Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad, Andrey Henkin  |  Sep 08, 2023  |  4 comments
Arne Jansen/Stephan Braun: Going Home; Joe Farnsworth: In What Direction Are You Headed?; Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension; Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2.
Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 28, 2023  |  3 comments
Something has happened in jazz culture in the new millennium. There is more emphasis on original composition than ever before. There has been remarkably little discussion and analysis of this phenomenon, perhaps because many assume it is a positive development. Jazz, after all, prioritizes originality.

There is a counterargument. It goes like this: Jazz today is vital and dynamic because great players keep popping up, all over the world. Very few of those great players are also great composers. Yet they apparently feel obliged to be. A large proportion of new jazz albums contain all or mostly originals.

Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 16, 2023  |  0 comments
Henry Threadgill Ensemble: The Other One
12-piece ensemble; Threadgill, conductor
Pi PI97 (CD, available as download). 2023. Liberty Ellman, prod.; Stephen Cooper, Eric Shekerjian, engs.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

At 79, Pulitzer Prize winner and NEA Jazz Master Henry Threadgill is one of the last men standing among the founding fathers of the jazz avant-garde. Because his output of recordings is not voluminous, every new Threadgill release is an event. The Other One is more of an event than most because of its ambition (it is an album-length suite) and its scale: It introduces a new 12-piece ensemble.

Robert Baird, Thomas Conrad, Andrey Henkin  |  Aug 10, 2023  |  5 comments
Eva Cassidy: I Can Only Be Me; Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls; Ralph Towner: At First Light; Chet Baker: Blue Room; Various Artists: The Jazz Room, Vol.2.
Thomas Conrad, Tony Scherman  |  Jul 13, 2023  |  5 comments
Sasha Matson: Molto Molto; Dan Rosenboom: Polarity; Billy Childs: The Winds of Change; Taj Mahal: Savoy
Thomas Conrad  |  Jul 12, 2023  |  1 comments
Jazz emerged from the African-American experience in the United States, so it is not surprising that it has been socially relevant since its earliest manifestations. Sonny Rollins put the matter succinctly: "jazz is protest music."

In 1923, Bessie Smith sang songs based on her experience of racism and sexism. In 1939, Billie Holiday recorded "Strange Fruit," a chilling song about a lynching. Charles Mingus's 1959 classic "Fables of Faubus" secured a permanent place in music history for the segregationist governor of Arkansas; thanks to Mingus, among jazz fans at least, the name "Orval Faubus" will ever be synonymous with bigotry.

But if social activism is nothing new in jazz, it has never been so prevalent as it is today. At some point in the new millennium, it began to feel like every new jazz album had to have at least one overtly political track. The reasons for this development may lie in the extreme political polarization of our society. The divisiveness of the Trump Era forced everyone, including artists, to choose sides.

But the ways jazz has woven itself into contemporary history go far beyond standoffs between progressives and conservatives . . .

Thomas Conrad  |  Jun 07, 2023  |  0 comments
Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place; Wayne Escoffery: Like Minds; Tony Kadleck Big Band: Sides.
Thomas Conrad, Sasha Matson  |  May 11, 2023  |  0 comments
Bobo Stenson Trio: Sphere; Kirsten Edkins: Shapes and Sound; Franco Ambrosetti: Nora; Walter Smith III: return to casual.
Thomas Conrad  |  Apr 12, 2023  |  0 comments
Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism
Sorey, drums; Aaron Diehl, piano; Russell Hall, bass; Greg Osby, alto saxophone
Pi P196 (3 CDs, available as download). 2022. Sorey, prod.; Kengchakaj Kengkarnka, recording/mixing eng.
Performance *****
Sonics ***½
Thomas Conrad, Kurt Gottschalk  |  Apr 06, 2023  |  2 comments
The Art Ensemble Of Chicago: The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris; Clovis Nicolas: The Contrapuntist; Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra: Blues & Bach: The Music of John Lewis; Chris Potter: Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard.