Last week, the Jazz Journalists Association held its annual awards event at New York's Blue Note. The ceremony began with taped remarks by Sonny Rollins [photo above by John Abbott] on jazz writers and critics. In the five-minute audio interview with Bret Primack, Sonny (who this year was named the organization's first "Emeritus Jazz Artist/Beyond Voting") talked about the responsibility of jazz writers to honor the music and musicians. So you can imagine my surprise when Sonny mentioned me in his remarks in the same breath as Whitney Balliett, Ralph J. Gleason and Nat Hentoff. Humbled and honored...
Congratulations to all the winners—including Willard Jenkins (Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism), JazzTimes (Print Periodical of the Year), AllAboutJazz (Website of the Year), A Blog Supreme, hosted by Patrick Jarenwattananon for NPR Music (Blog of the Year), Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland by Paul de Barros (Best Book About Jazz of the Year), Nate Chinen (For Writing in the Year 2012) and Jim Wilke, host of radio's Jazz After Hours (Broadcasting in the Year 2012).
Wall Street Journal alert. In today's Review section of the Wall Street Journal, my interview with tennis great Martina Navratilova on the song that helped her keep it together when she came out in the early '80s and was being jeered. Go here—or please pick up a copy of the paper.
Improv on wheels. Here's Jerry Seinfeld's latest episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with David Letterman, courtesy of Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. Go here.
Wayne Jackson documentary. Emmy-winning writer-director Theodore Bogosian is hoping to raise sufficient funds at Kickstarter to support a documentary on Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns. You can hear Wayne's trumpet on hundreds of R&B and soul singles from the '60s and beyond. Go here.
More Kenny Barron. In the wake of my post last week on Kenny Barron & the Brazilian Knights (Sunnyside), reader Pete Michaels sent along the following...
"I could not agree more with you about Brazilian Knights. I have been digging the CD since it came out as an EU import a few months ago. The frustrating thing was that there was an extra CD of material available as a download in the EU only. Happily, this extra material is available in the U.S. now as well—but not on CD and not as an Amazon download. It is available through iTunes and includes some beautiful string arrangements—17 tracks in all."
Ted Heath redux. Following my post on the British bandleader, a friend sent along a link to a YouTube clip of Mike Lovatt and Craig Wild playing Memories of You—a big band arrangement originally played by Heath and recorded on his Strike Up the Band album. I don't know much more about the band...
CD discoveries of the week. Jazz and the atonal classical movement championed by the Second Viennese School in the early 20th century shouldn't really work. But they merge quite brilliantly thanks to John O'Gallagher. The alto saxophonist's latest album, The Anton Webern Project (Whirlwind), combines the fury of Webern, an Austrian composer and follower of Arnold Schoenberg, with the energy of free jazz and fusion. The result is the jazzification of classical music that was dynamic to begin with. And what you realize is that the music of Gil Melle, Teddy Charles and other jazz tone-rollers of the early '50s came right out of this music. Courageous stuff and easily the most innovative album of the year. I love it! More about O'Gallagher here.
I've written about Florian Ross several times in this space. Now, the German arranger, composer and pianist is back with his big band on Ties & Loose Ends (Fuhrwerk-Musik). Trained at European music schools and a graduate of the prestigious BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop, Ross has a gentle touch. Songs develop through a variety of orchestral textures and moods. Best of all, the music has a distinct, sighing style—much like Gil Evans' approach to orchestration. For evidence, sample Running Walls and My Foolish Heart. More on Florian Ross here.
Brazil may be having political problems now, but bossa nova
remains the country's heart and soul—particularly for those who don't
live there. Pianist Roger Davidson
was down at Zagamusic Studios in
Ipanema in October 2011 and recorded a two-CD album—Journey to Rio (Soundbrush)—with
Brazilian musicians. It's a perfect recording. You put on both CDs and the
next thing you know you're transported to another place and time as the
music envelops you. Sample O Jogo and One Samba Note. More on Roger Davidson here.
Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Steve Heckman has released Born to Be Blue (Jazzed Media), an album of jazz standards done just right. He's joined by Matt Clark (p) Howard Alden (g) Marcus Shelby (b) and Akira Tana (d). All your faves are here—including The Things We Did Last Summer, Without a Song, I Thought About You and Lazy Afternoon. Heckman has a clean and patient style on both sax and clarinet that emphasizes tone and love of melody—proving that the past has a future.
If you like your rockabilly with Texas leanings, you're going to love guitarist Bill Kirchen's new CD, Seeds and Stems (Proper). Your foot will start moving without being told to do so by your brain on songs like Tell Me the Reason and Womb to the Tomb. Kirchen, 64, was a member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen from 1967 to the mid-1970s and knows his rock and roll history.Oddball album cover of the week.
Talk about a literal translation. Only thing missing is a swing.