Friday, January 16, 2009

While You're Listening to AccuJazz... (#2)

In the last installment of "While You're Listening to AccuJazz..."(I changed it from "While You're NOT Listening..." because, duh, you can probably look at other jazz stuff while listening, right?) I highlighted the work of Jazz PR Guy/Videographer Bret Primack's oeuvre of jazz videos on YouTube and elsewhere. I'll quickly note that one of the more recent installments in his video podcast was an intriguing look behind the scenes of Joe Lovano's newest project, "Us Five," with whom Lovano will release a Blue Note CD later this year. The video includes candid interviews and priceless fly-on-the-wall footage of Lovano and his coterie backstage at a Village Vanguard gig.

For this installment, I'll be pointing you in the direction of some of the other great jazz-related blogs I've come across. No doubt many jazz fans are familiar with many of these, but I'm sure some are unfortunately unaware of how much great jazz writing is happening exclusively on the internet. A few of my favorites:

Do the Math
DTM is written by Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. Iverson is extremely knowledgeable and articulate, with incredible insight into the past and present of jazz. He also includes plenty of updates on his fantastic band. One of DTM's highlights was an surprisingly in-depth interview with Wynton Marsalis. Considered by the jazz chattering class to be ideological opposites, Iverson and Marsalis engage in some serious talk about Marsalis' current projects, musical inspirations, and worldview.

JazzWax is written by Marc Myers, a journalist, corporate consultant and longtime jazz aficionado. His blog mostly focuses on Pre-1960's jazz, writing in-depth analyses of rare recordings, illuminating dark corners of jazz history, and engaging in extended interviews with jazz legends, like this one with Jimmy Cobb.

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Written by Jazz Journalist Association president Howard Mandel, Jazz Beyond Jazz covers the current New York jazz scene and anything else on Mandel's mind. Recent posts have tended towards the political events on every one's mind, usually with a tie-in to some jazz news.

Thriving on a Riff
I don't even remember how I happened upon Thriving on a Riff, but I'm glad I did. Ottawa Citizen jazz critic Peter Hum writes more prolifically than any other jazz blogger I know of, and every single post is packed with useful information and thoughtful opinions. He almost always includes one or more youtube clips privy to the topic at hand. Lately his posts have tended towards the political, too, with a recurring series called "Jazz for Obama," currently in its 10th installment.

FreeJazz Stef
I don't know how this guy does it, but he reviews a startling amount of avant-garde jazz releases on the market as they come out. With updates almost every day and a well-organized archive, this is the spot for folks curious about free jazz and related forms. He rates records from 1-to-5 stars, and tags the ones befitting the 5-star honor so that you can see the best of the best all in one place.
The folks behind must feel a sense of duty to uphold the prestige of their URL, because they're running a wonderful website. There is a constant flow of new content, from the anything-goes Blog to the many impressive interview subjects to their own unique feature, "The Dozens," wherein a guest columnist presents 12 tracks essential to appreciating a given artist or tradition (ex: Ethan Iverson recommending his 12 favorite stride piano tracks). The only problem here (as well as the other blogs listed) is that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to appreciate everything there is to read.

Oh, and then of course there's the AccuJazz AccuBlog, but I have a feeling you might already be hip to that one.

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 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