Between the Grooves with Philip Booth

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Posts Tagged ‘Terence Blanchard

Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Free no more & acts announced: Bonnie Raitt, Avett Brothers, Mindi Abair

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News on the Clearwater Jazz Holiday front: It’s no longer free, according to a Tampa Bay Times story published today.

Organizers have announced that, for the first time in its 33-year history, the fest will charge for admission: $10 at the door.

As late as last year, organizers said that they couldn’t/wouldn’t book top top-shelf jazz talent because of the expenses incurred. Hard to believe that line of reasoning, particularly given that the fest frequently has positioned pricey smooth-jazz artists at the top of the bill.

The response, among the jazz fans I talked to: Hey, we’ll gladly pay an admission fee if we can get heavyweight jazz talent – the artists who win jazz polls, for instance – in return.

The situation: Now there’s a charge at the gate, and the first three acts announced are decidedly NOT major jazz artists. So far: Bonnie Raitt (blues-rock-pop), The Avett Brothers (altcountry-Americana-rock-pop), Mindi Abair (smooth jazz).

Raitt is terrific, and, as a blues artist, makes a decent fit on a jazz festival. I look forward to hearing her show, part of a tour promoting “Slipstream,” her first new album in seven years. Abair is par for the course.

Then there’s the Avett Brothers. I’ve seen this siblings-led band grow from rootsy bluegrass-influenced contenders to making a nice splash in the broader Americana/pop world – I’ve caught several of their amazing performances at festivals held at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak.

But they have to count as a first – the farthest afield, musically, from jazz that the Clearwater Jazz Holiday has ever played host to.

Nothing wrong with an eclectic music festival. But for any jazz festival that wants to maintain its identity as a jazz festival, then the Avetts are a terrible fit.

Sad to say, but it’s probably time for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday to drop “jazz” from its name. I’ll still go — heck, I’d love to hear Raitt and the Avetts again — but I guess I”ll finally give up hoping that the event will return to its glory days as a major jazz festival.

That makes me sad.

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is slated for October 18-21 at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. For more information, go here. Interested in suggesting an artist to play the fest? Send your thoughts to info@clearwaterjazz.com

(Meanwhile, up the road, the long-running Jacksonville Jazz Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend, is bringing in Sonny Rollins; Poncho Sanchez with Terence Blanchard; Corea, Clarke, and White; and more; it’s still free)

The Next Hot New Orleans Trumpeter? The Search Is On

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New Orleans, not surprisingly, has produced a long line of great jazz trumpeters, from Buddy Bolden, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong to Christian Scott and Shamarr Allen. Louis Prima is the subject of this year’s poster for Jazz Fest.

And, of course, there are also Terence Blanchard (probably my favorite living trumpeter; looking forward to his Jazz Fest appearance), Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Irvin Mayfield (ditto for his Jazz Fest show with the NOJO), Leroy Jones, Kermit Ruffins, Al Hirt and several other notables whose names will come to mind the second this post is published.

(Payton, right, plays tonight at the Village Vanguard in NYC; listen live here)

Young jazz trumpeters in New Orleans will get a chance to raise their game — and their profile — via “Seeking Satch,” a contest co-sponsored by the French Market and the Mayfield-directed New Orleans Jazz Institute at the University of New Orleans.

Three high-school trumpet players will get four-year scholarships to UNO’s jazz studies program, and a chance to perform this August at Satchmo Summerfest.

Trumpeters from two other age groups — 6th to 8th grade, and 9th to 11th grade — will gain admission to the year-round Saturday Music School organized by the New Orleans Jazz Institute.

That’s all according to a piece published today in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Official details are below:

SEEKING SATCH

WHAT: A trumpet competition that rewards high school seniors with University of New Orleans Jazz Studies scholarships, and sixth to 11th grade students with spots in the New Orleans Jazz Institute’s Saturday Music School. Outgoing seniors must submit a UNO college application and e-mail a link to a YouTube video of them performing their favorite Louis Armstrong song, plus a jazz tune of their choice, to Robin Williams at rmwilli6@uno.edu. Younger student applicants must send an e-mail expressing their interest to Amy Kirk at akirk@frenchmarket.org.

