I’m appallingly late with this, but the photo show “Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World” is up for a few more days (through April 12) in the arcade of Jazz at Lincoln Center (on Broadway and 60th Street, 5th floor, New York City)—and, if you’re in the area, go see it.
It was no surprise that Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron struck such rich chords Tuesday night at the Blue Note, the first in a series of duet concerts that Haden, one of the great bass players in jazz, is headlining—six nights, four different pianists—at the club in Greenwich Village. Haden is best known as the bassist in Ornette Coleman’s original quartet, but it’s a mistake to tag him as a “free jazz” musician, in the usual sense. Above all, Haden is a romantic—he loves ballads and waltzes, he plucks a thick, juicy tone—and Barron is a lush balladeer. A few moments in the opening set didn’t quite click (maybe because Haden, now 70 but still youthful, recently had a hernia operation), but most of it did, Barron cruising triplets on the keyboard, Haden responding with undisguised but tightly harnessed emotion. The duet recording he and Barron made several years ago, Night and the City, seems a simple pleasantry if you play it in the background, but listen closely, there’s so much intricacy between the two—and yet, at every level, the music above all delights and charms.
The Jazz Journalists Association held its annual awards party at the City Winery in New York City Saturday afternoon, June 10. Here is a partial list of the winners, followed in parentheses by the musicians I voted for. The awards covered the period from April 15, 2010 to April 15, 2011. (The full list of finalists and winners can be found here and here.
RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Joe Lovano's Us Five, Bird Songs (Blue Note).
My Pick: Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note). Lovano's Charlie Parker tribute is a good album, but Moran's is a masterpiece, the career highlight of the most impressive, versatile jazz musician of his age.
Three Jazz Journalists Association Awards for Sonny Rollins (Photo: www.sonnyrollins.com)
The Jazz Journalists' Association held its annual bash at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City Wednesday afternoon: crowded, boisterous, and, thankfully, air conditioned (it was 97 degrees out on the sidewalk).
The big winnerno surprisewas Sonny Rollins, who nabbed Best Musician of the Year, Best Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, and (for Road Shows, Vol. 2) Best Album of the Year. I voted for Rollins in all three categories as wella rare instance when I've been at one with the consensus on the top prizes.
The Jazz Journalists Association, of which I'm a member, announced its awards yesterday. Here are the winners in the major categories (a full list of the nominees and the winners can be found here and here), followed by my own choices (which, as you will see, differ from the consensus more than usual).
(It's worth noting up top that Sonny Rollins was declared "Emeritus Jazz Artist / Beyond Voting," which, though a bit of a cop-out, is sort of fitting.)
Sony/Legacy’s 40th anniversary, deluxe reissue of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis’ landmark fusion double-album, is everything that the company’s 50th anniversary reissue of Kind of Blue tried to be but wasn’t: a fitting commemoration, handsomely packaged, with liner notes by a scribe (Greg Tate) who fully grasps the music and its cultural significance, and—a remarkable achievement—a boxed set that warrants tossing the original out.
Last December, I posted a swooning review of Acoustic Sounds' two-disc, 45rpm, 200-gram Quality Records Pressings of Ella & Louis, the 1956 Verve album of duets with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (backed by Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and Buddy Rich), which may be the most delightful vocal album everand, in this pressing, perhaps the most amazing-sounding.
Now Chad Kassem, the reissue house's proprietor, has come out with the 1957 sequel, Ella & Louis Again (same cast, but with Louis Bellson replacing Rich on drums, for the better). It's swoon time all over. . .
If you follow jazz, you know that Ella & Louis, the 1956 Verve album of duets with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, is one of the most delightful vocal recordings ever.
If you're an audiophile, you've read that Chad Kassem, proprietor of Acoustic Sounds, in Salina, Kansas, has bought the finest vinyl-pressing equipment, hired some of the hottest engineers to modify and operate it, and come up with a new line of LPs called QRP, for Quality Records Pressings.
One of his first QRP products is a 45rpm, 200-gram pressing of Ella & Louis. If you're a jazz-following audiophile, go buy this right away. Flummoxed by the $50 price tag? How much would you pay for the most palpable illusion you'll ever experience that Pops and the First Lady of Song are back among the livingstanding, breathing, singing, and blowing, right in front of you?
A little over two years ago, I raved in this space over Rhino's 180-gram vinyl pressing of Ornette Coleman's 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, one of the greatest and most important in all of jazz. Now I'm here to rave louder still (with one frustrating caveat) about another reissue, mastered by Bernie Grundman at 45rpm for the audiophile label ORG.
The folks at Rhino Records have just released a 180-gram vinyl reissue of The Shape of Jazz to Come, Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking (and still riveting) album of 1959, mastered at RTI from the original stereo tapes. It sounds in every way better than the original pressing, which itself sounds quite good.
Everything is clearer, highs are extended, bass is more defined, dynamics are wider. Ornette’s white plastic alto sax has more of that palpable whoosh through the reed and horn. Don Cherry’s pocket trumpet has an airier mouthpiece. Charlie Haden’s bass—you can hear the wood vibrate. And Billy Higgins’ drum set has more sizzle and snap.
In a sense, I understand why Thelonious Monk's albums on Columbia, recorded between 1962 and 1968, have been neglected. His earlier sessions, on Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside, were the ones where he introduced his classic songs, developed his eccentric style, and played with star-studded rhythm sections. The six quartet albums for Columbia feature a total of just six new Monk songs. And they find him playing with a working band of accompanistsno John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Griffin, Art Blakey, or Roy Haynes here.
Keith Jarrett has also just released a trio CD called Yesterdays (on ECM), featuring Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums, with whom he’s been playing for decades. The album might be described as outtakes from the group’s 2001 concert in Tokyo—portions of which were released the following year on a double-disc recording called Always Let Me Go—except that the new album is dramatically different. Always consisted almost entirely of improvisations; but it turns out the trio also played standards that night (the group is known as Jarrett’s “standards trio”), and they’re all assembled on Yesterdays. Often when a musician releases an album of previously unreleased takes, it’s clear why they didn’t make the original cut. But that’s not the case here. In fact, this is one of Jarrett’s loveliest albums, especially the ballads (“You’ve Changed,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and “Stella by Starlight,” as well as the title tune). Whatever one might say about the man’s antics and idiosyncrasies, his artistry cannot be disputed. I can’t think of another jazz pianist alive, and only a few from any era, who displays such seamless virtuosity, across so many styles of music, and still conveys the vibrant rhythms and true emotion of a song.