain (Palmetto)
  • Matt Slocum, After the Storm (Chandra)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And Here's a Top 20 from RJA Friend Mike Stratton

Michael Stratton has one of the great jazz shows in the States, the "Vinyl Side of Midnight." Sunday nights on WLNZ out of Lansing Community College in Michigan. You can listen live from 6 to 9:00 pm Pacific Time on the web.

Here's his list of the top 20, which is also the playlist for tonight's broadcast. This is a great list of one of biggest set of ears in jazz music.



20) WARREN WOLF (Mack Avenue Records)
In a great year for vibraphones (check out Gary Burton’s New Quartet) Warren Wolf’s debut demands attention. Functioning as one fifth of Christian McBride’s Inside Straight band, this album almost sounds like a continuation of that band.

19) MICHAEL DEASE - GRACE (Jazz Legacy Productions)
The best pure “straight ahead” album I heard this year, Dease proves to be a virtuoso of the trombone, his tone burnished and expressive. Add a crackerjack band with numerous ‘guests’ (Cyrus Chestnut, Roy Hargrove, etc.) and fine batch of compositions and you have a very entertaining hour of music.

18) NORDIC CONNECT - SPIRAL (Artist Share)
Nordic Connect features Ingrid Jensen and her sister Christine as a front line. The music reminds me of the ECM sound of the late ‘70s, only a little more melodic.

The Indo Pak coalition rides again. Piano, guitar and tabla mix improv structure, texture and timbre with sonority. Iyer continues to blaze new trails. His facility with the piano amazes.

16) DARA TUCKER - SOUL SAID YES (Watchman Music)
Some great ingredients of ballads, neo soul, gospel and blues make Dara Tucker’s release a winner, and someone to watch.

I’m a sucker for Hollenbeck’s large orchestra; his writing was solicited by this French company. The music blends Bob Brookmeyer Zappa and Steve Reich and something that is uniquely Hollenbeck. The man can write with humor and heart, one of the great composers of our time.

14) KURT ELLING - THE GATE (Concord Records)
In a banner year for vocal jazz, Elling comes up with another strong offering, covering tunes by Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and Joe Jackson. Laurence Hobgood comes up with some superlative arrangements. Produced by Don Was (!), new head of Blue Note Records.

13) BEN WILLIAMS - STATE OF ART (Verve Records)
Winning the Thelonious Monk competition includes a record contract, and here are the results. MSU alum Ben Williams has made good, and his recording debut is very strong, mixing straight ahead, rap and grooves. Looking forward to a long career from this young bassist and composer.

A singular aesthetic, Gretchen has refined a subtle and sensual approach to jazz vocals. Good mix of originals and covers.

Percussionist Mela has created a program of (mainly) originals that highlights his working band with a guest shot by Esperanza Spalding, his musical compadre in Lovano’s Us Five. The results are a great assortment of percolating rhythms and tunes.

Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca cooks with fire on this strong recording. She stirs in a little N’Awlins flavor at one point, but the main ingredients are South American. Her ability to work a groove is reminiscent of some of the great soul singers of the 1960s.

The ghost of Miles hovers over this double disc set by trumpeter Smith, espescially on the badass back beat opener (dedicated to Don Cherry). Between the blues and the funk there is some old fashioned AACM style avant garde.

8) ROBERTA PIKET - SIDES, COLORS (Thirteenth Note Records)
Brooklyn pianist and composer Piket has one of the freshest releases of the year. At turns pretty (Laurie) and complex (check out the deconstructed gospel dedication to Sam Rivers, My Friends and Neighbors), Roberta is a force to be reckoned with and one to watch.

Jarrett has built a career not just on his superlative trio recordings, but on his solo improv recitals as well. The newest, recorded in Rio (naturally) is maybe his best. Hard to believe that this fountain of ideas is conceived in the moment, so coherent and certain is Jarrett’s playing. Whereas in some of his earliest solo offerings there are extended and roiling sequences, here the pieces are compact and dense. Jarrett has astounding facilities as a pianist, and this may be his best work yet.