WHEN: The deadline for high school senior applications is March 18. Six finalists will be chosen to compete at French Quarter Festival April 10. The three winners will go on to perform at Satchmo Summer Fest in August. Deadline for the younger students to apply is May 3; their competition will be held May 22 at McDonogh 15.

Disc of the Day: Lionel Loueke, “Mwaliko” (CD review)

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Lionel Louke, Mwaliko (Blue Note)

It seems like just a minute or two ago that Benin native Lionel Loueke was making his first splash on the global jazz scene. He provided gorgeous West African-flavored flourishes for trumpeter Terence Blanchard‘s mid-’00s groups and made key contributions to performances and recordings by bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Herbie Hancock (including a stellar show with the latter at Jazz Fest in New Orleans).

Several indie releases and two Blue Note discs later, the guitarist, educated in Africa, France, and at Berklee College and the Thelonious Monk Institute, is more than fulfilling the promise of those early appearances. Mwaliko has Loueke joined by instrumentalists and singers from Africa and the U.S. for a variety of originals, a traditional from Benin, and a slippery, brightly interactive duet with drummer Marcus Gilmore on Wayne Shorter‘s “Nefertiti.”

That tune, like nearly everything else on the recording, suggests a real musical intimacy between Loueke and his collaborators. Clearly, there’s some wavelength-sharing going on here, including beautiful, bouncy exchanges between his guitar lines and mouth sounds, and longtime Benin-born friend Angelique Kidjo‘s singing, on the opening, joyful “Ami O” and the pensive “Vi Ma Yon,” a Beninese folk song.

Loueke, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth — AKA the guitarist’s touring band, known as Gilfema –sound like three of a perfect pair, so attuned they are to each other, on Loueke’s searching, vocals-showered “Griot,” Nemeth’s haunting ballad-to-groover “L.L.” (which feels a bit Methenyesque) and Biolcati’s rhythm-tricked “Shazoo.”

Two other bassist-vocalists team with Loueke to great effect.

Young upright phenom Esperanza Spalding joins in on the pretty, lilting “Twins,” and the aptly named, funk-edged “Flying,” both written by Loueke and both suggesting that these musicians’ singing and instrumental talents are made for each other.

Cameroon-born electric bassist Richard Bona is aboard for the floaty “Wishes” and the closing, insistently percolating “Hide Life,” as sunny and intoxicating a piece of African-infused jazz as you’re likely to hear this year.

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For more on Lionel Loueke, check out Steve Hochman’s interview with the guitarist, online at Spinner.

Jazz at the Grammys; and props to Lifetime Achievement winner Clark Terry

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The Grammy Awards — particularly as demonstrated by its biggest categories — remains the music industry’s overblown high-school prom, a chance for the year’s most popular and/or most attractive rock, dance, hip-hop and country artists to toast each other’s success on the charts and in the media spotlight.

Last night’s ceremony, in that respect, was mostly the same: Does anyone believe that, 20 years from now, anyone will be singing the songs of, or caring much about the likes of Lady Gaga, who opened with a two-piano extravaganza with Sir Elton John (his earliest songs have become classics), or Pink, who did a skin-baring Cirque du Soleil-style act?

Jazz, as usual, got short shrift (yes, there was Herbie Hancock’s big win last year, but that was a fluke).

Lifetime achievement winner Clark Terry (right), the great and gracious trumpeter, and good-humored “mumble”/scat singer, got onstage recognition from director Quentin Tarantino (huh?) and the camera caught Terry, 89, in the audience. Then it was on to a really annoying, profanity-laced performance by Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Drake and drummer Travis  Barker. No, thanks.

Best musical moment: Jeff Beck‘s performance of “How High the Moon,” with singer Imelda May, in a too-short salute to Les Paul, introduced by actor Jeff Bridges (huh?) Beck played a sunburst Les Paul guitar for the occasion.

This year’s jazz nominees, for the most part, were musically solid. Several of the recordings that appeared on my Top 10 list — discs by singer Roberta Gambarini, pianist Allen Toussaint, and bassist John Patitucci — grabbed nominations, but not wins.

