Friday, December 19, 2008

AccuJazz News!

Just a quick news round-up before I leave the Winter Wonderland of Chicago for almost comically warm and sunny Tucson, AZ:

AccuJazz Player Sports New Look

After scouring the jazz news for a little bit this morning and listening to an NPR broadcast of a live performance by a buzz-worthy Chicago band that includes a couple college friends of mine, I headed on over to to listen to some good jazz, of course. Upon clicking on my desired subchannel, "New School," I became aware of a new development that I had absolutely no part in: our player got a facelift! Check it out:

Besides looking quite nice, the new player is easier to navigate. There are three tabs to select: "Now Playing," gives you all the info you could want about the song currently playing, including a link to the album's page on amazon; "Artist List," is a list of all artists slated to play on the particular subchannel, with the option of "deselecting" any artist you'd rather not hear; and "Other Channels" has links to all of the AccuJazz subchannels, in case you want a change. The old player, shown below, had all of these features, too, but I think this one is easier to use and much nicer to look at. Let me know what you think.

Well, that's it for the AccuJazz news. Have a very happy, and very jazzy Holiday, everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2008

This Just in at AccuJazz (#2)

For the second installment of "This Just in at AccuJazz," I'll resist the temptation to go way back and make an '08 Top-Ten List and instead just cover a few recent additions worth noting. That's the purpose of the time-honored tradition we call "This Just in at AccuJazz," after all. Today I'll cover a stylistically disparate batch of releases by McCoy Tyner, Tony Malaby, and the duo of Dan Baraszu and Joseph Patrick Moore.

1) McCoy Tyner - Guitars

McCoy Tyner. The last living member of the great John Coltrane Quartet. The mere mention of his name stirs up admiration in any jazz fan's heart. Any new CD he releases is worth a listen, right? Yeah, it is. The concept behind his newest one (which has staked out a comfy spot at the top of the jazz charts for quite a while now) is given away pretty easily by the title: it's McCoy jamming with a bunch of different guitarists. The attendance sheet is surprising at first: Bela Fleck (playing banjo, not guitar), Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, John Scofield and Derek Trucks. For some reason I thought he would have picked a more conventional lineup of solid straight-ahead players -- in my mind the list was going to read something like: Peter Bernstein, Russell Malone, Dave Stryker, and probably Scofield, too. But instead, he picks a group of iconoclasts, each with a strong vision and personal identity.

With a rhythm section of Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, you have a room full of larger-than-life musical personalities. And instead of making it some big Grammy-ready production, the guys pretty much conduct a straight-up jam session. Each guitarist picked two or three tunes to play with the trio. It sounds rough and unrehearsed, but ultimately engrossing. The combination of such great players essentially just having a ball in the studio couldn't have been anything less. DeJohnette is absolutely on fire, as always, Carter lays it down as only he knows how, and Tyner's individual voice shines through. One observation: Frisell and Scofield posses two of the most distinctive guitar sounds in modern jazz, and they seemed to have flattened them out a little bit for this recording.

Track picks:
Blues on the Corner
Trade Winds

Guitars Reviews:

Hear Guitars on these AccuJazz Channels:
Main Channel
Piano Jazz
Guitar Jazz
New School

Publicity Video:

2) Tony Malaby Cello Trio - Warblepeck

Saxophonist Tony Malaby has been steadily gaining stature in the creative jazz world over the last decade-and-a-half or so. I have a special place in my heart for the guy because he's from my hometown, Tucson, AZ (I know I already alluded to the place in another post -- sorry, I guess the Holidays are making me homesick) and because the first clinic/concert by a guest artist I attended as a young jazz student at Northern Illinois University was Mark Helias' Open Loose, a wonderful trio with Malaby on sax. Apart from that, he possesses a singular inventiveness that saturates his rhythmic and melodic ideas as well as the way he manipulates his remarkably brawny tone.

On the disc in question, "Warblepeck," Malaby couples his saxophone with the cello of indie-rock and avant-jazz mainstay Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer/composer extraodinaire John Hollenbeck. Sonically, the disc is a major departure from anything close to mainstream jazz. At times Lonberg-Holm's distorted cello, sounding more Metallica than Rostropovich, plays counterpoint to Hollenbeck's xylophone and desert-dry snare drum while Malaby spins some serpentine melody on top. There are some accessible grooves here, but a lot of it is pretty freely improvised. The musicality of the players and sheer freshness of the group sound lead me hopefully to believe that ears less prone to the Avant-Garde might still enjoy a listen.

