Friday, October 11, 2013

Emerging Voices Channel Now Featuring Monk Contest Winners

If you head over to right now, you'll notice at the top of the page that our Emerging Voices channel is featuring recent winners and finalists of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Emerging Voices exists to feature younger musicians and the Monk contest is the highest-profile platform for young jazz musicians to compete and gain exposure. It seems like a perfect fit to feature Monk alums on the channel. Go ahead and fire up the channel before you continue reading.

If you're a jazz fan and a viewer of TV singing competitions like American Idol, The Voice, or the X Factor you may have wondered to yourself what a similar contest for jazz musicians might look like. Well, the Monk contest might be the closest thing to a "Jazz American Idol." Granted, it's not quite as glamorous, but for young jazz musicians, it holds a similar appeal: an opportunity to gain significant exposure and career opportunities based [ostensibly] on your musical abilities alone and not on the puzzling and sometimes overwhelming maze of the music business. Past winners and finalists include such big jazz names as Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Jane Monheit, Gretchen Parlato, Marcus Strickland, Jacky Terrasson, Ambrose Akinmusire, Aaron Parks, Marcus Roberts and many more.

The contest focuses on a different instrument each year. This year's contest, which was held in September, was for saxophone. A panel of judges that included Jane Ira Bloom, Jimmy Heath, Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson made history by crowning 24-year-old Melissa Aldana the first female instrumentalist winner. Aldana was awarded a recording contract with Concord Music Group and $25,000 in scholarships. 

Emerging Voices is now featuring Aldana's music (she has already released two albums on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label) as well as that of recent winners and finalists who fit the Emerging Voices channel's "young musician" description. Many of the recent winners and finalists haven't released any commercial recordings, so we're a little limited in whose music we can play, but there's still plenty of great music to include. Here's a list of all of the Monk folks that we're featuring on the channel (of course, the channel is still playing its usual broad playlist which includes hundreds of young musicians who weren't involved in the Monk competition):

Melissa Aldana - 2013 saxophone winner
Colin Stranahan - 2012 drums finalist
Emmet Cohen - 2011 piano winner
Cecile McLorin Salvant - 2010 vocals winner
Cyrille Aimee - 2010 vocals finalist
Ben Williams - 2009 bass winner
Joe Sanders - 2009 bass finalist
Jon Irabagon - 2008 saxophone winner
Tim Green - 2008 saxophone finalist
Quamon Fowler - 2008 saxophone finalist
Ambrose Akinmusire - 2007 trumpet winner
Jean Caze - 2007 trumpet finalist
Michael Rodriguez - 2007 trumpet finalist
Tigran Hamasyan - 2006 piano winner
Gerald Clayton - 2006 piano finalist
Aaron Parks - 2006 piano finalist
Lage Lund - 2005 guitar winner
David Mooney - 2005 guitar finalist
Gretchen Parlato - 2004 vocals winner
Kellylee Evans - 2004 vocals finalist

Start listening now! For a complete list of all winners and finalists since 1987, go here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Top 50 Jazz Albums of All Time! On One Convenient AccuJazz channel's newest channel has been a long time coming. Following on the heels of Jazz 101, a channel designed to both educate and enrapture newer jazz listeners, we're very proud to announce a channel called, simply, "Top 50 Jazz Albums of All Time."

While there's a long tradition of list-making among music fans of every stripe, there is also usually an accompanying reaction, along the lines of: "who are you to judge music like it's an Olympic sport, telling me which jazz is 'better' or worse'? It's just music, man!" In fact, I might have been quoting myself just now. All the same, if you spend enough time around jazz, listening to it, reading about it, talking about it, you must face the fact that certain albums possess that certain undefinable quality of "greatness" that causes them to rise above the rest and maintain relevance for decades longer than the others.

Therefore, we make lists. To create this Top 50 channel, I consulted a few lists that other, smarter people had already made, including the Penguin Guide's core collection, this nifty aggregated list made up of 22 others, and this list, which looked pretty solid. I also left a little bit of room for my own opinion (choosing "Our Man In Paris" over of "Go", making room for Brad Mehldau and including Miles Smiles, which I'd put in the top 5 but, inexplicably, I didn't find on many lists). What you end up with is a pretty agreeable list that shouldn't offend too many folks, but might surprise you at times. I took care to keep the list diverse, so it wasn't just everyone's favorite 50's Blue Notes. There's old music (Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt), Fusion (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bitches Brew, Weather Report), free jazz (Peter Brotzmann, Albert Ayler), and even some modern stuff (Brad Mehldau, Bill Frisell). Of course, there is also plenty of classic straight-ahead jazz and post-bop.

I spent a long time whittling this list down and I'm confident that it reflects a broad scope of jazz's greatest moments. Your favorite record might not be on here, and there might be a few albums you hate, but I really do hope you enjoy listening to it.

Never at any point during the creating of the list did I think of ranking the albums from 1 to 50, so I'll list the albums in alphabetical order by artist. The titles are links to the albums' pages on Amazon. Click here to listen to the channel while you read. Enjoy!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Best of 2012

Another new year, another chance to reflect on all of the music, good or bad, that was released in the past 12 months. Though this ritual has become clockwork for Internet-savvy music fans like myself, I must admit that I still get excited when poring over the many best-of lists that clog up my RSS feed in December and January.

Of course, the excitement of reading about so much great music is quickly met by an urge to hear what all that vaunted music actually sounds like. That's where AccuJazz comes in. We've created an entire "Best Jazz of 2012" channel playing nothing but the most critically-acclaimed jazz from last year.

To make the BEST "Best of" channel, we had to find the best critics' list to help craft our playlist. The list to end all lists is Francis Davis' critics poll, originally printed in the Village Voice and now hosted by This year, Davis asked 119 jazz critics from around the world to rank their top albums from 2012. He then aggregated the results into one huge list that reflects the closest thing to a critical consensus on 2012 jazz.

As he did in 2009, the unstoppable Vijay Iyer topped this year's list. The winning album, Accelerando, is his trio's follow-up to 2009's Historicity, and like its predecessor, Accelerando searches for the Platonic ideal of jazz that is simultaneously modern and traditional, mainstream and avant-garde. Along with typically knotty Iyer originals, the album includes covers of songs by avant-garde jazz titans Henry Threadgill and Herbie Nichols and also includes left-field song choices from Flying Lotus, Michael Jackson and '70s disco group Heatwave. Iyer's trio has developed a synergistic playing style that is completely their own (and which I was fortunate enough to have witnessed live in October -- it was amazing).

Filling out the rest of the top 3 are excellent albums by avant-garde veterans -- Sam Rivers and Wadada Leo Smith, respectively. Further on down the list things get much more diverse, with Robert Glasper’s zeitgeist-defining jazz/R&B hybrid, “Black Radio,” Chick Corea and Gary Burton's shimmering standards  and some decades-old, newly unearthed live recordings from Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.

Head on over to to listen to these albums and many, many more, on our "Best Jazz of 2012" channel. As with all AccuJazz channels, it's free and available 24/7. Happy listening!