Friday, January 25, 2013
Of course, the excitement of reading about so much great music is quickly met by an urge to hear what all that vaunted music actually sounds like. That's where AccuJazz comes in. We've created an entire "Best Jazz of 2012" channel playing nothing but the most critically-acclaimed jazz from last year.
To make the BEST "Best of" channel, we had to find the best critics' list to help craft our playlist. The list to end all lists is Francis Davis' critics poll, originally printed in the Village Voice and now hosted by Rhapsody.com. This year, Davis asked 119 jazz critics from around the world to rank their top albums from 2012. He then aggregated the results into one huge list that reflects the closest thing to a critical consensus on 2012 jazz.
As he did in 2009, the unstoppable Vijay Iyer topped this year's list. The winning album, Accelerando, is his trio's follow-up to 2009's Historicity, and like its predecessor, Accelerando searches for the Platonic ideal of jazz that is simultaneously modern and traditional, mainstream and avant-garde. Along with typically knotty Iyer originals, the album includes covers of songs by avant-garde jazz titans Henry Threadgill and Herbie Nichols and also includes left-field song choices from Flying Lotus, Michael Jackson and '70s disco group Heatwave. Iyer's trio has developed a synergistic playing style that is completely their own (and which I was fortunate enough to have witnessed live in October -- it was amazing).
Robert Glasper’s zeitgeist-defining jazz/R&B hybrid, “Black Radio,” Chick Corea and Gary Burton's shimmering standards and some decades-old, newly unearthed live recordings from Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.
Head on over to AccuJazz.com to listen to these albums and many, many more, on our "Best Jazz of 2012" channel. As with all AccuJazz channels, it's free and available 24/7. Happy listening!
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The first of the main jazz events to happen each year is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, taking place this April 27 through May 6. Naturally, that's also the first festival channel we're launching on AccuJazz. (How about you launch the channel now before going on?)
If you visit the festival's official website, you'll see pictures of big-name headliners like the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen and Cee Lo Green. But if you check out the full line-up, you'll notice there is indeed a wealth of exceptional jazz scheduled to take place at this year's event. Our channel (you just launched it, right?) leaves out the Eagles and the Boss in favor of a diverse mix of jazz artists, from Grammy-winning "It" girl Esperanza Spalding to the legendary Herbie Hancock. Of course, there's always a slew of exceptional local New Orleans talent including Ellis Marsalis, Trombone Shorty and the usual line-up of stellar brass bands (Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, and Soul Rebels, for starters).
Whether you're actually planning on attending Jazz Fest or just wish you were, AccuJazz's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2012 channel makes for a great listen. Be sure to look out for more channels as the festival season really gets under way in the next few months.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
When looking for themes in my picks, I'm slightly (but only slightly) embarrassed to see that the top-10 is heavy on long-established personal favorites: Ben Allison [pictured], The Claudia Quintet, Dave King, Roy Haynes. This might suggest that I was biased to like these albums before I ever listened to them. What's more likely is that these bands and musicians are consistently excellent and didn't fail in 2011. Also, my 2nd favorite album of the year is by a little-known DC-based musician of whom I had no previous knowledge. So maybe I did give everyone a fair shake.
I just want to take one moment to highlight that album, Secret Handshake by Brian Settles. I was hooked from the first few seconds of the lead-off track, and it has remained in steady rotation on my iPod, computer and car stereo ever since. It's a seemingly low-budget, humble affair that nonetheless creates a very distinct and disciplined sound-world unlike anything I've heard in a long time. I didn't even receive a press release about the CD; it managed to make its way to the forefront of my listening habits with zero hype or back-story preceding it. That's unfortunately not as common as you'd think. But still, the much more hyped and more expensive-sounding Action-Refraction by Ben Allison did eke out a close 1st place finish in my list.
Below, I've listed all 30 albums that are playing on the Staff Picks channel: an ordered top 20 plus 10 honorable mentions. I hope you enjoy listening to the channel and discover a new favorite album or two for yourself.