Karrin has recorded a string of wonderful albums over the past decade or so, but this one stands alone. Like Frank Sinatra’s “Only The Lonely” or Joni Mithcell’s “Blue”, this recording relentlessly builds a mood for those with a need for expression of the ennui of love lost and longing. A heartbreaker of an album, from a heartbreaking singer.

Like a previous project (Miles From India), Belden collects a small army of musicians (this time of the Hispanic persuasion) to interpret the Gil Evans / Miles Davis collaboration, Sketches of Spain. The double disc allows the conception to expand even further, utilizing some alum from Davis’ groups to romp cross cultures. And such delightful colors, utilizing exotic percussions, strings (Oud! Harp!) and even bagpipes. Not to be missed.

4) ETIENNE CHARLES - KAISO (Culture Shock)
Trinidad trumpeter Etienne Charles combines straight ahead with calypso to create a new and diverse dish. Sure, Blue Mitchell or Sonny Rollins have shown an influence from the isles, but Etienne goes the full monty here, including guest shots from Lord Superior, Ralph MacDonald and Monty Alexander. Another very young talent to watch.

This is a birthday party and a victory lap for octogenarian and living legend Sonny Rollins. Buoyed by a great band (Christian McBride, Roy Haynes and Russell Malone) Rollins is joined at turns by old friends Jim Hall and Bob Cranshaw, with a special guest appearance by Ornette Coleman. This document is a cherry that tops a stellar career.

Imagine Donna Lee as a ballad, or Dewey Square as a percussive rhumba, and you get the notion behind Lovano’s set of Charlie Parker music. Yet another entry in the book of Lovano, who is a perennial in the ‘best of’ lists at year’s end. One of the great sax players of our time, but also has the imagination to consistently find new ways to arrange and display the music of jazz.

1) LAURA KAHLE - CIRCULAR (Dark Key Music)
Laura has been known to refer to this album as ‘my little project’ (see Facebook), such is her modesty. This year may have been devoted to raising twin girls of she and husband Jeff “Tain” Watts, but the creation of this music is also more than noteworthy. This one seemed to get by most critics, but to my ears it’s the best thing I’ve heard in 2011. Why? First of all, the blend of Kahle’s pocket trumpet set against the uber powerful drumming of her husband creates a dynamic that reminds me of Miles and Tony Williams, or Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell. Her ideas are pithy, his funk is furious. This is music not to be missed. Claudia Acuna’s singular contribution is a rose in the forest. Beautiful.

This is the playlist for this week’s Vinyl Side of Midnight, which can be heard on 89.7 FM WLNZ in the Greater Lansing area, or you can tune in internationally on the web on - hosted by Mike Stratton, Sunday nights, 9- midnight, Eastern Standard Time.

Dave's Top Ten List for 2011

Dave Stacey’s Top CDs of the Year

Paul Motian. “Windmills of Your Mind.” (Winter and Winter)

Andrzej Pryzybielski and Oles Brothers. “De Profundis.” (Fenommedia)

Laura Kahle. “Circular.” (Dark Key Music)

Carol Morgan Trio. “Blue Glass Music.” (“Blue Bamboo Music”)

Kate and Anna McGarrigle. “Tell My Sister.” (Nonesuch)

Miles Davis Quintet. “Live in Europe 1967 The Bootleg Series, Volume 1.” (Columbia/Legacy)

Danny McCaslin, “Perpetual Motion.” (Greenleaf Music)

Etienne Charles, “Kaiso.” (Culture Shock Music)

Dave Holland & Pepe Habichuela. “Hands.” (Dare2 Records)

Joel Harrison String Choir. The Music of Paul Motian. (Sunnyside Records)

Verneri Pohjola “Aurora.” (ACT Music)

Steven Lugernet Septet, “Narratives.” (stevenlugerner0

Lina Allemano Four. “Jargon.” (Lumo Records)

Lynne Arriale, Convergence (Motema)

Live at Birdland - Konitz, Mehldau, Haden, Motian (ECM)

Top Ten Lists from the RJA

Last year's top ten picks here

This year Loralei constructed a complicated algorithm involving all kinds of mathematical operations that go way over my head, but it was cool and it worked and after Bob Doran has published it in this week's North Coast Journal, we will publish it here too.

