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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

News of Past Guests

This is something we should've been doing long before now, I guess. But as a grad-school buddy of mine used to say at the start of each semester: the sooner you fall behind, the longer you have to catch up.

Anyway, for a few months now we've been collecting bits about honors, accomplishments, doings, and goings-on in the (professional) lives of RJA visitors. Time to unload, before the list gets any longer. Bulleted lists aren't very visually interesting, but follow the links for eye and ear candy.  And from here on out, we'll try to keep up with things as they happen.

First, the big news:
  • Pianist Vijay Iyer was one of this year's recipients of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly known as the "Genius Grant." (Iyer is the third RJA alum, after saxophonist Miguel Zenón and drummer Dafnis Prieto, to receive that honor.) You can read all about it at NPR, Destination:Out, and Peter Hum's blog at the Ottawa Citizen, among other places. You can also listen to a rebroadcast of Terry Gross's 2010 interview with Vijay on Fresh Air and an All Things Considered story about his "Veterans Dreams' Project" with spoken-word artist Mike Ladd.  In a later post, Peter Hum reported on the inevitable Vijay backlash. But waddya gonna do? Haters gonna hate. Big, big kudos to Vijay. 
Beyond that (in more-or-less reverse chronological order):
  • (New! 10/25/13): René Marie's new album, I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt is already out in the UK (US release date: 11/13), where it's drawing raves.  Anybody who saw René perform at the Graves last spring will know why.  You can hear samples at Amazon or iTunes (where you'll get a downloadable track instantly with a pre-order).  Here's a teaser:
  • (New! 10/23/13): Myra Melford (see also another bullet a bit further down) has a new solo piano album on the Firehouse 12 label, Life Carries Me This Way.  Stream it below or at the label's Bandcamp store--where, it should go without saying, you can also buy it.
  • Chris Lightcap and his band Bigmouth were recorded at Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz for NPR's Jazz Set with Dee Bridgewater, just one night after they played Arcata last fall. The recording has just appeared on Jazz Set's website
  • Drummer Harris Eisenstadt is the subject of a short profile in the November 2013 issue of DownBeat. Eisenstadt has two new albums out, The Destructive Element (Clean Feed) with his September Trio (featuring Angelica Sanchez on piano and Ellery Eskelin on sax) and Golden State (Songlines), a chamber-jazz quartet project. Canada Day trumpeter Nate Wooley also has a new album on CleanFeed, (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship
  • Trumpeter Ralph Alessi is all over the jazz media these days, and for good reason: he has a sublime new quartet album on ECM--his first for that label--called Baida (with bandmates Jason Moran, Drew Gress, and Nasheet Waits) and a beautiful duo record with Fred Hersch, Only Many (CAM Jazz). In the same week, he appeared on Jason Crane's The Jazz Session podcast and the Straight No Chaser podcast to talk about his new work. He's also the subject of a flattering profile by Nate Chinen in October's issue of Jazz Times
  • Another recent Straight No Chaser podcast featured saxophonist Noah Preminger, whose latest album Haymaker was released in May. (You can stream the album at the Palmetto Records website.) Ted Panken wrote a short feature on Preminger for the June DownBeat (there's a passing mention of a duo project with Frank Kimbrough in the can), while Nate Chinen gave a glowing review of a Jazz Standard date by Preminger's quartet in the New York Times
  • On his blog Bird Is the Worm, Dave Sumner posted a video of guitarist Joel Harrison's band "Spirit House" playing the tune of the same name at the Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society, just a day or two after their April stop in Arcata. 
  • Other recent featured artists on JazzSet: the aforementioned MacArthur "geniuses" Dafnis Prieto and Miguel Zenón, whose 2012 Newport Jazz Festival appearances were excerpted for a July broadcast
  • Over the summer, pianist Myra Melford was Dave Douglas’s guest on his podcast, A Noise from the Deep, and more recently she was the subject of a profile by Andrew Gilbert (“A Radical Conservative, A Conservative Radical”) in the September issue of Jazz Times. Why all the attention? Because she's awesome, for starters. But also because she's the recipient of three honors: a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and both a Residency and a Performing Artist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. (Whoa!)  Her new commissioned piece "Language of Dreams" premieres in early November at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 
  • Dave Douglas himself, meanwhile, turned 50 this year, and the festivities include the release of a new album, Pathways, as part of a box set of recent work by the prolific trumpeter's new quintet. 