Nice to see New Orleans artists take home trophies in two categories — trumpeter Terence Blanchard for best improvised jazz solo, and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield‘s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra for best large jazz ensemble album — although it’s a bit of a shock that the latter category didn’t include nominations for first-rate recordings by Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

The Jazz Surge’s CD, The Comet’s Tail: Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker, did get attention in the category of best instrumental arrangement. Talented veteran arranger Bill Cunliffe won, for “West Side Story Medley” from the Resonance Big Band’s tribute to Oscar Peterson. Note: Mendoza was nominated twice in this category, so that may have hurt his chances for a win.

And it ought to be noted that neither acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer, nor his trio’s Historicity, which topped this year’s Village Voice Jazz Critic Poll (I voted), were to be found among the nominees. UPDATE: Vijay let me know that Historicity “was released two weeks too late to qualify for the awards.” Here’s hoping that NARAS will honor the CD next year.

Kurt Elling won in the jazz vocal category for another impressive recording, but I wonder if the superb discs by Robert Gambarini (my pick for ’09′s best jazz vocal CD) and Tierney Sutton resulted in a vote split leading to the Elling win.

It was satisfying to see several veterans pick up wins, including late Weather Report keyboardist Joe Zawinul, for the final CD from his Zawinul Syndicate band, and pianist Chick Corea and guitarist John McLaughlin, for a live recording from their Five Peace Band.

Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark, picked up another Album Notes Grammy, his eighth, for his contributions to The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946).

Finally, how many father-and-son recordings have won Grammy awards? In the Latin jazz category, the great Cuban-born pianist Bebo Valdes and his son, pianist Chucho Valdes, won for Juntos Para Siempre.

The jazz winners and nominees….

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

*Winner: 75 Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate

[Heads Up International]

Urbanus Stefon Harris & Blackout [Concord Jazz]

Sounding Point Julian Lage [Emarcy/Decca]

At World’s Edge Philippe Saisse [E1 Music]

Big Neighborhood Mike Stern [Heads Up International]

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Best Jazz Vocal Album

*Winner: Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman Kurt Elling [Concord Jazz]

No Regrets Randy Crawford (& Joe Sample) [PRA Records]

So In Love Roberta Gambarini [Groovin' High/Emarcy]

Tide Luciana Souza [Verve]

Desire Tierney Sutton (Band) [Telarc Jazz]

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Best Improvised Jazz Solo

*Winner: Dancin’ 4 Chicken Terence Blanchard, soloist Track from: Watts (Jeff “Tain” Watts) [Dark Key Music]

All Of You Gerald Clayton, soloist Track from: Two-Shade [ArtistShare]

Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey Roy Hargrove, soloist Track from: Emergence [Groovin' High/Emarcy]

On Green Dolphin Street Martial Solal, soloist Track from: Live At The Village Vanguard [CamJazz]

Villa Palmeras Miguel Zenón, soloist Track from: Esta Plena [Marsalis Music]

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Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group

*Winner: Five Peace Band – Live Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band [Concord Records]

Quartet Live Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow & Antonio Sanchez [Concord Jazz]

Brother To Brother Clayton Brothers [ArtistShare]

Remembrance John Patitucci Trio [Concord Jazz]

The Bright Mississippi Allen Toussaint [Nonesuch]

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Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

*Winner: Book One New Orleans Jazz Orchestra [World Village]

Legendary Bob Florence Limited Edition [MAMA Records]

Eternal Interlude John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble [Sunnyside]

Fun Time Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band [Hänssler Classic]

Lab 2009 University Of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band [North Texas Jazz]

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Best Latin Jazz Album

*Winner: Juntos Para Siempre Bebo Valdés And Chucho Valdés [Sony Music/Calle 54]

Things I Wanted To Do Chembo Corniel [Chemboro Records]

Áurea Geoffrey Keezer [ArtistShare]

Brazilliance X 4 Claudio Roditi [Resonance Records]

Esta Plena Miguel Zenón [Marsalis Music]

New Orleans: Serious About Its Identity As a Music Town?

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But of course: New Orleans is a music town, one of the greatest on earth, and in many respects the heart and soul of American music.

It’s the birthplace of jazz, and it would be darn near impossible to gauge how great an impact the city and its indigenous arts culture have had on other forms of musical Americana, including R&B, blues, funk and soul.