1. Ben Allison - Action Refraction
2. Brian Settles and Central Union - Secret Handshake
3. Ambrose Akinmusire - When the Heart Emerges Glistening
4. Miguel Zenón - Alma Adentro: the Puerto Rican Songbook
5. Claudia Quintet - What Is the Beautiful?
6. Dave King Trucking Company - Good Old Light
7. Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland - James Farm
8. Mike Reed's My Silence - It Only Happens at Night
9. Roy Haynes - Roy-Alty
10. Rez Abassi - Suno Suno
11. Starlicker - Double Demon
12. Chris Speed's Endangered Blood - Endangered Blood
13. JD Allen Trio - Victory!
14. Gretchen Parlato - The Lost and Found
15. Gerald Cleaver, William Parker and Craig Taborn - Out of This World's Distortions
16. Amir ElSaffar - Inana
17. Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo - Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
18. Benny Green - Source
19. Darius Jones Trio - Big Gurl (Smell My Dream)
20. The Four Bags - Forth
Led Bib - Bring Your Own
Jason Adasiewicz - Spacer
Chris Dingman - Waking Dreams
Steve Coleman - The Mancy of Sound
Brad Mehldau, Kevin Hays and Patrick Zimmerli - Modern Music
Carlo De Rosa's Cross Fade - Brain Dance
Josh Nelson - Discoveries
Deep Blue Organ Trio - Wonderful!
Colorlist - The Fastest Way to Become the Ocean
Noah Preminger - Before the Rain
Listen to the Staff Picks channel now!
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Click here for our Best Jazz of 2011 Channel.
The best jazz album of 2011, according to the 122 people who participated in this year's Rhapsody Jazz Critics' Poll (formerly the Village Voice Jazz Critics' Poll), was made by an artist who first came to prominence in the 1950s. Road Shows, Vol. 2, by Sonny Rollins, won in a landslide. Rollins also received recognition from much higher powers than jazz critics, receiving the Kennedy Center honors from the president. Interestingly, the Rhapsody poll's No. 2 spot belongs to one of the youngest musicians on the list, 29-year-old trumpet phenom Ambrose Akinmusire. Akinmusire's exhilarating Blue Note Records debut, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, seemed to appeal to more traditional- and progressive-minded voters alike.
The rest of the list is typically diverse, ranging from quintessential New York free improvisation (David S. Ware's Planetary Unknown) to R&B-inflected modern jazz (Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project) and many well-conceived experiments in fusing jazz with ethnic musics from around the globe (Amir ElSaffar's Inana Suite, Vijay Iyer's Tirtha and Miguel Zenon's Alma Adentro). There are also an eye-opening six-and-a-half solo piano discs (the half being one disc of Matthew Shipp's double-disc Art of the Improviser).
To bring you, the listener, the best of what jazz had to offer in 2011, we're continuing in our annual tradition of creating a channel based on this definitive crtitics' list. Just click here to start listening. Our channel is playing 42 out of the 60 albums on the list, with programming weighed more heavily towards the highest-ranking albums. Therefore, you'll hear more Sonny and Ambrose than Starlicker (a great Chicago trio that came in 58th place).
As for my personal favorites, you can listen to my Staff Picks channel to hear my top 30 albums. I'll be posting a blog soon about the selections.
What were your favorite albums released in 2011? Do you agree with the critics? Do you think important albums got snubbed? Leave your opinions in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter.
Again, click here to start listening to the Best of 2011 Channel.
Monday, January 16, 2012
To celebrate Rivers' legacy, we are featuring him on the AccuJazz Saxophone channel. Along with the usual lineup of hundreds of jazz saxophonists of every style and era, you'll hear an extra large dose of Rivers' playing. We've included his well-loved 1960s Blue Note output as well as his adventurous big band work and albums where Rivers appears as a sideman with artists like Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson and Dave Holland.