Track picks:
Two Shadows
Scribble Boy

Warblepeck reviews:
Free Jazz Stef
All About Jazz

Hear Warblepeck on these AccuJazz channels:
New School

Related Video (Malaby and Hollenbeck with Tubist Marcus Rojas):

3) Dan Baraszu and Joseph Patrick Moore - Christmas Time is Here

I can't do a whole post about new CD's without injecting a little bit of Christmas cheer, now, can I? We get a lot of random stuff here at the AccuJazz offices, and a Christmas album by a duo I've never heard of usually doesn't get me too excited. But, alas, my gut can't always be right. This is a seriously enjoyable album of Christmas jazz. I don't know much about the guys involved, but I know they are both well-traveled journeymen with a handful of recordings to their credit who reside in Atlanta, GA, where the label backing this release, Blue Canoe Records, is also based.

There is wise use of overdubs on the CD, allowing for rhythm/lead guitar textures and even light percussion at times. The duo also makes tasteful use of effects, as on the leadoff track, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." A jazzy Afro-Cuban 6/8 bassline pulses along while a reverb-drenched nylon-string guitar picks the melody and ambient background noises lay down a pleasing cushion of white noise. This economical inventiveness permeates the album. On the other side of the spectrum, the two musicians show off their impressive bebop chops in an unadorned, live-in-the-studio take of "Blue Christmas." I have to say I'm a little bit surprised at how much I enjoyed Christmas Time is Here. Highly recommended for jazz fans at their wit's end when it comes to Christmas music.

Track Picks:
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Blue Christmas
Christmas Time is Here

Hear Christmas Time is Here on these AccuJazz channels:
Main Channel (until December 26th, of course)
Swingin' Christmas

Publicity Video:

Friday, December 5, 2008

2009 Jazz Grammy Noms are In

I might as well make a blog post about the recently announced jazz Grammy nominations... everyone else is doing it. A few comments from me, a not at all recognized authority on these types of things, but someone who has listened to a lot of jazz in the last year due to his job as an internet radio programming director:

A couple of noms that make me particularly happy (I like some others, too, but I don't have all day here):

Carla Bley - Appearing Nightly (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album)

I was so happy when I heard about this release and got the high quality full-album download from the radio people at ECM. Carla Bley (pictured) is one of the great jazz composer-arrangers working today, and has one of the most distinctive points of view of any big-band composer in jazz history. This CD is full of her signature quirky arrangements and great performances by the members of her band. (I'm a particular fan of Billy Drummond's drumming behind Bley in the past few years).

Kate McGarry - If Less Is More... Nothing is Everything (Best Jazz Vocal Album)

McGarry's voice may take a little getting used to for folks who've only ever listened to Ella, Sarah, and Billie, but contains rich beauty for those willing to listen. Her nominated disc features a top-shelf backing band, with Gary Versace on organ and accordion, Clarence Penn on drums, Keith Ganz on guitar, Reuben Rogers on bass, and a special guest spot by tenor giant Donny McCaslin. What I really dig about this CD, and why I played it heavily on the main AccuJazz channel even when it wasn't making the best showing in the JazzWeek or CMJ jazz charts, was the inventive arrangements of contemporary songs. Her takes on Bob Dylan, The Cars and Crosby Stills and Nash are surprisingly tasteful and un-gimmicky. The playing by Versace and Penn is particularly sympathetic.

Nom that deserves a laugh:

Nominating two solos from the same live track? Terence Blanchard and James Moody are both nominated for their solos on the tune "BeBop" from the album Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival by the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars. I haven't heard the recording in question, but it just makes the voting members of the academy look lazy. I mean, really? Two out of the five BEST solos in all of 2008 are on the SAME SONG, from the SAME CONCERT?

Here they all are, copied and pasted in all their glory:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album
(For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.)