And yet because of pesky political obstacles or a lack of imagination, the city’s fathers have never quite been able to capitalize on NOLA’s music/arts culture, which encompasses everything from still-vital brass bands to Mardi Gras Indian groups, great modern jazzers, traditional jazzers, amazing funk/rock groups, inspired singer-songwriters, and soul singers — artists like the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth Brass Band (in photo), New Orleans Nightcrawlers, the Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis, Astral Project, Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Paul Sanchez, Alex McMurray and Irma Thomas, just to name a few.

By capitalizing, I mean spending the time and energy, and devoting the appropriate funding and resources to help leverage New Orleans’ amazing music scene — from Frenchman Street to the Uptown clubs — as an essential element driving visitors from all over the world to the city.

No, I don’t mean handouts, although expanding the available arts grants would be entirely appropriate. I’m talking about consistently creating opportunities for musicians to demonstrate their art, and pushing even harder to get that message out to potential tourists from the U.S. as well as those in Canada, Europe, South America, and elsewhere.

Other American cities have accomplished that task more effectively, and two of those cities are in the South – Austin, which has effectively branded itself as “the live music capital of the world” and  Memphis, where blues haven Beale Street does big business.

What would it take for NOLA to become known worldwide as “the home of American music” or “the heart and soul of American music” or something similar, and for hundreds of thousands of additional music-loving tourists to come to the city year-round, not just for the wonders of Jazz Fest?

These were among the topics discussed in a mayoral forum held Monday at Loyola University. Five of the candidates vying to succeed (the largely incompetent) Ray Nagin for the city’s top job met to share ideas during  a gathering sponsored by Music Swings Votes, an organization comprising local music industry professionals.

“The music and cultural community want to be sure that we are recognized by the next mayoral administration, taken seriously, and that we can actually get the mayor to achieve some agreed-upon goals,” said OffBeat magazine publisher Jan Ramsey, an organizer of Music Swings Votes, according to a piece written by Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera. “We want to emphasize that this is important and they need to include it in their platform and their administration.”

I don’t live in New Orleans, so I’m not familiar enough with the local issues — including those having to do with racial politics — to weigh in on which candidate is best qualified to lead a city still reeling from hurricane devastation. But I will say that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (photo, left) has consistently worked to elevate the music and music industry of New Orleans and the entire state, which also boasts regional musical treasures zydeco and cajun.

During a Jazz Fest press reception several years ago, I spoke with Landrieu about his efforts to promote Louisiana music. I’ll link to that piece here as soon as I can track it down.

“The music community stepped up to remind everybody that New Orleans is the soul of America. … I want to trumpet it, no pun intended, to the rest of the world,” Landrieu told the crowd, which included New Orleans-born trumpet great Terence Blanchard.

Boosting the public profile of the city’s music/arts culture would be of huge benefit to all of the city’s people, not  just for the musicians and other artists. A dramatic increase in tourism would help everyone in New Orleans survive, and again thrive, to regain its footing as a major American city.

Here’s hoping that the city’s next mayor possesses the inspiration and determination to make that happen.

Jazz Grammy Winners

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Jazz generally gets little or zilch air time during the actual Grammy telecast, but it’s always nice to see legitimate artists grab a little attention from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).

So, herewith, the jazz winners (including one, Cassandra Wilson’s Loverly, that wound up on my Top 10 last year):

  • best contemporary jazz album: Randy Brecker, Randy in Brasil

(MAMA Foundation)

  • best jazz vocal album: Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)
  • best jazz instrumental solo: Terence Blanchard, “Be-Bop,” from Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival Records)
  • best jazz instrumental album, individual or group: Chick Corea and Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord Records)
  • best large jazz ensemble album: Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard (Planet Arts Recordings)
  • best Latin jazz album: Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Song For Chico (Zoho)
  • best pop instrumental album: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Jingle All the Way (Rounder)

Offbeat Best of the Beat Nominees

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Some of New Orleans’ finest musicians — of multiple genres — are among the nominees for 2008 “Best of the Beat Awards.” The awards, a labor of love courtesy of long-running Crescent City music monthly Offbeat, will be presented Jan. 31 at the House of Blues in NOLA.

Wanna participate? Click here to vote for your favorites.

A long list of first-rate musicians are for honors, including some artists — drummers Johnny Vidacovich and Stanton Moore; jazzers  Astral Project, Terence Blanchard and Christian Scott; roots-rockers the Iguanas and the subdudes; bassists James Singleton and George Porter, Jr. — facing off in the same categories.

