Monday, January 25, 2010

Put Your Party Hat On and Get Yourself to a Jazz Fest

As I noted in a previous post, we're celebrating "Jazz in January" over on To get things started, we featured three channels: "Decade: 2000s," "2010 Jazz Grammy Nominations" and "Best of 2009." Now, the new channel rollout is off the ground: we're throwing an Internet radio-style Birthday party for a handful of jazz musicians with January birthdays, as well as previewing two major jazz festivals coming up this Spring. Head to to see what's going on.

If you listen to the January Birthday Channel, you'll hear music by 33 different artists who were born in the first month of the year. The listening experience is unique, with the playlist being based on a completely-non musical qualifier: the month in which an artist was born. Case in point: my most recent listening session began with avant-garde bassist William Parker and his quartet tearing through "The Golden Bell," a Parker composition with a folk-like bass line, rhythmically knotty horn lines, and the ferocious drumming of Hamid Drake. The next selection was fellow January birthday boy Cyrus Chestnut playing a solo piano version of the century-old Christian hymn, "I Surrender All." Also heard: Bobby Hutcherson (pictured), Chris Potter and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The January Birthday Channel isn't the only place on the site that's throwing a B-Day party, though. For the rest of the month, our main channel is featuring the music of 9 select artists with January B-Days. Who are the chosen few, you ask? Django Reinhardt, Max Roach, Herbie Nichols, Joe Pass, Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Benny Golson and Bobby Hutcherson. The main channel is still playing all of the music it was playing before, but now you'll hear music by these 9 great musicians a little more often.

I feel pretty good about my picks, but if you want to argue with me, feel free. Notable January B-Day people I left out include Parker, Potter, John McLaughlin, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Krupa, Jeff "Tain" Watts, James Carter, Alex and Nels Cline, Henry "Red" Allen and Jason Moran. Wow, now that I list those guys, I feel bad for leaving them out. No worries though: they're still on the main channel, just not with the same frequency, and you can hear all of the birthday buddies on the January Birthday Channel.

Also new today are two channels devoted to musicians performing at spring's two biggest American jazz festivals: SFJazz and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest. Technically, SFJazz is a series of concerts taking place over a few months, and the NOLA fest is heavily weighted towards non-jazz artists (Pearl Jam and Simon & Garfunkel are the headliners), but they both have a whole lot of great jazz artists performing. We've made a channel for the Chicago Jazz Festival the last two years, and I thought it was about time to highlight some other festivals.

As you can see from the website, SFJazz's lineup is enough to make any jazz fan drool. Keith Jarrett, Joshua Redman, Pharoah Sanders, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kurt Elling... the list goes on and on. For folks thinking about attending an SFJazz concert or two, the channel will serve as a great way to get pumped up, and for those drooling over the lineup from far away, it's the next best thing to actually being there.

As noted before, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a definite misnomer, and at least one New Orleanian agrees with me on that. Among the hundreds of artists slated to perform, I'd estimate that about 5% are playing jazz. Nevertheless, there still will be a lot of great jazz performed at the fest, and we're doing our part to draw attention to it. Check out the channel and hear for yourself. If you're going, you just may find a jazz musician worth missing Pearl Jam for. Most of the jazz will be coming from NOLA natives -- including Brian Blade, Terence Blanchard, Irvin Mayfield, Galactic, Allen Toussaint and more -- but there are some notable out-of-towners too, such as the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Joe Lovano and Hiromi.

Between celebrating Jazz in January birthdays and previewing a couple of jazz festivals, it looks like you have a lot of listening to do. Get on it!

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