Since March 17th, NPR has been keeping a calendar, updated daily, of "Virtual Concerts to Watch During the Coronovirus Shutdown." The calendar covers musical performances in all genres, including a series of live streams from New York's storied jazz club, the Village Vanguard. That series opened this past weekend with a pair of shows by a group that was slated to play the RJA's 2020-21 season: the Billy Hart Quartet with Ethan Iverson, Mark Turner, and Ben Street. The next three scheduled shows--cover charge $7 (no drink minimum!)--will feature RJA veterans:
- Pianist Vijay Iyer with his new trio (June 20th & 21st)
- Bassist Joe Martin (Anat Cohen, David Berkman Trio) and his quartet (June 27th & 28th)
- Saxophonist Joe Lovano and his Trio Fascination (July 4th & 5th)
Other New York area jazz institutions with live streams and/or archived shows--some free, some not--include:
- Small's (browse for such RJA alumni as Helen Sung, Omer Avital, Melissa Aldana, Anat Cohen, Joe Martin, Gilad Hekselman, Ari Hoenig, and Manuel Valera)
- The Jazz Gallery (their "Words and Music" series is ticketed, as are the archives for their "Lockdown Sessions," featuring RJA vets like Theo Bleckmann, Melissa Aldana, Miguel Zenon, Dayna Stephens, Camila Meza, Walter Smith III, Marcus Gilmore, Mark Turner, and Fabian Almazan)
- Jazz at Lincoln Center
- Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT, whose Spring 2020 performance series has been replaced with weekly archival performances including Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford, Ralph Alessi’s This Against That, The Claudia Quintet, The David Berkman Quartet, Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts, and The Ben Allison Quartet
Want to watch or listen to what other past RJA guests have been up to during the quarantine?
- Here's Humboldt County's own Michael Moore, playing in a duo with guitarist Rogerio Bicudo, as part of a series curated by Amsterdam's Concertgemaal.
- Since March 19th, multi-reedist Ben Goldberg (Plays Monk, Myra Melford's Be Bread, Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom) has been keeping a daily "Plague Diary"--i.e., writing a new piece every day and adding it to a digital album-in-progress on Bandcamp, which you can stream and/or download on a pay-what-you-like basis. Bay Area music journalist Andrew Gilbert profiled Goldberg for a long piece in the San Francisco Classical Voice ("Covid Confidential: Ben Goldberg's Notes from a Pandemic"), and Jeffrey Siegel interviewed him about the project for his long-running Straight No Chaser podcast.
- At the end of May, Goldberg also took part in this year's (Virtual) Hyde Park Jazz Festival, as did Bay Area bassist, composer, educator and bandleader Marcus Shelby.
- Meanwhile, on Earth Day, pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Linda May Han Oh kicked off their own online festival, the Biophilia Records Fest, showcasing artists associated with the label, which like founder and director Almazan is committed not only to music but also to social and environmental justice. (Last week, trumpeter Dave Douglas spoke to Almazan on his A Noise from the Deep podcast.) Most of the events charged a nominal admission fee (you can still buy an all-access pass to watch the recorded video streams for just $20), but two of them can be viewed for free, including the May 9th performance by Linda May Han Oh.
- NPR's Jazz Night in America devoted a second episode to Oh on March 13th--a follow-up to a concert film of her "Aventurine" project broadcast on the program last fall. Or maybe it was a prelude to the May 22 episode of its new "Alone Together Duets" series featuring...Fabian Almazan and Linda May Han Oh!
Speaking of Dave Douglas: drummer Rudy Royston has been a fixture on Douglas's Greenleaf Music label for years now, and on June 19th he's releasing a new album, PaNOptic, whose proceeds will go to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. You can pre-order now--and Rudy's statement about the album, which you can find both there and here, is worth reading.