  • Randy In Brasil
    Randy Brecker
    [MAMA Records]

  • Floating Point
    John McLaughlin
    [Abstract Logix]

  • Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley
    (Various Artists)
    Gregg Field & Tom Scott, producers
    [Concord Jazz]

  • Miles From India
    (Various Artists)
    Bob Belden, producer
    [4Q/Times Square Records]

  • Lifecycle
    Yellowjackets Featuring Mike Stern
    [Heads Up International]

Category 46

Best Jazz Vocal Album
(For albums containing 51% or more playing time of VOCAL tracks.)

  • Imagina: Songs Of Brasil
    Karrin Allyson
    [Concord Jazz]

  • Breakfast On The Morning Tram
    Stacey Kent
    [Blue Note]

  • If Less Is More...Nothing Is Everything
    Kate McGarry
    [Palmetto Records]

  • Loverly
    Cassandra Wilson
    [Blue Note]

  • Distances
    Norma Winstone

Category 47

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
(For an instrumental jazz solo performance. Two equal performers on one recording may be eligible as one entry. If the soloist listed appears on a recording billed to another artist, the latter's name is in parenthesis for identification. Singles or Tracks only.)

  • Be-Bop
    Terence Blanchard, soloist
    Track from:
    Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
    [Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

  • Seven Steps To Heaven
    Till Brönner, soloist
    Track from:
    The Standard (Take 6)
    [Heads Up International]

  • Waltz for Debby
    Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
    Track from:
    The New Crystal Silence
    [Concord Records]

  • Son Of Thirteen
    Pat Metheny, soloist
    Track from:
    Day Trip
    [Nonesuch Records]

  • Be-Bop
    James Moody, soloist
    Track from:
    Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
    [Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

Category 48

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
(For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.)

  • The New Crystal Silence
    Chick Corea & Gary Burton
    [Concord Records]

  • History, Mystery
    Bill Frisell
    [Nonesuch Records]

  • Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
    Brad Mehldau Trio
    [Nonesuch Records]

  • Day Trip
    Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez
    [Nonesuch Records]

  • Standards
    Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio
    [Fuzzy Music]

Category 49

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
(For large jazz ensembles, including big band sounds. Albums must contain 51% or more INSTRUMENTAL tracks.)

  • Appearing Nightly
    Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band

  • Act Your Age
    Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

  • Symphonica
    Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra
    [Blue Note]

  • Blauklang
    Vince Mendoza
    [Act Music and Vision (AMV)]

  • Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard
    The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
    [Planet Arts Recordings]

Category 50

Best Latin Jazz Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • Afro Bop Alliance
    Caribbean Jazz Project
    [Heads Up International]

  • The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter
    Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band
    [Half Note Records]

  • Song For Chico
    Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra

  • Nouveau Latino
    Nestor Torres
    [Diamond Light Records]

  • Marooned/Aislado
    Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates
    [Picaro Records]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When You're Not Listening to AccuJazz...

Every once in a while I'll use this blog to point my faithful listeners/readers' ears and eyes toward some jazz-related internet fun other than the various manifestations of AccuJazz.

Yes, there is other jazz-related internet fun out there.

Today's destination: the online video oeuvre of Bret Primack, self-proclaimed "Jazz Video Guy." Looks can be deceiving; the screen shot above makes him look like a goofy, self-conscious bohemian. Maybe he's just that, but he's also an invaluable creator of unique jazz content on the web.

Essentially Web 2.0 Jazz PR, Primack's videos are the results of work for his clients, which include names like Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, Concord Music Group, and Billy Taylor. The videos' classification as PR doesn't make them uninteresting. Where else will you see Sonny and Roy Haynes having an intimate conversation about their first recordings together in the late 40's? Or Orrin Keepnews talking about the legendary Monk Town Hall concert? When Joe Lovano came out with his Streams of Expression album, he hired Primack to work some 'net video magic and out came eight behind-the-scenes videos from the recording of the album. I don't know of anyone else out there creating so much professionally-produced jazz video content.

While his site is a new venture and only has his most recent video up (presented as the beginning of a new vlog to which visitors are encouraged to subscribe), his personal website includes most of his original videos. The JazzVideoGuy YouTube channel has those productions plus hours worth of rare jazz footage from throughout jazz history.

I've been aware of Primack for a few years now because I was assigned to read a book of his, How to Make it Big in the New Music Biz, for my music business class in college, and he currently resides in my hometown of Tucson, AZ. Strangely, I've never actually heard anybody in the Tucson jazz scene mention this guy's name. He must always be on the road, interviewing fantastic jazz musicians in his crazy leather hat and big sunglasses.

Next time you're bored and in front of a computer, and you've already spent hours listening to the wonderful programming on AccuJazz, check out Primack's stuff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This Just in at AccuJazz

I receive a lot of music here in the AccuRadio office. Some is good, some isn't so good, and some is spectacular. With absolutely zero influence from the record labels and radio promo firms that provide me with this music, I'm going to start an occasional series highlighting my favorite new releases. I'll also let you listeners know where you're most likely to hear them on the AccuJazz programming. I'll try to keep it to five releases in each entry.

For the inaugural "This Just in at AccuJazz," I'll let a unifying theme guide my picks: Five recent releases by bandleaders who play a decidedly non-bandleader-like instrument: the bass.

1) Dave Holland - Pass it On (Dare2/Emarcy)

Dave Holland's newest disc marks a departure from the notably stable unit he held together for a decade or so, the Dave Holland Quintet. Comprised of trombone, saxophone, vibes, bass, and drums, the quintet forged an instantly recognizable group sound unparalleled in the late 90's and early 2000's. On Pass it On, he introduces a sextet with a new, if slightly more traditional, instrumentation, and almost completely new personnel.

While Holland has worked with all the members of his new group in the past, the only Quintet veteran is trombonist par excellence Robin Eubanks. Rounding out the front line with Eubanks is Russian-born trumpet phenom Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin and young lion-turned-young veteran alto saxophonist Antonio Hart. I had the pleasure of seeing Sipiagin and Hart subbing for the Quintet's usual frontline in a 2005 concert, and was just as blown away by their contributions to the group as when I had seen the Quintet with its usual members the previous year. Completing Holland's rhythm section is A-list pianist Mulgrew Miller and rising star drummer Eric Harland.

The album opens with the lone non-Holland composition, "The Sum of All Parts," a mildly epic groover that stays true to its name, beginning with Harland alone, tinkering with the many parts of his drum set, and reaching its peak in a high-energy group improvisation. The rest of the disc reveals impressively diverse programming on Holland's part, from the contemplative and spiritual free-jazz piece "Rivers Run" to the funky and soulful title track. In between is the beautiful "Processional" and the standard post-bop fare "Fast Track."

"Pass it On" has already made it on at least one '08 Top Ten List, and I expect it to show up on many more. Find it on these AccuJazz channels:

Main Channel
Covering all the Bassists
New School

2) Mario Pavone - Ancestors (Playscape Recordings)

Mario Pavone's name may not be well-known among the mainstream jazz community, but he is a revered veteran in New York's vital Avant-Garde jazz scene. Pavone's last recording, Trio Arc, was a completely improvised session with pianist Paul Bley and drummer Matt Wilson. For Ancestors, he returns to his forte: intellectual modern jazz composition infused with freewheeling improvisation.

The musicians assembled on this album, collectively called the "Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet", features Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene on saxophones, Peter Madsen on piano, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Pavone took an unusual step in commissioning guest arrangers to set his original compositions for the group. We don't know what Pavone's own arrangements might have sounded like, but the finished products from his buddies Stephen Bernstein, Michael Musillami and Dave Ballou are intriguing and complex yet fairly accessible. I had no qualms about playing a few of the tracks on the AccuJazz main channel.

Pavone dedicates the record to two of his heroes: Dewey Redman and Andrew Hill, and their influence is heard in the inside/outside aesthetic of the proceedings. Tight ensemble sections give way to free improv, atonal bass solos lead into robust melodic statements by the two-tenor front line. The result is some really engaging, masterfully performed modern jazz that reveals more with each listen.

Ancestors is spinning on these AccuJazz channels:

Main Channel
New School
Covering All the Bassists

3) blink. - The Epidemic of Ideas (Thirsty Ear)

blink. (punctuation and capitalization theirs) is a group of young creative musicians living and working in Chicago. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll let you know that I know each of the members of the group personally, but that's not why I'm giving them this special mention. The group, led by bassist Jeff Greene, is making some wonderfully creative and innovative music.

Greene is an ambitious young bassist who has already proven himself in some sectors of the jazz world. A graduate from the presigious Indiana University jazz department and alumnus of such all-star jazz education programs as Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead and the Ravinia Steans Institute, Greene's talent has not gone unrecognized.

