Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Music Monday for June 29, 2015

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     Ten years after making his Blue Note Records debut, and following two Grammy Award-winning volumes of his critically and commercially successful rhythm-and-blues-oriented “Black Radio” albums, Robert Glasper has announced a return to his acclaimed acoustic jazz trio for his new CD, “Covered.” Along with Glasper on piano, the trio features Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums. The ensemble, the original trio from Glasper’s first two Blue Note releases, reconvened at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood in December to record in front of an intimate live audience. The material mainly consists of covers, drawing from some of the pianist’s favorite songs by Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, John Legend, and more, as well as several Glasper originals.
     JD Allen’s career ascendance suggests that he’s making plenty of the right choices. The native of Detroit has been on the New York scene since 1993, when his youthful precociousness earned him a spot in Betty Carter’s acclaimed touring program for up-and-comers.  TimeOut New York says he will “remind you of giants like Coltrane and Rollins but placing a special kind of premium on concision, directness and accessibility.” The Chicago Reader adds, “Allen has gravitated toward a more brooding, elliptical approach with a strong jolt of John Coltrane at his most probing.” One of the telltale symbols of his upward trajectory is the fact that his trio, with bassist Greg August and drummer Rudy Royston, has remained solid throughout his rise. Their new disc, “Graffiti,” features an entire program of Allen originals.
     Also this week, pianist Jeb Patton’s arrangements on “Shades and Tones” run the gamut from trio to quartet, quintet and sextet settings; the Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble, highlighted by vibraphonist Joe Locke, saxophonist Sharel Cassity and pianist and arranger Bruce Barth, take on a set of McFarland compositions on “Circulation: the Music of Gary McFarland”; and pianist, composer and arranger Pete Malinverni salutes eight great American cities that have persevered through challenging times on “Emerging Markets.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

IC Jazz Festival Performers Bring Home The Gold

By Dennis Green

Artists who perform at the Iowa City Jazz Festival regularly receive some of music's biggest honors. This year is no exception, as several musicians who will play on the Jazz Festival stage have just received recognition in the prestigious Downbeat Critic's Poll.

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Leading the pack is Rudresh Mahanthappa, who hit the Downbeat trifecta. He was named Rising Star Composer, topped the poll for Alto Saxophone, and his latest release, "Bird Calls" is Jazz Album of the Year. Mahanthappa performs July 3rd.

Jazz legend Charles Lloyd's quartet, which will close out the mainstage performances on July 4th, was named the #4 jazz ensemble in the world. Lloyd ranked #2 on Tenor Saxophone, just behind 2014 Jazz Festival headliner Joe Lovano.

Other Jazz Festival performers who ranked highly in the poll include:

  • Dave Douglas - #2 Trumpet
  • Brian Charette - #4 Jazz Organ
  • Julian Lage - #2 Jazz Guitar
  • Becca Stevens - #4 Rising Star Female Vocalist
  • Ben Allison - #4 Rising Star Arranger

Past Jazz Festival headliners on the list, besides Lovano:
  • Ambrose Akinmusire (2010) - #1 Trumpet
  • Joey DeFrancesco (2002) - #1 Jazz Organ
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith (2013) - #2 Jazz Organ
  • Larry Goldings (1993) - #3 Jazz Organ
  • Bill Frisell (2000 & 2009) - #1 Jazz Guitar
  • Cyrille Aimee (2012) - #1 Rising Star Female Vocalist

Cyrille Aimee with KCCK's Craig Kessler & Bob Stewart

The Iowa City Jazz Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015, and will take place July 2-4 on the UI Pentacrest in Iowa City. Click here for the full 2015 Iowa City Jazz Festival performance schedule.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Music Monday for June 22, 2015