Whether playing swinging post-bop with organist Larry Young or grand-scale avant-garde jazz with his own Studio Rivbea Orchestra, Rivers always played the saxophone (or flute, or piano, or whatever else was in his hands) with strikingly clear articulation and sonic focus. His music reflected a rigorous and uncompromisingly unique vision, whether creating stirring improvisations seemingly out of thin air or constructing intricate soundscapes for other musicians to interpret. His idiosyncratic composition style, which fused complex written material with free improvisation, influenced generations of adventurous jazz musicians including Steve Coleman and Jason Moran.
For a musician often affixed with the "avant-garde" label, Rivers was quite versatile: he played with bebop pianist/composer Tadd Dameron early in his career, played briefly in Miles Davis' renowned 1960s quintet, and even toured in Dizzy Gillespie's band. There is also a broad stylistic palette among music recorded under his own name. Consider the gorgeous melodicism of 1964's "Beatrice" (Rivers' most famous composition) and the frenetic energy of "Capricorn Rising," a 1975 album co-led by Rivers and pianist Don Pullen.
While many octogenarian jazz musicians find their skills steadily waning, Rivers was arguably still playing at his peak up until his death. He spent the last two decades of his life in Orlando, where he led a version of his famed Rivbea Orchestra. This video of a 2010 performance by that group displays not only Rivers' vital sax playing, but his continued compositional ingenuity and playful rapport with his band. Isn't it just great to see an old guy so happy doing what he does?
Enjoy our Sam Rivers feature on the Saxophone channel and look below for further reading:
-Nate Chinen's obituary in the New York Times
-Peter Hum's blog post, with some great videos
-Hank Shteamer's post, with recommended listening
Here's the list of albums featuring Sam Rivers to listen for on the Saxophone channel:
As a leader
-Fuchsia Swing Song
-Dimensions and Extensions
As a sideman
-Miles Davis: Miles in Tokyo
-Larry Young: Into Somethin'
-Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue
-Tony Williams: Spring
-Dave Holland: Conference of the Birds
-Don Pullen: Capricorn Rising
Friday, December 23, 2011
Our Mellow Jazz channel is one of AccuJazz's most popular, so I figured our listeners would be interested in sampling a holiday flavor of it. You'll hear plenty of versions of both "The Christmas Song" and "Christmas Time Is Here" as well as newer, original songs that also set a soothing and cheerful mood.
Speaking of new and original Christmas music, that's what the Non-Standard Christmas Jazz channel is all about. This channel is for listeners who love Christmas music but are tired of hearing the same 10 or 15 songs over and over again. Highlights include Jimmy Rushing singing "Good Morning Blues" with an early incarnation of the Count Basie Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald belting out the novelty tune "Christmas Island," and Geri Allen's brand new "Journey to Bethlehem."
Of course, you can also listen to one of our four other Christmas Jazz channels: Swingin' Christmas, Christmas Instrumentals, Christmas Vocals and New Christmas Jazz. Here's wishing you and yours a very happy and jazzy holiday!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Motian possessed one of the most distinct musical personalities of any drummer in jazz history. Like his sometime employer Thelonious Monk, Motian bypassed displays of polished technique in favor of an individual sound stripped of pretense. His approach was eloquently described by New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff as "spare and never facile, as natural as breathing."
Personally, I first became a fan of Motian in high school, when I first started getting serious about becoming a jazz drummer. A bassist friend gave me a compilation of the famous Bill Evans Trio's 1961 Village Vanguard recordings (with selections from both Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard), and told me it was the most "interactive" piano trio ever. It took me a few listens to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked. I probably listened to Sunday at the Village Vanguard (and the track "Solar" in particular) more than anything else my senior year of high school.
To honor the musical legacy of Paul Motian, we are featuring his music on our Give the Drummers Some channel. The channel is playing an extra dose of Motian, as heard on albums by Evans, Jarrett, Haden and Paul Bley as well as on many under his own name.
Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of love and appreciation for Motian in the days since his death. Here's a round-up of some of the highlights:
-The official New York Times obituary by Ben Ratliff
-A personal remembrance by Time Out New York jazz critic Hank Shteamer
-Ethan Iverson also has a personal take
-Peter Hum has been interviewing musicians who knew Motian
-Young pianist Dan Tepfer shares some stories
-As does photographer John Rogers
Friday, October 28, 2011
This most recent crop of music has a couple of promising new releases by uber-creative drummer/composers: Oblique I by Tyshawn Sorey and What Is the Beautiful? by John Hollenbeck's long-running Claudia Quintet. There's also a big band album by everyone's first-call bass player, Christian McBride, and a disproportionately large batch of CDs coming from the under-30 crowd (what is it with all these CDs by youngsters lately?)
Most all of these titles are playing on the Main Channel and New Releases channel on AccuJazz.com; I've also listed the other AccuJazz channels on which you're most likely to hear each CD. Album titles are links to purchase on Amazon.
Poncho Sanchez and Terence Blanchard - Chano y Dizzy (Concord)
Latin, Modern Mainstream, Trumpet, Drummers, Composers: Bird and Diz
Trombone Shorty - For True (Verve Forecast)
New School, Emerging Voices, New Orleans, Trumpet, Trombone, Fusion, Groove Jazz
Christian McBride Big Band - The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)
Straight Ahead, Modern Mainstream, New York, Big Band, Bassists
Claudia Quintet +1 Featuring Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann - What Is the Beautiful? (Cuneiform)
New School, Cutting Edge, New York
Tyshawn Sorey - Oblique I (Pi Recordings)
New School, Cutting Edge, Emerging Voices, New York, Avant-Garde, Drummers
Alan Pasqua - Twin Bill: The Two Piano Music of Bill Evans (BFM Jazz)
Piano, Modern Mainstream, Modern West Coast
Stanley Jordan - Friends (Mack Avenue)
Straight Ahead, Guitar, Modern Mainstream
Mike LeDonne - Keep the Faith (Savant)
Straight Ahead, Modern Mainstream, New York, Organ, Pop Composers
George Benson - Guitar Man (Concord)
Guitar, Pop Composers, Groove Jazz
Sophie Milman - In the Moonlight (Entertainment One)
Vocals, Emerging Voices, Women of Jazz
Freddy Cole - Talk to Me (HighNote)
Vocals, Pop Composers
Grace Kelly - Grace (Pazz)
Saxophone, Emerging Voices, Spiritual, Women of Jazz
Josh Nelson - Discoveries (Steel Bird Music)
New School, Cutting Edge, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, Modern West Coast
Brent Canter - Urgency of Now (Posi-Tone)
Guitar, New School, Cutting Edge, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York, Organ
Cinque - Catch a Corner (Alma)
Modern Mainstream, Organ, Groove Jazz
Aaron Staebell - Bending and Breaking (Self-Released)
New School, Cutting Edge, Emerging Voices, New York, Drummers
Patrick Cornelius - Maybe Steps (Posi-Tone)
Saxophone, New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York
Kevin Crabb - Waltz for Dylan (CrabbClaw)
Straight Ahead, Modern Mainstream, Modern West Coast, Drummers
Nick Hempton - The Business (Posi-Tone)
Saxophone, New School, Modern Mainstream
Ken Fowser and Behn Gillece - Duotone (Posi-Tone)
Straight Ahead, Saxophone, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York, Vibes
Sean Nowell - Stockholm Swingin' (Posi-Tone)
The Headhunters - Platinum (Owl Studios)
Saxophone, New School, Fusion, Groove Jazz
Jason Kao Hwang Edge - Crossroads Unseen (Eunymus Records)
Jason Kao Hwang Spontaneous River - Symphony of Souls (Mulatta Records)
Cutting Edge, Avant-Garde, Third Stream
Jazz Links Ensemble - The Drive (JICSAR)
Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, Chicago
Oscar Perez Nuevo Comienzo - Afropean Affair (Chandra Records)
Latin, New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York
Rubinho Antunes - De Viterbo (Tratore)
Latin, Brazilian, Modern Mainstream
Thursday, September 29, 2011
To celebrate (or mourn?) the beginning of Fall, I present you with the bounty of new music now playing on the many channels of AccuJazz. In case you want to catch up, here's the last Now Playing post, from July. This edition features some really great music, including Miguel Zenon's 2nd post-genius-grant album, a fascinating piano duo album by Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays that straddles the worlds of jazz and classical, and my new favorite Brooklyn indie [jazz] band, The Four Bags. But those are just the beginning. Check 'em all out below!
