Maria Schneider, photographed by Jimmy & Dena Katz
Thanksgiving week is upon us, which means that two of the best bands in jazz are showcased at two of New York’sand possibly the world’sbest clubs. From Tuesday through Sunday, Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra plays at the Jazz Standard (though not on Thanksgiving Day), while Jason Moran’s Bandwagon Trio plays at the Village Vanguard. These gigs have become annual traditions. They sell out fast. Get your tickets now.
I would never have placed Marc Cary and Matthew Shipp in the same category of jazz pianists, but their superb new solo discsCary’s For the Love of Abbey (Motema) and Shipp’s Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)find them converging toward close points from different angles.
It ranks among the most astounding turnarounds in American music. John Zornerstwhile bad-boy impresario of the downtown New York jazz scenespent last month touted as a modern master, and Manhattan's pride, by the city's most venerable institutions of high culture: the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, Lincoln Center, Columbia University, and NYU.
Now entering its fourth decade, the Compact Disc player seems to have reached a stage of maturity where the best models within a given price range will sound pretty much alike. The technology of the Compact Disc itself is set, its possibilities and limitations are well understood; and the designers of CD players who figure out how to stretch the former and finesse the latter wind up at about the same sonic place (again, for the same price), even if they've taken different routes to get there.
The world is catching up with Darcy James Argue. Two years ago, he was known mainly for having the strangest name in jazz since Ornette Coleman. Now he's a double winner in Downbeat's 2013 Critics' Pollthe top pick for Best Arranger, and tied with Maria Schneider for Best Big Band Leader.
That's It! (Sony Legacy) is a hell of a fun album: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the treasure of New Orleans music, wailing with cylinders wide open.
Purists might protest. All the songs on this record are new (a first for the PHJB), and the solos tend more toward R&B riffs than trad-jazz polyphony. In short, the vibe seems to pulse more from the rowdy late-night clubs up on Frenchman Street than the band's usual stately sanctuary in the heart of the French Quarter.
Bill Frisell’s new CD, Big Sur (Sony Masterworks/OKeh Records), is at once a reprise and a departure. It features the string musicians from his 858 Quartet, last heard two years ago on Sign of LifeFrisell on guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Hank Roberts, cellothis time augmented by the versatile young drummer Rudy Royston. The album also features 19 new Frisell compositions, lithe and lyrical, yet laced with more complex harmoniessubtler, darker, and more sinuousthan anything I’ve heard from him before. . .
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.
Readers of this space know of my near-boundless admiration for Maria Schneider, the most accomplished and imaginative big-band composer of our time and high up in the pantheon for all time. Her swaying lyricism, muscular rhythms, and kaleidoscopic harmonic voicingsaccented with both a Latin tinge and an airiness as spacious as her native Minnesotarival and, in some ways, exceed the heights of erstwhile mentors, Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evans.
Now, with Winter Morning Walks, Schneider leaps to still loftier terrain, fusing her jazz sensibility with classical idioms, while staying true to both. . .