Tuesday, February 17, 2009

AccuJazz News: The grand roll-out has begun, with "Straight Ahead"

Well, we've been talking about it for a while now, and the roll-out has finally begun (I can't help but think of Ludacris when I use that term - anyone else have that problem?) We promised to introduce a new jazz channel every week for an indefinite amount of time, and we're going to stick to our word. The roll-out begins today with "Straight Ahead," a mix of swinging, grooving jazz from throughout jazz history, from Basie and Ellington to Clifford, Blakey, Wynton, Joey D, and many more. There's no free jazz, fusion, or ballads here; everything is coming right out of the swing tradition. A recent listen gave me this play list: Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Buddy Rich, Sonny Rollins, Benny Green, Milt Jackson. Pretty good programming, if you ask me.

Listen Here

Stay tuned every week for more new channels. Next up we travel to the opposite side of the stylistic spectrum for "Avant-Garde Jazz." Please listen to "Straight Ahead" channel and let us know what you think, by commenting here, or via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or the ShoutBox on the AccuJazz.com home page.

Monday, February 16, 2009

R.I.P. Louie Bellson, Blossom Dearie, Gerry Niewood, Coleman Mellett

The Jazz world has experienced an inordinate amount of loss this past week, capped by the passing on Valentine's Day of legendary drummer Louie Bellson. Iconoclastic jazz singer Blossom Dearie died on Saturday, Feb. 7, and the tragic Continental Airlines plane crash on Feb. 12 took the lives of two professional jazz musicians, saxophonist Gerry Niewood and guitarist Coleman Mallett.

Louie Bellson (1924-2009)

It's a given that Bellson is a technical master of the instrument, as any number of videos on youtube (like this one) will attest. But Bellson was concerned with being a true musician. Duke Ellington himself called Bellson "not only the world's greatest drummer…[but also] the world's greatest musician." He has over 1,000 compositions to his credit, an impressive statistic for any musician, and very unusual for a drummer. When I played drums in the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, we played Bellson's "Zig-Zag," a tribute to Elvin Jones arranged by Thad Jones, and it was one of the most difficult big band pieces anyone in the band had ever played.

When I was collecting music for the new drummers channel on AccuJazz, "Give The Drummers Some," I ended up putting a lot of Louie Bellson albums on the play list. He led an incredibly prolific career, both as sideman and leader, and you'll undoubtedly get a taste of his output if you give our drummer channel a listen. From everything I've ever heard about the guy, he was a very sweet, considerate, kind man.

Here are some tributes I've pulled from the web: JazzWax, Jazz.com, Jazz Police

A list of exceptional Bellson videos can be found on his official website, here.

Blossom Dearie (1926-2009)

A great, unique jazz singer (and a favorite of AccuRadio CEO Kurt Hanson), Blossom Dearie died Saturday Feb. 7 in New York City. The outpouring of respect for her talents since then has been remarkable, and has sent a message to me that I've been missing a lot by not checking out her music very much. One of the especially impressive tidbits of information to come out since her death is that Bill Evans claimed to have been influenced by her piano voicings. When you stop and think about how many pianists have been influenced by Bill Evans' piano voicings, you realize that Dearie's influence is larger than most would think. Her appearance on a 2001 broadcast of Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" reveals a lot about the quality of her playing and singing as well as her charming personality.

I've added some of her music to our Main Channel and Vocal Jazz channels. Head to AccuJazz to listen.

Some good obituaries and tributes: San Francisco Chronicle, JazzWax, L.A. Times

Gerry Niewood and Coleman Mellett

Though I was already incredibly shocked and saddened by the news of the Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crash on Thursday, it hit me a little bit harder when I read, on Saturday, that two of the victims of the crash were jazz musicians, who traveled constantly for their work. Both longtime members of Chuck Mangione's band, Niewood and Mellett were road warriors on tour as much as 10 months out of the year.

Though he has played thousands of gigs in a long career, Niewood's most notable was probably the famous Simon & Garfunkel Concert in Central Park, where he can be heard playing solos on the live recording. He has some albums to his credit as well. Read his official bio on AllMusic and check out his official MySpace, with many loving comments from friends and family.

Coleman Mellett was a 33 year old guitar player married to jazz singer Jeanie Bryson, the daughter of Dizzy Gillespie. Like Niewood, he was able to make a living solely from playing his instrument. See his official MySpace here.

New York Times Obituary

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Now Playing on AccuJazz

There is a whole lot of new music playing on the many AccuJazz channels as of today. I've been importing new CDs for a little over a month while the tech guys have been transitioning to a new technology. That's why the player looks different from how it used to; see the old one in my post here. Here are all the new CDs now playing. I also imported a lot of less recent releases to build up some upcoming channels, but I'm just including new releases here. Click on the album title to purchase it from Amazon.