Most all releases are playing on the main channel and new releases channel on AccuJazz.com; I've also listed the other AccuJazz channels on which you're most likely to hear each CD. Album titles are links to purchase on Amazon.
Roy Haynes - Roy-Alty (Dreyfus)
Straight Ahead, Modern Mainstream, Drummers
Miguel Zenon - Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music)
Saxophone, Latin Jazz, New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York
Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton - Play the Blues Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center (Warner Bros)
Guitar, Trumpet, Old School, Live Jazz, Nothin' But the Blues
Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays - Modern Music (Nonesuch)
Piano, New School, Third Stream
Kyle Eastwood - Songs From the Chateau (Mack Avenue)
New School, Modern Mainstream, Bassists, Fusion, Groove Jazz
Deep Blue Organ Trio - Wonderful! (Origin)
Straight Ahead, Guitar, New School, Modern Mainstream, Chicago, Organ, Pop Composers
Steve Coleman - The Mancy of Sound (Pi Recordings)
New School, Cutting Edge, New York
Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day II (Songlines)
New School, Cutting Edge, Emerging Voices, New York, Good Vibes, Drummers
Phil Woods and Bill Mays - Phil and Bill (Palmetto)
Saxophone, Modern Mainstream, Mellow
Giacomo Gates - The Revolution Will Be Jazz (Savant)
Claudio Roditi - Bons Amigos (Resonance)
Latin, Brazilian Jazz, Modern Mainstream, Trumpet
Tierney Sutton - American Road (BFM Jazz)
Vocal Jazz, Modern West Coast, Women of Jazz
Terri Lynne Carrington - The Mosaic Project (Concord Jazz)
Vocal Jazz, New School, Modern Mainstream, Drummers, Women of Jazz
Dominick Farinacci - Dawn of Goodbye (E1)
New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, Trumpet
Al Di Meola - Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody (Telarc)
Guitar, New School, World Fusion, Fusion
Warren Wolf - Warren Wolf (Mack Avenue)
Straight Ahead, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, Good Vibes
The Four Bags - Forth (NCM East)
New School, Cutting Edge, New York
Wadada Leo Smith - Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform)
New School, Cutting Edge, Modern West Coast, Avant-Garde, Trumpet, Fusion
Starlicker - Double Demon (Delmark)
New School, Cutting Edge, Chicago, Avant-Garde, Trumpet, Good Vibes
Tim Mayer - Resilience (Jazz Legacy Productions)
Straight Ahead, Saxophone, Modern Mainstream
Brad Shepik - Across the Way (Songlines)
Guitar, New School, Cutting Edge, New York
Gerald Clayton - Bond: the Paris Sessions (Emarcy)
Piano, New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York
Orrin Evans - Freedom (Posi-Tone)
Straight Ahead, Piano, New School, Modern Mainstream
David Gibson - End of the Tunnel (Posi-Tone)
Straight Ahead, New School, Modern Mainstream, New York, Organ, Trombone, Groove Jazz
H2 Big Band - You're It! (Jazzed Media)
Big Band, Trumpet
Art Hirahara - Noble Path (Posi-Tone)
Piano, New School, Modern Mainstream, New York
Jim Snidero - Interface (Savant)
Saxophone, New School, Modern Mainstream, New York
Amina Alaoui - Arco Iris (ECM)
Vocal Jazz, European Jazz, World Fusion, Women of Jazz
Dave Valentin - Pure Imagination (HighNote)
Latin Jazz, Modern Mainstream, Fusion
Charlie Apicella - The Business (CArlo Music)
Guitar, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York, Groove Jazz
Travis Sullivan - New Directions (Posi-Tone)
Saxophone, New School, Modern Mainstream, New York
Marc Pompe - Everyone But Me (Self-Released)
Vocal Jazz, Chicago
Shawn Maxwell - Urban Vigilante (Chicago Sessions)
