Monday, December 15, 2014

OPTT (Other Peoples' Top Ten) for 2014

For the first time in a long time, we're not publishing our favorite recordings of the past year. (No external incentive. Come back, Bob Doran!) But we can point you towards plenty of other people who have done--and we can promise you that there's significant overlap between their faves and ours. We can also promise you that past and future RJA guests are well represented on almost every list.

More lists appear on the interwebs every day (expected soon: The [London] Guardian, KQED), and we'll add 'em as we see 'em.

Friday, October 17, 2014

News of Future Guests II

On a recent episode of WBGO's The Checkout, we hear Miguel Zenón (November 12th) play the suite that forms the centerpiece of his forthcoming album Identities Are Changeable, recorded live at this year's Newport Jazz Festival.  Zenón, who's on the cover of this month's DownBeat magazine, was also on All Things Considered recently, talking about the piece:

On November 5th, one week before Zenón arrives in Arcata, his Newport performance will be featured on NPR's brand-new jazz showcase, Jazz Night In America. (Read more about Jazz Night, a weekly radio show and video webcast, here, and find out more about Identities Are Changeable on the project's Kickstarter page, from a short YouTube teaser, or in the full EPK below:)

Melissa Aldana (February 3, 2015) is an admirer, onetime student, and former labelmate of Greg Osby. Aldana's latest record with her Crash Trio has been out on Concord Jazz for a few months already, and back in August, Kevin Whitehead reviewed it on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross:

Finally, trombonist Ryan Keberle's new album with Catharsis (April 13th, 2015), Zone, is out and available for purchase on Bandcamp. (And it's getting great reviews!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

News of Future Guests

Our upcoming season's performers are making news. To wit:

The Cookers (September 30th) have a new album, Time and Time Again, out on Motema on September 16th, just two weeks before they arrive:

Meanwhile, a new album on Greenleaf Music by Ryan Keberle and Catharsis (April 13th, 2015), Into the Zone, appears September 30th, the very day that The Cookers touch down in Arcata:

Greg Osby (October 19th) has made a new record with Dutch alto saxophonist Tineke Postma (and RJA alumni Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums) called Sonic Halo. Released on Challenge Records, it was funded on Kickstarter.  You can hear Postma and Osby preview the project here:

Melissa Aldana (February 3, 2015) is an admirer, onetime student, and former labelmate of Osby's. Aldana's latest record with her Crash Trio has been out on Concord Jazz for a few months already, but Kevin Whitehead reviewed it recently on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross:

And on WBGO's The Checkout, we hear Miguel Zenón (November 12th) play the suite that forms the centerpiece of his forthcoming album "Identities Are Changeable," recorded live at this year's Newport Jazz Festival.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

News of Past Guests, Summer 2014 Edition

New albums:

Eclectic, prolific, endlessly creative guitarist-composer Joel Harrison has a new disc, Mother Stump, with covers of tunes by Luther Vandross, Paul Motian, and Leonard Cohen, among others. You can nab the album at Cuneiform Records' Bandcamp site. And you can stream Harrison's cover of the traditional gospel blues "John the Revelator" right here:

Some people are putting David Binney's new one on Criss Cross, Anacapa, among the restless alto saxophonist's all-time best.  Brad Farberman, for instance, in a profile of Binney, "The Long Haul," in the June issue of Jazz Times.

When we saw pianist Fred Hersch in New York in January, he hinted that he might be naming his upcoming trio album on Palmetto after a certain city by the bay in Humboldt County. Looks like we have to settle for one tune. (We'll take it! See Track 6: "a regal, bracing straight-eighths piece [that] took its name from a Northern California [town] famed for its beautiful giant redwoods," as Peter Hum described it.) In the end, Fred entitled the album Floating, and it hit the streets (and the online stores) in mid-July. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviewed the album on NPR's Fresh Air, Scott Simon interviewed Fred for a feature story on Weekend Edition, and you can buy the album from Palmetto Records.

Old friends & collaborators, trumpeter Dave Douglas and keyboardist Uri Caine, issued an album of duets, Present Joys, inspired by the tradition of "shape-note" singing, on July 22.  You can hear a preview at Radio France's France Musique site or at the Greenleaf Music store.

Finally: saxophonist Michael Blake stopped by WBGO's The Checkout a few weeks ago with his trio "World Time Zone" (Ben Allison, bass and Ferenc Nemeth, drums) to play music from his latest project: music inspired by sax legends Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.  Also on The Checkout of late: Tom Harrell's chamber-jazz project "Colors of a Dream," recorded live at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival. Harrell also has a new album, Trip, out on HighNote, with Mark Turner, Ugonna Okegwo, and Adam Cruz.

And speaking of Turner: on September 9th, the highly regarded tenor saxophonist (and member of the trio FLY) releases his debut as a leader on ECM, Lathe of Heaven, with a quartet featuring trumpeter Avishai Cohen and two other RJA alumni, Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).

(Kevin Whitehead reviews the album on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.) A week later, it's the latest release from Kenny Werner, Coalition, with a band that includes Lionel Loueke and Miguel Zenon (who, coincidentally, are two-thirds of the trio on Mark Turner's FLY-mate Jeff Ballard's latest album...)

And in other news...

Not all of them are people, but of the "80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today" (according to DownBeat magazine--it's their 80th anniversary, see?), Humboldt County has experienced nearly 10% of them--viz., Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, Han Bennink, Instant Composers Pool, Fred Hersch, and Tony Malaby--under the auspices of the RJA.  Read all about it in the July issue.

RJA guests are also well represented in this year's DownBeat Critics Poll, whose results will be published in the August issue. Rising--make that skyrocketing--star vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, whom we will co-host with Center Arts in September in a special pre-season show--fairly cleaned up in the poll:

Other RJA-veteran category-toppers:
  • Ambrose Akinmusire, Trumpet
  • Joe Lovano, Tenor Sax
  • Anat Cohen, Clarinet
  • Vijay Iyer, Piano
  • Regina Carter, Violin
  • Wayne Escoffery, Rising Star Tenor Sax
  • Rudy Royston, Rising Star Drums
  • Matt Moran, Rising Star Vibes
  • Ben Allison, Rising Star Composer
Last: looking for a way to pass the time on a lazy late summer afternoon? Play "Drum Fill Friday" with Quizmaster Matt Wilson, courtesy of NPR's All Songs Considered.

Friday, May 2, 2014

News of Past Guests, May 2014 Edition

René Marie is back in the spotlight.  This time it's a leisurely 10-minute interview, studded with plenty of song samples, on NPR's All Things Considered.  The link just now will take you to the full transcript of the story (which is beguilingly entitled "On Singing, Sex, and the Importance of Being Eartha"), but you can also listen to it below:

Meanwhile, saxophonist Matt Bauder (Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day) has a new album that's garnering justifiably strong reviews.  It's called Nightshades, and you can stream it on Spotify at the website of Matt's record label, the forward-thinking Clean Feed.

Finally, on The Jazz Breakfast, Peter Bacon interviews Phronesis bassist Jasper Høiby.

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.

More RJA veterans on NPR Music:  saxophonist Chris Potter plays music from his ECM album The Sirens on JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater, while pianist/composer/MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer is featured on WQXR's Q2 Spaces (in which contemporary composers are interviewed in their own homes and studios).

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, 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.