For now, we have some individual lists to share. Here is the first one, from Michael Quam.

Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2011 (from Michael Quam)

Here’s a list of my ten top favorites from the year. They’re not listed in any ranked order. The list could have been much longer, but the discipline of winnowing it down to ten made me think a little harder about what I especially enjoyed listening to this year.

Orrin Evans, “Captain Black Big Band” (Posi-Tone)

Bill Carrothers Trio, “A Night at the Village Vanguard” (Pirouet)

Patricia Barber, “Monday Night – Live at the Green Mill, Vol. 2” (Fast Atmosphere)

Verneri Pohjola, “Aurora” (ACT)

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, “40 Acres and a Mule” (Zoho)

René Marie, “Black Lace Freudian Slip” (Motéma)

Tom Harrell, “The Time of the Sun” (High Note)

Miguel Zenón, “Alma Adentro” (Marsalis Music)

James Carter Organ Trio, “At the Crossroads” (Emarcy)

Various Artists, “Miles Espanol: New Sketches of Spain” (Entertainment One)


Update: and here we are in the North Coast Journal with our official public list.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Tiptons are coming! The Tiptons are coming!

Happy Holidays! We're officially on holiday break till March 1, but just the same, there are several visiting artists coming through town in the month of December that you should know about. For instance:

On Wednesday, December 7th, "post-jazz" pianist Marco Benevento (of Garage a Trois fame) drops into Humboldt Brews. Last year, Benevento was featured on "The Checkout," NPR jazz flagship station WBGO's weekly podcast:

And on Tuesday, December 13th, Medeski, Martin and Wood drummer Billy Martin teams up with organist Will Blades at Jambalaya Arcata for an evening of tasty jazz-funk grooves.

But the show we're most excited about (okay, partly because we're co-sponsoring it) happens Monday, December 12th, when the Tiptons Sax Quartet (plus drums) takes the stage at the Arcata Playhouse. Lots more info below, and streaming music at -- but suffice it to say that we were elated when the Playhouse approached us about co-presenting this band. We've wanted to bring them back to Arcata ever since we heard them play a mind-blowing but severely under-attended gig at the old Muddy's coffeehouse a few years back.

This powerhouse quartet layers Afrobeat, Algerian rai, and Balkan rhythms over a hard-bop foundation. (They’re also not afraid of singing.) In a recent DownBeat feature, co-founder Amy Denio says that "People of all walks come to our grandmothers next to blue-haired punks." "We have taken the free spirit of jazz," she says, "and are running with it."

Come and catch the spirit. General admission is $15, but for this show, the Playhouse is extending its $13 member discount to RJA members, too.
See you there!

Redwood Jazz Alliance
P.O. Box 4443
Arcata CA 95518

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Laurels from the Press and Fellow Players

Allison Miller's "Boom Tic Boom" (with Jenny Scheinman, Myra Melford, and Todd Sickafoose) rounds out the fall half of our season on October 30.  More to come soon, but in the meantime, you can read all about her here.

If we linked to every interesting thing we found in the jazz blogosphere, we'd try your patience.  But here are two items we can't help passing along:

  • First, in "New Pilots at the Keyboard," New York Times music writer Nate Chinen singles out David Binney Quartet pianist David Virelles as someone who's gone "straight to the top of the class."
  • And in an interview with Ottawa Citizen music writer and blogger Peter Hum, 2009 MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner (and former RJA guest) Miguel Zenon holds forth on other contemporary alto saxophonists, including David Binney.  (Miguel's a big fan.) 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Closer yet!