Saxophone, New School, Modern Mainstream, Chicago
David S. Ware, Cooper-Moore, William Parker and Muhammad Ali - Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity)
New School, Avant-Garde
Snehashish Mozumder - Jazz and North Indian Styles (Random Chance Records)
World Fusion, Fusion
Tim Collins - Castles and Hilltops (Self-Released)
New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York, Good Vibes
Chris Dingman - Waking Dreams (Self-Released)
New School, Cutting Edge, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices, New York, Good Vibes
The Great Barrier Reefs - Finding Time (Self-Released)
Modern Mainstream, World Fusion, Fusion
Jeff McLaughlin - Blocks (Owl Studios)
Guitar, New School, Modern Mainstream, Emerging Voices
Garage a Trois - Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil (Royal Potato Family)
New School, Cutting Edge, Emerging Voices, Fusion, Groove Jazz
Meretrio - Meretrio (Self-Released)
Brazilian Jazz, New School, Modern Mainstream, Fusion
Richard Underhill - Kensington Suite (Self-Released)
Straight Ahead, Saxophone, Modern Mainstream
Skip Wilkins - After (Dreambox Media)
Piano, New School, Modern Mainstream
Katrina Wreede - Add Viola and Stir (Self-Released)
Modern West Coast, Third Stream, Women of Jazz
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The summer may be inching ever closer to its inevitable and regrettable end, but some might say the best is yet to come. Three of North America's most celebrated jazz festivals are still ahead of us, and we're shining a spotlight on them at AccuJazz.com.
So far this year we've had channels dedicated to SF Jazz, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the Montreal and Newport jazz festivals. Still to come are the Chicago, Detroit and Monterey jazz festivals.
The Monterey Jazz Festival, happening September 16-18 this year, is in a class with Newport as a long-standing fest with a much-celebrated history. In fact, Concord Music Group even created a whole separate label, Monterey Jazz Festival Records, to share some of the fest's greatest recorded moments with jazz fans everywhere. Big-name headliners this year include Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and, ahem, these guys. Some notable acts on smaller stages include Robert Glasper, Donny McCaslin and Steve Coleman. The AccuJazz channel is playing music by most all of the musicians playing, so whether you're planning for a trip to the fest or just wish you could be there, check it out.
For the past few decades, Labor Day weekend has traditionally seen two great Midwestern cities host free, open-to-the-public jazz fests in their downtowns, and this year is no different. The Chicago and Detroit Jazz Festivals are persisting in their populist ideal of bringing world-class jazz to the people at zero cost, and we've got all the artists playing on our channels.
The Chicago Jazz Festival channel features this year's artist-in-residence Orbert Davis (pictured) and his Chicago Jazz Philharmonic as well as a great lineup of local and international artists including Randy Weston, Cassandra Wilson, the Deep Blue Organ Trio, Roy Hargrove, and many more.
The Detroit Jazz Festival channel features their artist-in-residence, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, as well as Dave Holland, Jason Moran, Regina Carter, Joe Lovano and many more.
Are you planning on attending any of these festivals? Who are you most excited to see? If you're not going, who do you wish you could go to see?
Check out all of our festival channels at AccuJazz.com.