Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year's Random Bits

Happy New Year, Jazz fans! It's good to be back in the AccuRadio offices, working on ways to improve and promote AccuJazz in '09. I enjoyed some relaxing time with my family in my hometown of Tucson, AZ, surely a good place to retreat from the Chicago winter (though I must note that for one day, Saturday, Dec. 27, it was actually warmer in Chicago than in Tucson).

First things first: in case you haven't yet heard (and shame on you if you haven't), jazz giant Freddie Hubbard passed away on Dec. 29 at the age of 70. There have been countless tributes and remembrances written about him in the last week. I have nothing new to add, but I'd like to take a quick moment to express my own experiences and memories of his music.

I probably first heard Hubbard on a Herbie Hancock compilation CD called Cantaloupe Island that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was 11 or 12 years old. I remember particularly loving Hubbard's funky trumpet solos on "Watermelon Man" and "Driftin'." I listened to them enough that I could sing along to the record before I even knew that was something we "jazz students" were supposed to do.

Being a drummer, I was naturally a collector of Art Blakey records, and have always enjoyed the Hubbard/Shorter/Fuller frontline the best of all (Caravan was another record given as an early gift, and has stuck with me ever since). Among the releases under Hubbard's own name, Hub-Tones is a favorite, but I confess to never having mined the depths of his catalog as a leader.

One final note: I feel fortunate to have been in the same small hotel ballroom with a 67-year-old Hubbard at the 2006 IAJE conference in New York, where I was in the audience for a roundtable conversation with a host of NEA jazz masters including the late Ray Barretto, who passed away just over a month later. I really felt like I was in the presence of royalty in that room, and was most excited to see Hubbard out of all of the legends on the stage. Freddie's music will surely be with us for a long, long time.

Here are some good remembrances and tributes, if you haven't already checked them out yourself:

NPR Morning Edition
New York Times
Marc Myers' JazzWax
Jazz.com Tracks Selected by Randy Brecker

OK, in other news...

I was welcomed to the office yesterday by a huge stack of CD's that included, among others, nine releases from the young West Coast jazz label Resonance Records.

Every once in a while a label head is intrigued by the AccuJazz idea and takes it upon him/herself to send all or most of the label's catalog my way. Resonance head George Klabin is a very enthusiastic, passionate promoter and producer of music, and kindly sent the whole catalog. I spent a lot of time yesterday sifting through the Resonance CD's and so far my favorites are Conversations With my Family by Mike Garson (which includes a really nice performance DVD), Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 by Bill Cunliffe, and a new release of a Gene Harris concert from 1996, Live in London. The music on all of the CD's is immaculately arranged, performed and recorded, and the discs feature entertaining liner notes. This Klabin guy is serious about building a catalog of memorable releases, and he's off to a great start.

Other CD's waiting for me that I'm excited to give a closer listen:
Blending Times by Ravi Coltrane
Similar in the Opposite Way by New Orleans trombonist Jeff Albert
Bohemian Maestro: Django Reinhardt and the Impressionists by The Hot Club of San Francisco

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