The David Binney Group will be here this Thursday, October 6 at 8 p.m.
in the Kate Buchanan Room at Humboldt State University. Tickets are
$15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and are now
available at all of our outlets, including the Works in Eureka, and
Wildberries Market, Peoples Records and Wildwood Music in Arcata. You
can also purchase them online at
and at the door.

The David Binney Group workshop is at 10:00 a.m. on Friday the 13th in
room 131 of the HSU Music Building.

A reminder about the Kate Buchanan Room: When we get a big crowd in
there and things heat up, the AC kicks in (and we have no control over
it.) You should probably bring a sweater…

We'll see you Thursday!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

David Binney

Our fall season keeps rolling in less than two weeks with alto
saxophonist David Binney, who plays the Kate Buchanan Room with his
Third Occasion Quartet on Thursday, October 6. Stereophile calls
Binney "one of the most original minds in contemporary music," and we
agree: he's a powerful player and a distinctive composer, a
tremendously influential figure on the modern jazz scene. Tickets for
the show are $15 General Admission and $10 for students and seniors,
and are currently available online at the "Tickets" page of our
website only. (They'll be on sale at Wildberries, Wildwood Music,
People's Records, and The Works by the middle of next week.)

You can read more about David Binney and stream a set by the Third
Occasion Quartet from last year's Newport Jazz Festival at

While we've got your attention, here are two bits of other news:

The Donny McCaslin Group's set from last weekend's Monterey Jazz
Festival is now available for streaming at NPR Jazz:

And we're proud to pass along the word that earlier this week, our
October 2008 guest, drummer Dafnis Prieto, was named a 2011 MacArthur
Fellow (that is, he got a "Genius Grant"). If you're interested, you
can read about it here:

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. (And even though we're pretty
sure we had nothing to do with it, we can't help but point out that
Prieto is the second of our guests to win these laurels: saxophonist
Miguel Zenon was a 2009 winner. Great minds think alike, we

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Up!

We're a week away from the start of our fall season, with the Donny
McCaslin Group coming to town on Thursday, September 15. (We're their
last stop before they play the Monterey Jazz Festival next weekend.)
The concert's in the Kate Buchanan Room at Humboldt State University
and starts at 8 p.m. Ticket prices remain a recession-friendly $15
general admission and $10 for students and seniors and can be
purchased at our newest ticket outlet, Wildberries Market, as well as
the Works in Eureka and Peoples Records and Wildwood Music in Arcata,
online at and at the

Donny and the band will also present a free workshop the day after the
concert, Friday, September 16 at 11 a.m. in room 131 of the HSU Music

Don't forget that you can also purchase season tickets (all six
concerts for the price of five!) online right now (http:// or at the door on the 15th.

You can read more about Donny and the members of his group and check
out streaming audio and video at

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Season; Old and New Friends

Our new season is finally coming out from under wraps--and (if we say so ourselves) you will not hear any better touring jazz musicians 'round here in the coming months than our 2011-12 guests.  Have a look--and a listen, via the magic of streaming audio--at our season web page.  It all starts on September 15th with our old friend, saxophone giant and prince-of-a-man Donny McCaslin.

Speaking of unveilings: the results of this year's DownBeat Critics Poll were recently released, and upcoming visitors to HumCo were well represented there.  Pianist Jason Moran, who'll appear as part of this year's Center Arts season with bass legend Dave Holland's Overtone Quartet (which also features RJA 2010-11 leadoff hitter Chris Potter, we might add), topped the list, winning both Artist and Album of the Year--not to mention Pianist of the Year.  Holland himself won Bass honors.  Meanwhile Rudresh Mahanthappa, who's slated to appear next April with Rez Abbasi's Invocation Quintet, took home Alto Saxophonist laurels.

