On Friday, the Jazz Journalists Association announced the nominees for its 2012 JJA Jazz Awards. I'm happy to tell you we're up for three of them:
1. The Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award/For Writing in the Year 2011—Marc Myers writes on jazz for The Wall Street Journal and blogs daily at JazzWax.com, on which he has conducted more than 300 multipart interviews with jazz, rock, and R&B musicians and has posted commentary on rare and contemporary recordings. JazzWax is syndicated by Jazz.FM91 (Toronto) and by All About Jazz.
2. Blog of the Year
"Jazz Wax" (Marc Myers)
3. Best Liner Notes of the Year
Marc Myers—Wes Montgomery: Movin', The Complete Verve Recordings (Hip-O Select).
Marc Myers—Ella in Japan (Hip-O Select).
The winners will be announced on June 20. Fingers crossed!
Janis Joplin. On Friday, my review of Janis Joplin's The Pearl Sessions (Legacy) appeared on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog site (go here). The twin-CD set is due on Tuesday. There are nine previously unreleased tracks and insightful studio banter, providing a refined look at a hard-working artist who was on the verge of using her voice for wooing instead of welding.
Hal McKusick. Following my post on the late saxophonist, readers wanted a sense of Hal's speaking voice, which I referred to in my tribute. Here's a clip of Hal explaining what jazz is (if you click and it says "this video is private," click here)...
Roy Haynes. Bret Primack was on the scene with his video camera at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival when drummer Roy Haynes was being interviewed...
Jack Tracy, who died in December 2010, was a famed producer for Mercury, Argo, Limelight, Liberty and Chess. He recorded Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Roland Kirk, Oscar Peterson, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and many others. Jack also was a huge fan of JazzWax and spoke with me at length for my upcoming book, Why Jazz Happened. [Jack Tracy with Woody Herman]
Last week, I received the following from Jack's son Tim:
- "Before my Dad passed away, I would bring him up to the very top of my property on the border of Washington state and Canada. He would hang out with me while I did my chores—cutting the grass, clearing brush, trimming branches and so on. There was a little spot where he could sit and nap while looking out over a beautiful vista, listening to all the music he loved and enjoyed so much. Picture a shiny bald head and iPod earbuds!
"Anyway, one day he said, 'I think I'm about as close to heaven as I can get right here! When I'm gone, build a cement bench right here with my ashes mixed in.'
"Last July, Dad's family built that bench [pictured]. And a pole is there to proudly display his flag from the Navy. We had a wonderful day of stories, music, memories, food, laughs and tears. His family and friends also had a chance to sit a spell with Jack on that bench. His granddaughters also were able to 'sit in Grampa's lap' before heading back to college.
"Once again, thanks for remembering Dad and for including him in your book and at JazzWax."
Terry Teachout. Terry had a rough week. The Louis Armstrong biographer, Wall Street Journal theater critic, opera librettist and good pal informed me that he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2012. It will be used to support the completion of Mood Indigo, his biography-in-progress of Duke Ellington.
And if that wasn't enough, he emailed soon after with more good news: The Letter, his first operatic collaboration with Paul Moravec, will receive its New York premiere in February 2013.
As many of you know, this blog exists because back in 2007 Terry insisted. Way to go Terry!
Dick Carr. If you dig the big bands, pop vocals, jazz and stories from the great days of radio, dig Dick Carr's blog, Big Bands, Ballads and Blues. A lot of history and experience there.
Glee and Saturday Night Fever. Normally I don't weigh-in on TV shows, but this is an exception. On Glee (Tuesday, April 17, on Fox at 8 p.m., EST), the show will put on Saturday Night Glee-ver, a tribute to the 1977 soundtrack.
On Friday, I was treated to an advance copy of the music and was blown away. Sounds a lot like the original, but with massive production improvements. Finally, I understand the words! The soundtrack will be available on April 17. Listen here.
CD discoveries of the week. Wayne Escoffery's The Only Son of One (Sunnyside) has a supremely delicious '70s feel, complete with acoustic and electronic instruments. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Escoffery not only penned the album's songs (he splits the credit with Orrin Evans on Two Souls), he has a take-charge soulful sound that is impossible to ignore. For me, this is easily one of the most exciting and important saxophone albums of the year. Hats off to Evans on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Adam Holzman on synthesizers. If you attended college in the '70s, this album will hit you like Friday afternoons after classes back at the dorm in front of your turntable. Sample any track to have your breath taken away.
Slipstream (Redwing), Bonnie Raitt's first album in seven years, is like a kid who can't sit still. The singer-guitarist delves into Southern soul, reggae, midnight blues, rural-route ballads, Country pop, rockers and femme folk. But this Whitman's sampler provides plenty of Raitt's signature yearning. The album opens with a funky Used to Rule the World and ends with a gorgeous duet between Raitt and pianist Patrick Warren. A sincere working of wisely chosen songs delivered with fields of attitude.
I have a huge crush on Kat Edmonson's voice. It's often compared to Billie Holiday's or Blossom Dearie's on helium—but that's not really fair. On Way Down Low (Red General), the singer's off-beat intonation and kite-flying vulnerability are on fine display. The Texas-native has superb jazz instincts and sets moods splendidly, leaving miles of space that allow your heart in. On this album, she aces several well-known songs that are pretty tough to sing. I don't think I've ever heard a finer rendition of Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's I Just Wasn't Made for These Times. Same goes for Whispering Grass, Nobody Knows That and What Else Can I Do. Listen for yourself.
Harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens can't help himself. Each of his recent albums has exhibited enormous taste, often with a bossa beat. On Celebrando (Zoho), he's joined by bassist Gabriel Espinosa, clarinetist Anat Cohen and many other superb instrumentalists who add enormous lift and breezy elegance to the tracks. Four are by Meurkens and four are by Espinosa, with other originals mixed in. But be sure to catch Alison Wedding's vocals, which beautifully weave in and out of melodies. A fine spring-fever chaser.
Singer-pianist Daryl Sherman is a mischief-maker. An unabashed lover of the American Songbook, Daryl takes on 13 Cole Porter tunes on Mississippi Belle (Audiophile), many of which are offbeat sleepers. Among the left-field Porters are Ours, Use Your Imagination, Looking at You, the title track and Where Have You Been? Interestingly, it's through these tunes that Porter is revived as a masterful lyricist, since we may be hearing these for the first time. This is a gorgeously simple album, with Daryl working passionately though the material without drifting into cabaret-land. Oh, almost forgot: Daryl's piano playing and voicings? They're the top.
The beach pre-dates the Beach Boys by millions of years. The beach-party movie does, too—but by just a year or two. Starting roughly with Gidget (1959) and Where the Boys Are (1960), sand and saltwater became the stuff of summer romance and freedom from prying parents. One of the genre's hottest male stars was Frankie Avalon. Today, the name conjures up mindless film plots, washboard abs and dim girls. But in truth, Avalon had a superb, warm voice back then. Thankfully, Muscle Beach Party (Real Gone Music) has just been issued, combining Avalon's beach tracks with serious crooning—both for United Artists in the early '60s. It's a perfect marriage. Sample Again, which unites both themes warmly. This has all the feel of Coppertone and an amusement park at dusk.
Oddball album cover of the week. Many media denizens in the early 1950s believed that radio and records were doomed as TV sets began flying off store shelves. But what the smart crowd missed was that TV required all of your attention while recorded music could be used as background for a range of activities. Including shirking household chores for a shot at emphysema.