Benny Golson - New Time, New 'Tet (Concord)

Luba Mason - Krazy Love (Sunnyside)

Jeff Albert Quartet - Similar in the Opposite Way (Fora Sound)

Dena DeRose Trio - Live at the Jazz Standard, Vol. 2 (MaxJazz)

Joshua Redman - Compass (Nonesuch)

Phil Ranelin - Living a New Day (Wide Hive)

David S. Ware - Shakti (AUM Fidelity)

Mads Tolling Trio - Speed of Light (Self-Released)

The Devin Kelly Organ Trio - First Things First (DPK)

Jane Monheit - The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me (Concord)

Baron Tymas - Insight at Midnight (TymasMusic)

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble - A Blessing (OmniTone)

Ravi Coltrane - Blending Times (Savoy Jazz)

John Beasley - Letter to Herbie (Resonance)

Lori Bell - The Music of Djavan (Resonance)

Bill Cunliffe - The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (

Mike Garson - Conversations with My Family (Resonance)

Gene Harris Quartet - Live in London (Resonance)

Diego Goldsztein - Jewish Standards (Self-Released)

Toninho Horta - To Jobim with Love (Resonance)

Bill Henderson - Beautiful Memory: Live at the Vic (Ahuh Productions)

Christian Howes - Heartfelt (Resonance)

The Hot Club of San Francisco - Bohemian Maestro: Django Reinhardt and the Impressionists (Azica)

Cathy Rocco - You're Gonna Hear from Me (Resonance)

Andreas Oberg - My Favorite Guitars (Resonance)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Featured Albums for February

A new addition to AccuJazz.com in the wake of our web site launch is a feature that highlights new releases, creatively titled "Featured Albums." We used to have a little box called "featured
albums this month," but it wasn't updated regularly and was just a random grab-bag of jazz albums from different time periods that I liked. This new-and-improved feature box will highlight exceptional new albums getting a lot of play on AccuJazz. Without further ado, the featured albums for February are:

1) Bill Cunliffe - The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (Resonance)
Tribute albums are not uncommon, but it's less often that you see one in the form of a re-creation of an entire album. This is the case with LA-based pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe's magnificent "The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2," on which he pays homage to saxophonist/compose r/arranger Oliver Nelson's landmark album. Cunliffe's take on the classic album is quite personal, interesting and even witty at times, but nowhere near irreverent. The intricate arrangements clearly present the original melodies, taking small liberties that freshen up the familiar material just enough: an extended phrase here, a reharmonization there, an unpredictable orchestration here, a odd-time signature there. Cunliffe enlisted some of the best in the business to carry out his vision, with Terrell Stafford on Trumpet, Jeff Clayton guesting on alto sax, and a crew of top-notch LA studio players filling out the horn and rhythm sections. There's no wonder that this album has been at the top of the JazzWeek chart for 14 weeks. Thoroughly enjoyable modern mainstream jazz.

for it on AccuJazz Main Channel, Piano Jazz, Everybody's Boppin', New School, and New Releases

Buy from Amazon

Reviews: All About Jazz
; AllMusic; Audiophile Audition; JazzTimes

2) The Blue Note 7 - Mosaic (Blue Note, duh)
This is a really good time for tribute albums. "Mosaic," by the newly formed Blue Note 7, is another successful tribute to historic recordings of the past. In this case, it's all for the sake of a birthday party: Blue Note turns 70 this year, and central to the celebration is the release of this all-star group's album and their subsequent national tour. Led by pianist and Blue Note artist Bill Charlap, the group includes mostly non-Blue Note musicians: on the front line are trumpeter Nicholas Payton and saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Steve Wilson. Joining Charlap in the rhythm section are guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. Sure, I could spout all sorts of praise for these fantastic musicians, but there really is no need; their reputation precedes them. The septet presents original arrangements of classic tracks from Blue Note's golden age. Much like the Bill Cunliffe album, the arrangements are engaging and clever without being irreverent. Payton's re-imagining of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" may be the most out-of-left-field of the bunch, with a fragment of the original melody acting as a rhythmically knotty ostinato that underlies the whole tune. Another no-brainer for the stations submitting to JazzWeek.

Listen for it on AccuJazz Main Channel, New School, and New Releases

Buy from Amazon

Reviews: All About Jazz; AllMusic; Pop Matters

3) Joshua Redman - Compass (Nonesuch)
And now for something that, for whatever reason, hasn't yet made a showing on the jazz radio charts, even though it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard jazz album chart: Joshua Redman's "Compass." It is a freewheeling and enchanting album featuring Redman alongside two piano-less trios. Redman mixes and matches the two bassists and two drummers, often creating a piano-less quintet. Save for a beautiful arrangement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, the songs are written either by Redman or his collaborators (Reuben Rogers and Larry Grenadier on bass; Gregory Hutchinson and Brian Blade on drums). There's free improvisation, Avant-Garde composition, and downright gorgeous songcraft here. "Faraway" is one of the most memorable melodies I've heard in a long while. The playing is superb, and the trio format allows for limitless group interaction. The two-bassists/two-drummers quintet can sometimes be a bit much to absorb, but for the most part it's enjoyably busy. I'm playing this on the AccuJazz channels like it's charting No. 1 on JazzWeek; I don't know what everyone else is missing.