  • RJA guests were well represented in this year’s DownBeat critics’ poll, the influential survey of 165 jazz journalists from the U.S. and abroad. Vijay Iyer was second behind the legendary Wayne Shorter for Jazz Artist of the year (just as Joe Lovano’s Us Five was nipping at the heels of Shorter’s quartet for Jazz Group of the Year—Lovano topped the Tenor Saxophone category, though); Dave Douglas took top honors in the trumpet category for the umpteenth time; and Anat Cohen was named this year’s top clarinetist, while Regina Carter, who will close out the 2013-14 season, was top violinist (Humboldt’s own Jenny Scheinman was second). In the often absurd “Rising Star” class, the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet was top Jazz Group, Anat Cohen was rising star on Soprano Saxophone; and the veteran Ben Goldberg was somehow "Rising Star" Clarinetist. Meanwhile Rez Abbasi was Rising Star on Guitar; Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Dan Weiss on percussion. And recent visitor John Hollenbeck was named “Rising Star Arranger.” 
  • Saxophonists: David Binney has a well-regarded new album, Lifted Land, on Criss Cross; Miguel Zenón released Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico on his own Miel label; and there was a lovely profile of Tony Malaby (Ralph Alessi's This Against That; Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth) in the June Jazz Times. Back in May, Donny McCaslin was the guest on NPR's Piano Jazz, while his August set at this year's Newport Jazz Festival can also be streamed at NPR. Finally, Chris Potter got the star treatment in the April issue of Jazz Times, in the form of a cover story focusing on his work in Pat Metheny's Unity Band and on his acclaimed ECM debut The Sirens. Potter’s Quartet (with Ethan Iverson subbing for Craig Taborn) appeared on NPR’s Live at theVillage Vanguard in February, and excerpts from that evening were rebroadcast on Jazz Set in May. 
  • Speaking of Craig Taborn: at eMusic.com, Kevin Whitehead interviews Taborn about his own new (trio) record on ECM, while Taborn's sometime boss, bassist Michael Formanek, writes about five cuts that embody “The State of the Bass 1964-65” for the “Artist’s Choice” column on the back page of the April Jazz Times
  • Formanek is not the only musician known to the RJA to turn commentator: for NPR's A Blog Supreme, clarinetist Ben Goldberg was invited to discuss five clarinetists whose work has enriched his life--one of whom, it turns out, is Humboldt's own Michael Moore. (Earlier this year, Goldberg released two terrific new albums, Unfold Ordinary Mind and Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues. Andrew Gilbert reviewed them for The California Report and Kevin Whitehead, for Fresh Air with Terry Gross.) And in June, drummer Allison Miller passed DownBeat's famous "Blindfold Test" with flying colors. (Her group "Boom Tic Boom" was also featured on NPR's Live from 92Y Tribeca.) 
  • And last (give the drummer some...more): Antonio Sanchez, another member of Pat Metheny's Unity Band, has a hot new album with his own group "Migration" entitled New Life.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hello Friends,
We won't deny it: we like good beer almost as much as we like good jazz.  If you do, too--or even if you just like to enjoy a pleasant spot with friends on a sunny summer afternoon--then here's one more reason to get out to Blue Lake and drop into the Mad River Brewing Company Tasting Room: on Wednesday, July 10th, MRBC's "Pints for Non-Profits" program will benefit your favorite local jazz-centric non-profit.  $1 for every glass of beer sold at the Tasting Room that day will go into our coffers and help support our 2013-14 season of concerts and workshops.
Back in 2009, Mad River Brewing inaugurated "Pints for Non-Profits," which supports a different local non-profit organization each month (usually on the first Wednesday).  In addition to the special consideration on the 10th, we'll be flying our banner there throughout the month of July, and the brewery will keep our literature on hand and have a donation box out to accommodate your generosity for the entire month, too.
The Wandering Weenie Wagon will roll up to the patio/beer garden around 5:00 or 5:30, serving gourmet hot dogs, sausages, soups, and chili.  We're rounding up some great local players to provide music from 6:00 to 8:30.  The Tasting Room itself is open from 1:00 to 9:00, and it's located at 101 Taylor Way, in the industrial park off Hatchery Road in Blue Lake.  (And just so you know: the Tasting Room and patio/beer garden are family-friendly!)
We're elated to be part of this brilliant community-minded program, and we thank MRBC for running it--and for making such great beer.  A good turnout will put us in a healthy position as we start up our new season in September.  So please: tell your friends and neighbors, bring a designated driver, and come join us at the Mad River Brewing Co. Tasting Room on Wednesday, July 10th.  Again: $1 for every glass of beer sold at the Tasting Room that day will help support our 2013-14 season.