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.