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     The Bad Plus has almost exclusively performed as a trio for its nearly 20-year existence. Guests occasionally join the band in concert, but only one of their previous 10 discs has included a fourth member. In 2011, bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King invited saxophonist Joshua Redman to join them for a week of enthusiastically received performances at the Blue Note in New York City. They then played a handful of dates before heading into the studio last year to record their debut album, “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.”  “Playing with The Bad Plus has allowed me to explore a part of my playing, and my musical heritage, that I’ve never before accessed in quite the same way with any other group,” Redman explains. “The adventure with The Bad Plus pushes me toward the fringes and draws me into the core.”
     To pay proper tribute to a legend, an artist must do more than pay homage but must extend that storied legacy, demonstrating its timelessness by offering a musical vision that is immediate and of the present. “I’ve wanted to do this tribute to J.J. Johnson for 20 years but I never felt quite ready,” explains trombonist Steve Davis of his new CD, “Say When.”  “Something kept telling me, ‘Just wait. Just wait.’ Then a year-and-a-half ago, we did the J.J. weekend at Smoke with this sextet and I finally realized it was time.” Davis and his team of collaborators—trumpeter Eddie Henderson, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, and the sterling rhythm section of Harold Mabern, Nat Reeves and Joe Farnsworth—deliver the tribute powerfully and with clear affinity and devotion.
     Also this week, pianist Janice Friedman and her trio—bassist Ed Howard and drummer Victor Lewis—deliver “Live at Kitano,” recorded in 2011 and featuring classics from the likes of George Gershwin and Billie Holiday, a few more obscure jazz tunes as well as Friedman’s own compositions; the Moroccan-born, Australia-based guitarist Albare and his multicultural ensemble (Venezuelan, Cuban and Italian) release “Only Human”; and after four discs co-led with saxophonist Ken Fowser, vibraphonist Behn Gillece debuts as a leader in his own right with “Mindset.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Music Monday for June 15, 2015

New Music Monday Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     There are certain venues that become a home away from home for many musicians. Places where the vibe is right, the crowd is always involved and management is friendly. The Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, California is one of these places and the favorite venue of pianist Benny Green. Returning to the site where he recorded a live album on his 30th birthday, Green recorded “Live in Santa Cruz” to mark both the 20th anniversary of that gig and his 50th birthday. The night and the performance were magical, as the trio featuring bassist David Wong and drummer Kenny Washington lit up Kuumbwa with a program of all original compositions by Green.
     “Passion World” from vocalist Kurt Elling certainly lives up to its title. It is indeed his most ‘worldly’ CD to date, as Elling casts his net far and wide, from Brazil to Ireland, Germany to France, Scotland to Cuba to Iceland. In terms of its conceptual scope and its breadth of influences, it’s the most ambitious project yet from the preeminent male vocalist in jazz. It is also Elling’s most star-studded disc, featuring a small battalion of guest collaborators working in tandem with the singer’s much-traveled quintet. The guests include veteran trumpeter Arturo Sandoval; the widely lauded young vocalist Sara Gazarek; German trumpet star Till Bronner; French accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano; the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its founder-leader, saxophonist Tommy Smith; and the world-renowned WDR Big Band and Orchestra from Germany, featuring pianist Frank Chastenier.
     Also this week, pianist and composer Aaron Diehl follows up his 2012 debut with “Space, Time, Continuum,” as his core trio is joined by the iconic tenor saxophonist Benny Golson and the magisterial baritone saxophonist Joe Temperly; 11-year-old jazz sensation and piano prodigy Joey Alexander debuts with “My Favorite Things”; and guitarist Al Di Meola introduces his new six-piece band on “Elysium”.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Music Monday for June 8, 2015

New Music Monday Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     Vibraphonist Joe Locke’s new recording, “Love is a Pendulum,” is just over an hour in length, but has taken a lifetime to make, as it encompasses all of Locke’s joys and sorrows, and utilizes all of his slings and arrows. It’s an arresting collection of all original music, the centerpiece of which is a five-movement suite based on a poem by the writer and musician Barbara Sfraga, a multi-dimensional artist who Locke has long admired. “As is so often the case in my composing process,” Locke explains, “the genesis of a musical idea comes from words, whether it be a novel, a poem, or even a simple phrase uttered in a certain way.” Joining Locke’s core working quartet are special guests Rosario Giuliani and Donny McCaslin on reeds, Paul Bollenback on guitar and Theo Bleckman on vocals.
     With his new quintet, the E-Collective, multiple Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard journeys into an exciting zone of grooved fusion teeming with funk and blues colors on “Breathless.” The group includes Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazan on keyboards, Donald Ramsey on bass and drummer Oscar Seaton.  The adventurous 13-tune recording zeroes in on several Blanchard originals, an epic-length piece by Almazan, and a scattering of covers, some sung by Maroon 5’s PJ Morton.
     Also this week, trombonist Kevin Stout and saxophonist Brian Booth offer a loving tribute to the extravagant beauty of their home state of Utah’s five national parks and the evocative character of the geological wonders that dominate the region on “Color Country”; singer and lyricist Tony Adamo’s imaginative music is depicted through a prism that he calls Vocal/HipSpokenWord on “Tony Adamo and the New York Crew”; and Houston-based bassist and composer Glen Ackerman offers up his latest jazz-fusion project, “Glenious Alien Landscape.”