And it’s encouraging to see home-grown label Basin Street Records so heavily represented.

A quibble regarding one odd quirk about the list: Why are record labels for some independently released CDs (those not affiliated with major labels) identified as “independent” and some identified by their actual names?

In the age of digital downloads and the decreasing relevance of major labels, why not just refer to the labels by the names their owners (in some cases, the artists) have given to them?

Cases in point: Paul Sanchez’s Exit to Mystery Street, one of the first two releases from Threadhead Records (created by folks who met online at the Jazz Fest’s chat board), is listed as an “independent” release. And yet others in the same category — best country/folk/roots-rock album — are also independent releases, but their label home is listed by its name. John Boutte’s Good Neighbor, also from Threadhead Records, and up for best traditional jazz album, is also listed as “independent” while other independent releases in the same category are accompanied by their official label names.

Here’s the list of nominees:

Best Blues Band or Performer
Tab Benoit
David Egan
Little Freddie King
Sonny Landreth
Irma Thomas

Best Blues Album
David Egan: You Don’t Know Your Mind (Independent)
Sonny Landreth: From the Reach (Landfall)
Eric Lindell: Low on Cash, Rich in Love (Alligator)
Kenny Neal: Let Life Flow (Blind Pig)
Irma Thomas: Simply Grand (Rounder)

Best R&B/Funk Band or Performer
Big Sam’s Funky Nation
Bonerama
Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Porter-Batiste-Stoltz
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave.

Best R&B/Funk Album
Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Peace, Love & Understanding (Independent)
Henry Butler: PiaNOLA Live (Basin Street)
Dr. John: City That Care Forgot (429/Savoy)
Joe Krown, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Russell Batiste, Jr.: Live at the Maple Leaf (Independent)
Walter “Wolfman” Washington: Doin’ the Funky Thing (Zoho Roots)

Best Rock Band or Performer
Theresa Andersson
The Happy Talk Band
The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Rotary Downs

Best Rock Album
Theresa Andersson: Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street)
The Bad Off: Lady Day (Independent)
The Happy Talk Band: THERE there (Independent)
The New Orleans Bingo! Show: Vol. 2: For a Life Ever Bright (New Orleans Bingo! Show)
Quintron and Miss Pussycat: Too Thirsty 4 Love (Goner)

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Band or Performer
B.G. and the Chopper City Boyz
Fifth Ward Weebie
Juvenile
Lil Wayne
Truth Universal

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Album
B.G. and the Chopper City Boyz: Life in the Concrete Jungle (Chopper City)
Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III (Cash Money)
Truth Universal: Self-Determination (Independent)

Best Traditional Jazz Band or Performer
John Boutte
Tom McDermott
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Don Vappie
Dr. Michael White

Best Traditional Jazz Album
John Boutte: Good Neighbor (Independent)
Evan Christopher: Delta Bound (Arbors)
Tom McDermott and Connie Jones: Creole Nocturne (Arbors)
Seva Venet: Mens Working (Jazzology)
Dr. Michael White: Blue Crescent (Basin Street)

Best Contemporary Jazz Band or Performer
Astral Project
Terrence Blanchard
The Magnetic Ear
Jesse McBride & the Next Generation
Christian Scott

Best Contemporary Jazz Album
The Magnetic Ear: Live at the Saturn Bar (Independent)
Ellis Marsalis Quartet: An Open Letter to Thelonious (ELM)
Jesse McBride: Jesse McBride presents the Next Generation (AFO)
Christian Scott: Live at Newport (Concord)
Frederick “Shep” Sheppard: Tradition: The Habari Gani Sessions (Drumparade)

Best Brass Band
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Free Agents Brass Band
Hot 8 Brass Band
Rebirth Brass Band
The Soul Rebels

Best Gospel Band or Performer
Electrifying Crown Seekers
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Choir
Tyronne Foster & the Arc Singers
Trin-i-tee 5:7
Zion Harmonizers

Best Cajun Band or Performer
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
Feufollet
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Pine Leaf Boys
Cedric Watson