Other musicians helping fellow musicians include pianist Fred Hersch, who with bassist & vocalist Esperanza Spalding have released an EP of duets recorded live at the Village Vanguard in October 2018, as a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America and its efforts to support musicians during the pandemic. (Hurry, as the album is on sale for the month of June only.) Hersch has also done a series of at-home concerts which you can still stream from his Facebook page, and he's released a number of singles on Spotify, duets with friends like Anat Cohen and Miguel Zenón. He talks about all of this and more on the podcast Speaking of the Arts.
Royston and Hersch are among the few musicians we know who are feeling relatively fortunate so far, but so many others in the performing arts universe have simply been devastated, as gigs, festivals, and venues have shut down for the foreseeable future--in some cases perhaps permanently. So how else can you support musicians? Well, you can start by buying their music. Almost anyone you could name who has played for the RJA--and if your memory needs refreshing, you can page back through our old website as well as our new one--has a presence on Bandcamp, where you can buy CDs, LPs, and downloads, and be assured that most of the proceeds will go directly to the artists. (In fact, since the start of the pandemic, Bandcamp has periodically donated its share of sales back to the artists and labels who sell their music and merchandise on the platform. This coming Friday, June 19th, its share will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.)
- Tenor saxophonist Michael Blake, for instance--who would have joined us this fall with his new chamber-jazz project--has bought up the rights to most of his back catalogue, including albums by two projects that have already played for the RJA, Blake Tartare and Tiddy Boom.
- Guitarist Jeff Parker, who was also meant to be part of our 2020-21 season, has gotten great reviews for his album Suite for Max Brown, which came out in January. (See, e.g., Britt Robson's review in the May issue of Jazz Times, Kevin Whitehead's review for Fresh Air with Terry Gross, or Gary Fukushima's interview for DownBeat.)
- And alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's new album, Hero Trio (the other two heroes are drummer Rudy Royston and bassist François Moutin), is the occasion of a Jazz Times cover story by Nate Chinen, who also premiered a video of the trio on WBGO's Take Five. And for you players out there, Mahanthappa contributed to the "Reed School" feature in the May issue of DownBeat with a lesson on "Crafting Improvised Lines from 3-Note & 4-Note Cells."
Those are just three examples. As for artists whose new releases don't appear on Bandcamp? Find and preview them on streaming platforms, then ask People's Records (Arcata) or The Works (Eureka) to order them for you. Here are some suggestions:
- Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's new album on Blue Note, on the tender spot of every calloused moment, got a featured review from Nate Chinen on NPR Music. Akinmusire also spoke about it to the Jazz Gallery's Jazz Speaks.
- A quartet version of Dayna Stephens's new project, whose trio album Liberty got a "Hot Box" review from Suzanne Lorge in the April issue of DownBeat, would have led off the 2020-21 RJA season in September. (We're committed to rescheduling.) Kevin Whitehead also reviewed the album for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
- Speaking of DownBeat: the first and final artists of our most recent (truncated) season recent also got some love in the pages of that hallowed magazine: Alex Rodriguez gave Reverso's The Melodic Line a 4-star review in the April issue, while Puertos by the Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra got 5 stars from James Hale in the March issue. The June issue saw two more RJA vets as the recipients of "Hot Box" reviews: tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery (Tom Harrell Quintet), for The Humble Warrior, and Liberty Ellman (Myra Melford's Snowy Egret) for Last Desert. That same issue includes reviews of All For Now by Gary Versace (Rudy Royston's Flatbed Buggy, John Abercrombie Organ Trio, Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts) and Planet B by Jasper Høiby (Phronesis), as well as a "Blindfold Test" by Walter Smith III (Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet).
Finally, as long as you're perusing those magazines (or their websites), why not check out Ted Panken's "Overdue Ovation" for cellist Hank Roberts (Rudy Royston's Flatbed Buggy) in the March Jazz Times, or DownBeat's May 2020 cover story on drummer Antonio Sánchez and vocalist Thania Alexa, who also performed an "Alone Together Duet" for NPR's Jazz Night in America.
That should be enough to get you going, right? Check back for updates when you're finished. And if there's nothing new, then scroll back through some old posts and catch up on things you may have missed!