Past guests were not scarce, either:  Dave Douglas (RJA 2009-10) won Best Trumpeter for the umpteenth time; Anat Cohen (RJA 2007-08) took the Clarinet and Rising Star Soprano Sax categories; Craig Taborn (Michael Formanek Quartet, RJA 2010-11), Electric Keyboard, Rising Star Piano and Rising Star Organ; Ambrose Akinmusire (RJA 2010-11), Rising Star Trumpet and Rising Star Jazz Artist of the Year; Vijay Iyer Trio (RJA 2010-11), Rising Star Jazz Group; Luis Bonilla (Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy, RJA 2009-10), Rising Star Trombone; Ben Goldberg (Plays Monk, RJA 2006-07 and Go Home, RJA 2007-08), Rising Star Clarinet; and Nasheet Waits (Brass Ecstasy, RJA 2009-10), Rising Star Drums.  Not bad, eh?

Scan the full results--and (if you're a DownBeat subscriber) vote for your favorite artists in the 76th annual Readers Poll.

And if you like reading and/or hearing about jazz when you're not listening to jazz, here are a couple recent recommendations:

  • Donny McCaslin was the subject of a feature article by David Adler, "Big Love," in the July issue of Jazz Times.  (Our favorite line: "A gentle giant at 6-foot-3, McCaslin has the easy vibe of a native Northern Californian, an unflappability that once led pianist Frank Kimbrough to bestow a nickname: “the Donny Lama.”) 
  • And bassist Ben Allison (RJA 2007-08) whose latest album Action-Refraction was named (by NPR) one of the 25 Best Albums of the Year So Far, was featured back in June on NPR's All Things Considered. (He was also profiled by Gene Santoro in the summer issue of Chamber Music America's Chamber Music magazine, but sadly the piece is not available online.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Claire Iris Schencke at Piante Gallery

If you've been following us for a while, you know we don't do endorsements: there's a ton of good art and music in Humboldt County, and we don't want to be seen to play favorites.  So think of this as a public service announcement.  You may have noticed friend of the RJA Claire Iris Schencke (full disclosure: Arcata Arts, the company headed by Iris's husband Gordon, has helped support our past two seasons) sitting in the front row at recent shows, furiously, thoughtfully slashing away at her iPad, with results like these:

Well, if you needed one more reason to check out Arts Alive tonight, August 6, then here it is:  Iris has a show, The Glacier Art Project and At Waters' Edge, opening at the Piante gallery, 620 2d Street, Eureka.  Get a preview at Iris's own website, or read this two-page spread by R. W. Evans in the North Coast Journal.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Formanek Added to This Year's RJA Season

We're very pleased to be presenting the Michael Formanek Quartet in
our first-ever postseason show on Sunday, June 5 at 8 p.m. at the
Morris Graves Museum of Art.

Formanek's "The Rub and Spare Change" was one of last year's top
albums, so when Formanek told us he was bringing the same all-star
quartet (altoist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn, drummer Gerald
Cleaver) on tour to the West Coast, we knew we had to find a way to
make this show happen, even without our usual underwriters and
sponsors. You can read more about Formanek and his illustrious
bandmates and check out streaming audio and video of the quartet at

Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and
can be purchased at the Works in Eureka, Peoples Records and Wildwood
Music in Arcata, online at
and at the door.

Because this is a post-season show and the concert is being funded
entirely by ticket sales, with all proceeds going directly to the
band, we can't include this in our season-ticket package, but we can
still offer reserved seating to our members. If you haven't yet joined
the RJA, you can do so online at

Remember that seating is limited at the Graves, so we recommend
arriving early if you're not going to have reserved seats.

We'll see you on the 5th!

The Redwood Jazz Alliance

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jazz Journalists' Association award nominations

I missed Ambrose Akinmusire last night...the final show of our fifth season! I'm sick. But at least I'll get to vote for him several times in several different categories. If I joint the JJA. Which I think I might do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ambrose in the NYTs

Our next performer is featured in today's New York Times.

Next Show Coming Up, April 26

We round off the season with another rising star: Oakland native, Berkeley High grad, Monk Competition winner—and now Blue Note recording artist—Ambrose Akinmusire.

The 28-year-old trumpeter’s quintet (with tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Gerald Clayton [replaced on this tour by Sam Harris], bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown) is a close-knit group of longtime friends who over a dozen years have forged a remarkable collective identity. It's a band that "seems destined for much wider recognition," says The New York Times.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times named Akinmusire one of its 2011 “Faces to Watch”: “With a chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” wrote the paper’s Emra Islek, “Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.”

As it happens, Akinmusire was “discovered” about a decade ago by saxophonist Steve Coleman, who was giving a workshop at Berkeley High and immediately heard promise in the young trumpeter, eventually hiring him as a member of his Five Elements band and embarking on an extensive European tour when Akinmusire was just 19. Coleman—considered by many to be the spiritual godfather of the current creative jazz scene—challenged Akinmusire on and off the stage. “Ambrose, what’s your concept?” Akinmusire remembers Coleman asking him on a train ride through Germany. “Concept? I’m 19, I don’t need a concept. It’ll just come one day,” shrugged Akinmusire, raising the saxophonist’s ire. “You’ve got to start thinking about it now,” Coleman told him. “Everything you don’t love, make sure that’s not in your playing.”

Akinmusire took the advice to heart, and returned to his studies at the Manhattan School of Music (on a full scholarship) determined to discover his own voice. “When I got back to school I wrote a list,” he explains. “It was very specific, it had things on it like ‘I don’t want to be confined by my instrument’ or ‘I want to have a sound like a French Horn player.’ I posted it on my wall so every day I was reminded of it. It caused me a lot of trouble because if a teacher told me to do something and it didn’t really fit what was on that list I didn’t listen to them. It really made me learn who I was because I had to defend that every day.”

Back on the West Coast for a master’s degree at USC, Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In 2007, he entered and won the Institute's prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition (whose judges included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove). Later that year came his debut CD, Prelude…To Cora,on Fresh Sound New Talent, the label that first recorded such “new talents” as pianists Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner.

Moving back to New York, Akinmusire began making a name for himself, playing with jazz elders (Wallace Roney, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Heath, Herbie Hancock) and young mavericks (Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Esperanza Spalding, Linda Oh) while drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Chopin and Bjork. He also caught the attention of another discerning set of ears, those of Bruce Lundvall, President of Blue Note Records.

In view of the music industry's ongoing struggles, the news of a young artist jumping to a major label can seem almost quaint. But Akinmusire's signing to the storied Blue Note Records last summer sent ripples of excitement through the online jazz community. Co-produced by labelmate (and MacArthur "genius" grant winner) Jason Moran, When the Heart Emerges Glistening will be released April 5. In the lead review in this month’s DownBeat, John Corbett raves: “Akinmusire’s forceful outing is as noteworthy for the strength of the overall concept as for the individual accomplishments of its leader, head-turning as they are…the music and the band vibe are wonderfully original and current. Clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.”

(Adapted from Mariah Wilkins Artist Management and the Los Angeles Times.)

Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website, or at Wildwood Music, People's Records, and The Works.

The Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet will also present a FREE public workshop the following day, Wednesday, April 27th, at 12:30 p.m. (location TBA). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Miles, Versace, Royston Trio

Yet another wondrous event--Wednesday night's performance at the Morris Graves Gallery in Eureka. Ron Miles has the most lyrical style of any modern trumpeter. "And that guy playing the drums," I heard somebody say,"he's playing melodies. I didn't think drummers could do that."

To see Bob Doran's fab pics, go here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What We're Playing Tonight




Bojan Z[ulfikarpašić], Transpacifik (Label Bleu ’03), “Set It Up” [1] (6:33)

Bobby Previte, Pan Atlantic (Palmetto ’09), “The Eternity” [3] (8:11)

Vijay Iyer, Historicity (ACT ’09), “Somewhere” [2] (6:57)

Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band (Verve ’93), “Darn that Dream” [4] (3:53)

Patricia Barber, The Cole Porter Mix (Blue Note ’08), “In the Still of the Night” [10] (5:25)

Alice Coltrane, Translinear Light (Impulse ’04), “Crescent” [8] (6:22)

David Binney, Aliso (Criss Cross ’10), “Africa” [9] (13:58)