Musically, blink.'s debut sounds just like a group of Generation Y musicians filtering their love of modern creative jazz through deep-seated indie rock influences. Dave Miller's guitar takes on an array of different sounds, often hitting the distortion pedal, explicitly summoning the rock influence. Quin Kirchner's heavy-hitting drumming is a remarkable blend of rock and jazz styles, and Greg Ward's saxophone deftly weaves its way through free improvisations and minimalist vamps alike. His control of the horn is remarkable, and is rightly gaining attention by more and more jazz fans via his inclusion in a staggering array of groups in Chicago and elsewhere.

Despite its singular avant-jazz-meets-indie-rock aesthetic, the programming on The Epidemic of Ideas is surprisingly diverse. "Secret Weapon: Part I" is a brief but powerful statement with rich counterpoint and an aggressive, take-no-prisoners groove. "We Disappear" is a surprisingly beautiful composition, a simple chord progression thoughtfully built upon through six minutes of improvisation. "Glass" is the black sheep of the album, an atonal slow-burner ushered in by almost two minutes of sampled gamelan percussion. This is thoughtful stuff that needs to be heard.

The Epidemic of Ideas is playing on these AccuJazz channels:

New School
*Slated to be played on a number of new channels to be released in coming months*

4) William Parker - Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity)

William Parker is an elder statesman of free jazz, appearing on records everywhere you look and releasing a staggering amount of albums every year. One of his core units is the William Parker quartet, which counts Petit Oiseau as its second studio album and third overall. The group's sound is less "free jazz" than simply "creative jazz." Parker lets his bandmates take plenty of improvisational risks, but harmonic and rhythmic foundations usually stay firmly in place. Petit Oiseau keeps the group's personnel intact with a frontline of trumpet player Lewis Barnes and alto saxophonist Rob Brown and rhythm section of Parker along with his longtime foil Hamid Drake on drums and percussion.

Parker's modus operandi in the quartet is a catchy modal bass vamp with quirky, polytonal horn lines layered on top, all brought to life by Drake's inimitable drumming. Parker continues in this vein for much of the album, presenting a sort of dissertation on this method in the aptly-titled lead-off track "Groove Suite," and carrying on in the style with "Talaps Theme" and "The Golden Bell." The title track and "Four for Tommy," dedicated to three different Tommys of bebop, are more in the post-bop vein, with ensemble writing carrying along the music rather than the disparate, interlocking parts of other pieces. The exotic "Dust From a Mountain" shows Parker and Drake's world music influences (as documented on their two duo CDs, found here and here), with Parker picking up a Native American cedar flute and Drake switching between an African xylophone (balafon) and frame drum.

Petit Oiseau is playing on these AccuJazz channels:

Main Channel
New School

Covering All the Bassists

5) Todd Sickafoose - Tiny Resistors (Cryptogramophone)

Bassist Todd Sickafoose is a musician with wide-varying tastes. The biography on his website describes Sickafoose's collaborators as "innovative folks and genre benders." With Tiny Resistors, his third album, Sickafoose makes his own innovative, genre-bending statement.

Not since The Bad Plus came on the scene has a jazz album made such a strong case of jazz's relevance to modern-day indie rockers. As first-call bassist for popular rock singer Ani DiFranco, Sickafoose already has an in with the rock world, and shows off his skills at fusing that aspect of his musical personality with his jazz training (he studied under Charlie Haden, among others).

Tiny Resistors playfully utilizes effects and processing to create a sound world not often heard on jazz albums. The compositions are full of complex grooves that can still get your booty shaking. The harmonies are by turns adventurous and modern ("Future Flora") and simple and folky ("Barnacle"). The music on Tiny Resistors can't really be described in words. It's gotta be heard to be believed.

To chance hearing it, check out these AccuJazz channels:

Main Channel
New School
Covering All the Bassists

Monday, November 24, 2008

Welcome to the AccuBlog

Hello, AccuJazz fans! It's Lucas Gillan here, with a new blog that will keep you up-to-date on all the exciting goings-on at AccuJazz and in the jazz world in general.

For starters, check out our brand new Christmas Jazz channels. Choose from Swingin' Christmas, for straightahead jazz fans, or Smooth Christmas for Smooth Jazz fans. Be sure to bookmark the links for this weekend if you can't stand the thought of listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving.