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, 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.