Nellie McKay’s Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (Verve, CD and LP) is the unlikeliest delight of the year. Who’d have thought that the snarkmistress of Get Away from Me (her 2004 debut double-album, with its “Explicit Lyrics” label, downtown cool, and sharp-wit irony, to say nothing of the title’s savage slash at the then-raging darling, Norah Jones) could produce such gentle covers of hits once sung by the queen of wholesomeness?
John Surman, a saxophonist of jazz, folk, church, and avant-garde influences, has been a longtime denizen in the ECM stable without gaining much renown. When he recently played at a New York club, leading a rhythm section of guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, he acknowledged to the crowd that he was the only player who needed introducing.
Gracing the 5th floor lobby of Jazz At Lincoln Center for another few months is an exhibition of the great photographer Herman Leonard, whose images of jazz musicians at work deserve the overused term “iconic.”
Watching Bobby Bradford and David Murray on the bandstand together at the Jazz Standard Saturday night (see my last blog entry) inspired me to take another listen to the only CD that paired them together, Death of a Sideman, recorded in 1991 under Murray’s name but featuring nothing but Bradford compositions, eight tracks’ worth.
As I was saying a few days ago, Bobby Bradford’s rare appearance at the Jazz Standard last Saturday was one of the most bracing sets I’ve seen in a long time. In the early-to-mid ‘90s, New Yorkers could go hear this sort of jazz—exuberant, free, but highly disciplined music—almost every night at the Knitting Factory. Just about everyone in Bradford’s band on Saturday was a regular at “the Knit” in its heyday—David Murray on tenor sax, Marty Ehrlich on alto, Mark Dresser on bass, Andrew Cyrille on drums: an extraordinary band.
Just back from seeing the Bobby Bradford Quintet, featuring David Murray, one highlight among many of the Dave Douglas-curated New Trumpet Music Festival at the Jazz Standard in New York City. One of the most invigorating sets of jazz I've seen in a long time, the sort of exuberant, "free" but highly disciplined music that the city heard plenty of in the 1980s through mid-'90s but rarely anymore. More about that later. Meanwhile, the quintet expands to an octet tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 4). I can't make it, but if you can, get tickets now!
Ben Webster and Associates is one of the loveliest albums put out in the past couple years by Speakers Corner Records, the German-based audiophile reissue house. (Its LPs are distributed in the U.S. by Chad Kassem’s Acoustic Sounds.) Recorded in 1959 on the Verve label, it features Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Budd Johnson on tenor saxophones; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Ray Brown, bass; Jimmy Jones, piano; Leslie Spann, guitar; Jo Jones, drums.
Ornette Coleman shuffled onto the stage of Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater Saturday night, and that was remarkable enough. JALC, Wynton Marsalis’ house of jazz, is typed as a conservative institution—to some, the antithesis of the music’s inherently progressive nature—yet here was the quintessential avant-gardist, making his debut appearance in the lavish concert hall on the opening night of its 2009-10 season.
The trio of Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell finishes a two-week gig at the Village Vanguard this Sunday, and if you’re in the New York area, you should drop in (though call ahead for tickets, as nearly every set, including the one I saw last night, has been packed). Here are three of the most creative jazz musicians around, each playing at the top of his game, a combination that doesn’t always make for the most coherent combos (think of the many “all-star bands” of yore that amounted to little more than blowing contests), but this trio is that rare thing, a truly equilateral triangle: no player consistently dominate, all parts are equal.
On August 17, 1959—50 years ago exactly—Columbia Records released Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which became not only the best-selling jazz album of all time but also one of the best jazz albums, period, the spearhead of the “modal” revolution.
Charlie Haden, the world’s most distinctive and enticing bass player, seems to have adopted a new tradition. It started as a special occasion, a dozen years ago, in celebration of his 60th birthday, when he played a week of duets at the Blue Note jazz club in New York, each night with a different pianist. He repeated the experiment on his 70th, and this week he’s doing it again, just short of his 72nd, not a round number, which leads me to suspect he’s doing it—and may do it again, semi-regularly—simply because it’s so thrilling, so fun.
Acoustic Sounds, Chad Kassem’s Oz of analog wonders, has expanded its line of 45rpm jazz reissues to the Impulse! catalogue. Like the Blue Notes, which Kassem and Mike Hobson’s Classic Records have already covered (at 45, 33-1/3, 180g, 200g, black vinyl, clear vinyl, just about any format you might imagine), the great Impulse! albums were engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and featured the masters of their day—Coltrane, Mingus, Rollins, and, one of the most innovative big-band arrangers in modern jazz, Gil Evans.