Listen for it on AccuJazz Main Channel, Saxophone Jazz, New School, Cutting Edge, and New Releases

Buy From Amazon

Reviews: All About Jazz; AllMusic; Pop Matters

4) Toninho Horta - To Jobim With Love (Resonance)
And again with the tribute albums! This one comes to us from Brazilian guitar master Toninho Horta, who pays tribute bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Horta interprets nine Jobim chestnuts and also offers a few original tunes in homage. Some of the arrangements get a little close to kitsch in their utilization of backing choirs, synthesizers and string orchestras, but the playing by Horta and a star-studded cast of guests including Gal Costa, Bob Mintzer and Gary Peacock is consistently great. Of particular note is the incredible authentic rhythmic feel provided by a whole stable of Brazilian drummers and percussionists. Horta's singing is almost as strong as his guitar playing, for which he has been described by none less than Pat Metheny as "an incredible musician, the rare guitarist who understands harmony in its most intimate ways." Horta delivers on that promise here.

Listen for it on AccuJazz Main Channel, Guitar Jazz, Latin Jazz, and New Releases

Buy from Amazon

Reviews: Audiophile Audition; NPR; AllMusic

5) Keith Jarrett Trio - Yesterdays (ECM)
Does this really need a description? The greatest working piano trio in the world plays their favorite standards before an enthralled audience. Genius improvisations, sophisticated interplay, gorgeous piano voicings, Jack DeJohnette's full-force drumming, Gary Peacock's lyrical bass solos, etc. It's the Keith Jarrett trio, for cryin' out loud! You know it's going to be great. Like the Joshua Redman album, it's beating out plenty of smooth jazz for a spot on the Billboard chart, but isn't even on the JazzWeek radio chart. What's going on here?

Listen for it on AccuJazz Main Channel, Piano Jazz, Live Jazz, New School, and New Releases

Buy from Amazon

Reviews: All About Jazz; AllMusic; Audiophile Audition

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Look

Just in case you didn't notice, or if you're wondering whether I somehow didn't notice, yes, I changed the template for the AccuBlog. I wanted something that was narrower and more contained. All that white space in the old template just felt a little bit anarchic. Also, the green on this template pretty much perfectly matches the AccuJazz green.

By the way, have you checked out the new AccuJazz yet?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The New AccuJazz.com is Live!

After a lot of hard work (and plenty of procrastination, too) the new AccuJazz.com is finally here! What's so new about it, you ask? Well, it is sporting a new look, a new layout, and a dozen brand new channels.

The new channels are: Big Band, Composers: Ellington, Live Jazz, Groove Jazz, Decade: '50s, Give the Drummers Some, Decade: '60s, Cool Jazz, New Orleans, Trumpet Jazz, New Releases, and Cutting Edge. The channels are then broken up into six categories: "Jazz by Style," "Jazz by Instruments," "Jazz by Region," "Jazz by Composer," "Jazz by Decade," and "Other Channels."

The really exciting part: starting next Tuesday, 2/10, a new channel will be rolled out every week. Look for more channels from every category in the coming months, including style channels like "Straight-Ahead" and "Avant-Garde," instrument channels like "Trombone Jazz" and "Good Vibes," more composer, region and decade channels, and creative concoctions, such as a channel that only plays music by people who were in the historic "Great Day in Harlem" photograph.

Our official new slogan is "The future of Jazz Radio." Even though our design scheme happens to be a little retro (it's based on Cannonball Adderley's classic "Somethin' Else"), I think the tagline is more than apt. What is the past and present of jazz radio? One person in a DJ booth deciding what gets played. This isn't necessarily a bad thing: if it's a good DJ, you will likely hear a great combination of timeless favorites and pleasant new discoveries. But you have no say in what music you hear, and if you don't like a particular song, you're stuck with it for the next 5-9 minutes. With AccuJazz, you can pick a channel that suits your tastes (my favorite right now is "Cutting Edge," this week's featured channel).

On top of that, you can "deselect" an artist form the artist list in the AccuJazz player if you don't want to hear them anymore. Say you like an artist enough to keep them in the list, but you don't like a song of theirs that comes up? Just skip to the next song.

Also, you will find a lot of music on AccuJazz that would never make it on the playlists of a traditional radio station because we have so many places to put it. Pretty much every song on the upcoming Avant-Garde channel would be deemed too "out" to make it on the fm dial, but there are plenty of listeners out there (maybe you?) who love that music. I think you get the idea. Jazz radio is great and all, but the future is here.