Vijay Iyer, Solo (Pi ’10), “One for Blount” [11] (3:03)

Sun Ra, Somewhere Else (Rounder ’93), “Priest” [1] (4:01)

Guillermo Klein, Domador de Huellas (Sunnyside ’10), “Zamba de Lozano” [6] (4:24)

Enrico Rava/Dino Saluzzi Quintet, Volver (ECM ’88), “Tiempos de Ausencias” [4] (7:56)

Eddie Palmieri, Listen Here! (Concord ’05), “EP Blues” [10] (8:18)

Steve Turre, Rainbow People (High Note), “Forward Vision” [2] (5:59)

John Abercrombie, The Third Quartet (ECM ’07), “Wishing Bell” [4] (8:17)

Mary Stallings, Dream (High Note ’10), “Dream Dancing” [7] (3:13)

Nasheet Waits, Equality (Fresh Sounds ’08), “Tough Love” [1] (6:44)

Vijay Iyer Almost Here

Sunday, February 6 is Super Sunday! And by that, of course we mean
it's the day of the Vijay Iyer Trio concert in HSU's Fulkerson Recital
Hall. We understand there's also a football game of some sort that
day, but the game should be over by the time the Iyer Trio hits at 8
p.m. (If it's not, hey, that's what DVRs are for…)

The trio's most recent CD, "Historicity," was the consensus jazz album
of the year in 2009 and is up for a Grammy at next month's ceremony.
Iyer was also named 2010's "Jazz Musician of the Year" by the Jazz
Journalists Association. You can read more about Vijay and his
terrific band and check out videos and streaming audio at

Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and
can be purchased at the Works in Eureka, Peoples Records and Wildwood
Music in Arcata, online at
and at the door.

The Vijay Iyer Trio will also present a free workshop the day after
the concert, Monday, February 7 at 10 a.m. in HSU's Studio Theater and
Iyer will present a piano workshop at 3 p.m. that day in the Studio

We'll see you on the 6th!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Peter Gannushkin

It's quite possible that Peter Gannushkin is the best thing going in jazz photography at the moment.

I am "re-FaceBooking" his latest FB post here, so you can see what he's up to:

Added my tiny Vision Exehibition 2010 to Flickr: and Facebook: More stuff is on the way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jazz Beyond Awesome

Howard Mandel's "Jazz beyond Jazz" is a phrase that grows on you. At first I thought it was just a cute name for his blog, but he refers to it a lot, as he might be expected to do, and it deepens. Beyond jazz is .... jazz...

It's like second wave feminism's main point: the problem with sexism in the language is that it goes "all the way down." With Mandel, the jazz thing goes all the way up. Get over jazz? All you get is more jazz....

Anyway...jazz beyond awesome is my term for this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Individual "Best of Lists"

This year Sister Loralei undertook a giant job of quantifying our membership's tastes for the best in the year's jazz. She used a spread sheet and here are the results.

Individually, the brothers and sisters of the RJA have come up with lists that refine their own preferences. Here is Brother Quam's list:

Favorite Jazz CDs of 2011

SF Jazz Collective, “Live 2010” (SF Jazz)

Randy Weston, “The Storyteller” (Motéma)

Benoit Delbecq Trio, “The Sixth Jump” (Songlines)

Jason Moran, “Ten” (Blue Note)

Lucian Ban, “Enesco Re-Imagined” (Sunnyside)

Marc Cary Focus Trio, “Live 2009” (Motéma)

Omar Sosa, “Ceremony” (Otá)

Tom Harrell, “Roman Nights” (High Note)

Bill Carrothers, “Joy Spring” (Pirouet)

Mary Stallings, “Dream” (High Note)

Myra Melford’s Be Bread, “The Whole Tree Gone” (Firehouse 12)

Dave Holland Octet, “Pathways” (Dare 2)

“Gerry Allen & Timeline Live” (Motéma)

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green, “Apex” (Pi)

Dave Liebman Big Band, “Live: As Always” (MAMA)