Best Cajun Album
Michael Doucet: From Now On (Smithsonian Folkways)
Feufollet: Cow Island Hop (Valcour)
Pine Leaf Boys: Homage au Passé (Lionsgate)
The Savoy Family Band: Turn Loose but Don’t Let Go (Arhoolie)
Cedric Watson: Cedric Watson (Valcour)

Best Zydeco Band or Performer
Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys
Leon Chavis and the Zydeco Flames
Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie
Travis Matte and the Kingpins
Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience

Best Zydeco Album
Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys: Keep the Tradition Alive! (Maison de Soul)
Leon Chavis and the Zydeco Flames: Holla @ Me (Independent)
Travis Matte: Hip Hop Zyde-Rock (Mhat)
Earl “Washboard” Sally: Home Grown (Catfish Zydeco)

Best Country/Folk/Roots Rock Band or Performer
Susan Cowsill
The Iguanas
Paul Sanchez
The subdudes
The Zydepunks

Best Country/Folk/Roots Rock Album
Bobby Charles: Homemade Songs (Rice ’N’ Gravy)
The Iguanas: If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times (Yep Roc)
Paul Sanchez: Exit to Mystery Street (Independent)
Amanda Shaw: Pretty Runs Out (Rounder)
The Zydepunks: Finisterre (Independent)

Best Emerging Artist
Antenna Inn
The Figs
Los Po-Boy-Citos
The Other Planets
The Vettes

Best Cover Band or Performer
Bag of Donuts
The Bucktown Allstars
The Top Cats

Female Vocalist
Theresa Andersson
Susan Cowsill
Irma Thomas

Male Vocalist
John Boutte
Marc Broussard
Clint Maedgen

Bass Player
Robert Mercurio
George Porter, Jr.
James Singleton

Guitar Player
Sonny Landreth
Jimmy Robinson
Walter “Wolfman” Washington

Drummer/Percussionist
Russell Batiste, Jr.
Stanton Moore
Johnny Vidacovich

Saxophone
Tony Dagradi
Tim Green
Donald Harrison

Clarinet
Evan Christopher
Tim Laughlin
Dr. Michael White

Trumpet
Trombone Shorty
Terence Blanchard
Irvin Mayfield

Trombone
Craig Klein
Mark Mullins
Rick Trolsen

Tuba / Sousaphone
Matt Perrine
Phil Frazier
Kirk Joseph

Piano/Keyboards
Henry Butler
Jon Cleary
Tom McDermott

Accordion
Steve Riley
Wilson Savoy
Terrance Simien

Violin/Fiddle
Michael Doucet
Cedric Watson
Linzay Young

Other Instrument
Dave Easley (steel guitar)
Don Vappie (banjo)
Washboard Chaz (washboard)

Album of the Year
Theresa Andersson: Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street)
Michael Doucet: From Now On (Smithsonian Folkways)
Dr. John: City That Care Forgot (429/Savoy)
Irma Thomas: Simply Grand (Rounder)
Dr. Michael White: Blue Crescent (Basin Street)

Artist/Band of the Year
Theresa Andersson
Lil Wayne
Tom McDermott
Irma Thomas
Trombone Shorty

Letter to Obama: Let Great Jazz Into Your Inauguration Festivities

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jazz-for-obamaDear President-Elect Obama:

The word on the street is that you like jazz, you really like jazz.

You became hip to the music, African-Americans’ great gift to the world’s arts culture, back in junior high school, when you still wanted to be called “Barry.”

In fact, once when you visited a record store with a friend from your Honolulu prep school, you stayed close to the jazz bins. “Barry was into things that other kids our age weren’t into. He went through the entire jazz section while we were there,” said your old pal Dean Ando, according to one newspaper feature.”That affects me to this day — he’s the one who introduced me to jazz.”

Did you dig real jazz, with genuine musical content, by creative players with an understanding of the tradition but with eyes on the future? Or were you keen on some variety of jazz lite? Who knows? But I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Your iPod playlist, which may or may not have been assembled by your staff to appeal to the Baby Boomers whose support you needed during the general election (hence Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, etc.), even includes tracks by jazz geniuses Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.

Miles and Coltrane, too, lead the artists named under the category of “favorite music” on your Facebook page.

Yes, those are pretty obvious jazz picks, and they’re all dead. Still, listing those artists is far more impressive than, you know, listing Kenny G. or the Rippingtons or some other such wallpaper-jazz nonsense.

