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?
Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra plays at Birdland in midtown Manhattan this week, an unusual season and setting (usually they play at the Jazz Standard around Thanksgiving). The occasion is the premiere of a new, commissioned composition, and at Wednesday’s early set, it sounded as lovely as anything she’s written: joyful, melancholic, adventurous, pensive, with a samba swing.
ArtistShare, the musicians' self-owned label, has two live albums just out by the guitarist Jim Halla 3-disc set of trio sessions from 1975, revealing Hall at his peak as a leader, and a quartet date from 2010, showing him still in fine form at age 80.
My first entry in this blog, six weeks ago to the day, was a news flash that Sonny Rollins, the greatest living improviser in jazz, will play at Carnegie Hall on Sept. 18 in a trio with the monumental drummer Roy Haynes and the agile bassist Christian McBride—a one-night stand that no jazz fan could stand missing.
The tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger is just 24, but already he has a distinctive sound: a confident, husky tone, combined with fleet, sometimes fragmentary phrasings: something like Sonny Rollins channeling Leo Konitz.
It's an unlikely mix of homages, but with an equally surefooted and agile band, it works. And on Preminger's latest album, Before the Rain (on the Palmetto label), his bandpianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist John Herbst, and drummer Matt Wilsonis all that.
The disc consists mainly of slow ballads, some originals, some standards, simmered in polyrhythms, cool in demeanor but ripe with emotion. There are also some jagged upbeat tunes, where all the playersand this is more a true quartet than a leader-with-three-backupsstep out with a controlled abandon.
The sound quality is good, though I wish the drums were a little less compressed.
It occurs to me that, in my list-o-mania feature, I forgot one that I’d promised—Best Living Jazz Musician of Various Categories. So here they are: the best and the runner-up. These picks will no doubt raise hackles, catcalls, and fisticuffs. So raise them! Send in your choices!
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.
Ornette Coleman’s concert last Friday at Town Hall in New York City was everything that anyone could have expected—a triumph of individual expression, group improvisation, and sheer, unconventional beauty.
Ornette Coleman, the great alto saxophonist and composer, died yesterday at the age of 85. His great jazz quartet of the late 1950s and early '60swith Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins (sometimes alternating with Ed Blackwell) on drumsrevolutionized jazz, shifting it away from chord changes to structures built more around melody, rhythm, and harmonic suggestions not confined by set chord changes. And while some of his followers may have descended into noisy chaos, Ornette himself rarely went that route and, in fact, in the '90s, stepped up to a new level of lyricism, culminating with his 2006 album Sound Grammar, which won that year's Pulitzer Prize for music.
Heads up. Ornette Coleman’s group is playing at the Town Hall in New York City on March 28. If you have any interest in modern jazz (or modern music, period), you should buy a ticket now before they sell out.