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