I’ve not heard whether you ever visited the Green Mill, Chicago’s jazz mecca, while you were based in the Windy City.

Still, there are other signs that you may well support jazz during your White House residency.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” you had this to say: “Thinking about the diversity of our culture and inviting jazz musicians, and classical musicians, and poetry readings in the White House so that once again we appreciate this incredible tapestry that’s America, you know, that, I think, is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we’re going through hard times.”

While, as far as I can tell, you’ve not recently given props to any important living jazz artists — not even trumpeter Wynton Marsalis or pianist Herbie Hancock? — many major figures in the jazz community have gone out of their way to support you.

Did you hear about the “Jazz for Obama” concert in New York on Oct. 1? Did you attend?

A long list of front-rank jazz artists, black and white, opted to wear their politics on their shirtsleeves for a night in the name of helping you win the election. The performers: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Joe Lovano, Roy Haynes, Brad Mehldau, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Stanley Jordan, Kurt Elling, Hank Jones, Charlie Hunter/Doug Wamble, Bilal/Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Roberta Gambarini.

Thanks to a column by Ottawa Citizen music writer Peter Hum, I was reminded of the following examples of major jazz musicians’ overt support of you:

  • Hancock lent his name and musical cred to the “Yes We Can” video supporting your candidacy
  • Pianist Vijay Iyer and trumpeter Dave Douglas, at last year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, dedicated new works to you.
  • Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and many other prominent jazzers have displayed your face and message on t-shirts they’ve worn on stage.
  • Hundreds, if not thousands, of jazz musicians, have used their Facebook and MySpace pages to demonstrate support for you.

Yes, all these jazzers were for you, and presumably still are. But are you really for jazz?

I’m asking, because of some rather disappointing news.

So far, the only notable musical artists reportedly invited to play your 10 official inaugural balls are, you know, big-name folks.

Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand and Bruce “Super Bowl Half-Time Show” Springsteen are said to have been asked to appear at official inauguration events on Jan. 20, and the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus are expected to headline an official kids-oriented show on Jan. 19.

Some of these are inspired choices; others, not so much.

Yes, your associates have coordinated a Jan. 20 event called ” ‘A Time For Hope’ 2009 Presidential Inaugural Jazz Gala.”

But the musicians selected for the event, despite being described as “global jazz artists,” are not well-known players. What’s up with that?

Since you self-identify as African-American, and since jazz is rooted in black culture, may I suggest that you use your great power to include MAJOR jazz musicians — black, white and Hispanic — in your inauguration festivities?

After you move into the White House, you ought to regularly invite jazzers over to your place, too.

Any of the above-mentioned artists, including Marsalis and Hancock, and pianist Hank Jones (part of that “Jazz for Obama” concert), a brilliant elder statesman of jazz, would make great choices.

So would veteran saxophonist Sonny Rollins, arguably the greatest living jazz performer, and now enjoying critical plaudits for his recent concerts and latest CDs, including last year’s Road Shows, Vol. 1. Or how about other great, still-thriving saxophonists, like Wayne Shorter, James Moody, or Phil Woods, to name just a few other older players of that instrument?

Why not Terence Blanchard? In addition to his superb work as a trumpeter and bandleader, he is a gifted composer of film scores, and he serves as artistic director of the college program at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, now based in his hometown, New Orleans. Hancock is the institute’s chairman.

This is a very short list of jazz artists who would make great assets to your forthcoming festivities. Choosing any of these musicians to play your inauguration concerts  would demonstrate that your support for jazz is more than just lip service.

For more good ideas, you can turn to the two polls — readers and critics — annually published in Down Beat magazine, or the awards annually bestowed by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA).

So, President-Elect Obama, or, if I may, Barry: There’s still time to invite world-class jazz musicians to play your inauguration concerts.

Need help programming great jazz, or booking some of these artists? If you can’t rely on your own team, you know, give me a call.

Better yet, contact some of the great jazz musicians I’ve mentioned. Or make a connection with the editors of Down Beat or Jazz Times or Jazziz. Or consult the jazz writer Stanley Crouch, who made some similar points in a Dec. 21 column.

Yes, you can. Yes, you can make this happen – you’re the next leader of the free world.

What’s stopping you?

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