Thursday, May 28, 2009

AccuJazz News: Roll-Out Continues With "A Great Day in Harlem"

It's new channel time again, and this week's is very unique: the common factor uniting the artists is not a time period, style, or instrument, but a historic photograph. It's the "Great Day in Harlem" photo. You know the one, right? Well, In case you don't, here it is:

Here's the story behind it: in 1958, a young photographer named Art Kane was assigned by Esquire Magazine to produce a photo to open an article about jazz. Looking back, Kane said he was young and naive to have believed that his ambitious plan could have been practical, but he went for it anyway and succeeded. He attempted to get every major jazz musician in New York to the same spot on 126th Street in Harlem at 10 a.m. Amazingly, 57 of them showed up, resulting in a photograph still unparalleled today in terms of cumulative jazz talent. While some of the musicians present never gained extremely wide name recognition, most of the people in the photo belong on a list of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

A shortlist of legends present in the photo includes Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Art Blakey, Marian McPartland, Gene Krupa, Mary Lou Williams, Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Rushing, Benny Golson, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Griffin, Hank Jones, Sonny Greer, Jo Jones, Milt Hinton, Oscar Pettiford, Dicky Wells and Pee Wee Russell.

The AccuJazz channel is playing recordings from throughout the careers of these magnificent players, from early Count Basie to Sonny Rollins's 2008 release, and lots of other great music in between.

The photo has attained legendary status, with an Academy Award-Nominated documentary about it, and even a starring role in a Spielberg movie. It was the first photo Art Kane took in his professional career, and he went on to become a very successful photographer, taking iconic pictures of rock musicians like The Who, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

The idea for this channel actually came from fellow AccuRadio employee Paul Maloney. Thanks Paul! Give it a listen and let me know what you think, either here, or on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or the ShoutBox on the AccuJazz homepage.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

AccuJazz News: Roll-Out Continues With "Trombone Jazz"

For this week's new channel, we highlight one of the more under-appreciated jazz instruments: the trombone. Sure, "Piano Jazz" is our most popular channel (even more popular than the main channel), but I have a feeling there are a lot of folks out there who have been waiting for this one.

The trombone is probably less popular simply because there are less people playing it. And why is that, you ask? Because it's really freaking hard to play! Nonetheless, young musicians decide to take up the trombone every year, and many of them go on to unlikely careers playing it. Many of the greatest musicians and composers in jazz history have been trombonists. From Tommy Dorsey to J.J. Johnson to Steve Turre, the instrument has attracted talented, creative individuals who play in plenty of different styles.

"Trombone Jazz" has been a long time coming; I knew when I first started working at AccuRadio that it would be a necessary addition to the "Jazz by Instrument" category, and I've been adding great music to the channel's play list ever since. If you find the channel less than satisfactory on first listen (which I'm pretty sure will not be the case), please come back and listen again on Monday, when a new update including about 600 more songs will have gone through.

The channel provides an education in the history of jazz trombone, from the early swing trombone of Dickie Wells and Jack Teagarden to the bebop mastery of Curtis Fuller and Frank Rosolino to the creative modern sounds of Roswell Rudd, Conrad Herwig, Robin Eubanks and Jeff Albert.

A recent listening session produced a playlist including youngster Josh Roseman, Herwig, modern hard-bopper Steve Davis, and J.J. Go on and listen, and see what trombonists show up for you. Then let me know what you think right here, or via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or the ShoutBox on the AccuJazz homepage.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jazz World News: Jazz in the White House

Not long after Barack Obama was elected president, jazz advocates were already writing open letters to him about bringing "America's Classical Music" back to the White House -- as Jimmy Carter had done. In 1978, Carter went so far as to say this to the group of jazz legends gathered on the White House lawn: "What you have given America is as important as the White House and the Capitol building." For a jazz fan, hearing those words from a president's mouth are every bit as exciting as the most exhilarating Coltrane solo.

Obama, seen here briefly mentioning his intentions to fill the White House with jazz music, among other things, wasted no time in fulfilling his promise. Wynton Marsalis, the face of jazz to many Americans, entertained Obama and guests on Inauguration night in the White House.

Jazz personalities Tony Bennett and Esperanza Spalding were part of a Stevie Wonder tribute held at the White House in February, and last night Esperanza made another appearance, at the White House's first Poetry Jam.

From the tiny snippet of footage here, it looks like she and pianist Eric Lewis performed some pretty complex, challenging wordless jazz, a far cry from the pop-oriented Wonder tribute at her last appearance.

The president has been really, really busy: trying to resuscitate the world economy, chart out new directions in two wars, and lay the groundwork for comprehensive reform in the areas of health care, education and energy, not to mention find a replacement for Supreme Court justice David Souter. But it's good to know that despite all this, he still took the time to open up his new home to a group of artists who deserve to be recognized.

Hopefully Obama and his event planners will soon learn about a few other jazzers besides Esperanza. Nothing against her (after all she is the postergirl for our new young artists channel, "Emerging Voices") but it seems a bit unfair that she gets TWO White House appearances when there are thousands of other talented jazz musicians, young and old, worthy of the same treatment. I'm not complaining, though. He'll get around to it, just like fixing the world economy and ending the war in Iraq.

Monday, May 11, 2009

AccuJazz News: Roll-Out Continues With "Emerging Voices"

It came too late in the week to write about on the blog last week, but there was a new channel last week, so we're still sticking to our word of providing a new channel every week, for all you Internet radio watchdogs out there.

The new channel is called "Emerging Voices" and it's dedicated to music by the under-40 crowd, whether it be by unknown up-and-comers or superstars like Jason Moran and Esperanza Spalding [pictured].

There is a long tradition of the jazz elders making way for newcomers to shine, with most of the jazz legends making their recording debuts in their early twenties. Tony Williams joined Miles Davis' band when he was a mere 17 years old. With the rise of university jazz programs, there are more young jazz musicians dedicated to playing jazz than ever before. I'm one of 'em, and though I haven't recorded anything worth broadcasting on the channel, I hope to very soon, and I have personal relationships with plenty of the players you will hear.

As young folks come in all stripes, the stylistic variation on the channel is pretty wide - from Corey Wilkes' neo-soul-tinged jazz to Amir ElSaffar's Avant-Iraqi jazz. A recent listen produced some newer Roy Hargrove (just barely under 40; we'll have to take him off in October), a straight-ahead tune by Los Angeles-based drummer Devin Kelly, and a killing track from Chris Potter's 2001 disc, Gratitude.

Many lesser-known youngsters have also come up in recent listening sessions. The channel will no doubt be a great place for discovering new talent. If you're a jazz fan who finds him or herself wondering "is there any hope for the future of jazz?" then you'll want to listen to this channel. You'll find the answer is a resounding "Yes."

Go ahead and listen, and let me know how YOU like the channel, by commenting here, or via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or the ShoutBox on the AccuJazz homepage.