Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Newport rolls on thankfully

George Wein is a huge fan of Esparanza Spalding. The singer-bassist (pictured) has been a Newport regular for the past few years - and with her unexpected Grammy win - will be a featured artist at the 2011 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival. This year’s event runs August 5 to 7.

Wein’s production company didn’t waste time in getting out the lineup this year. Tickets go on sale this Saturday through TicketMaster and

Relatively young artists and veterans make up the bill, as Wein & Co. work in various ways to build an extended audience base that also spans generations and jazz genres - and reaches out to young fans and potential fans.

Besides Spalding, the younger players in the lineup include Ambrose Akinmusire, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenón, Avishai and Anat Cohen, Hiromi, Trombone Shorty and John Hollenbeck. The veterans include Wynton Marsalis, Michael Feinstein, Al Di Meola, Charles Lloyd, Eddie Palmieri, Randy Weston and Michel Camilo among others.

Wein told the Providence Journal’s Rick Massimo that Spalding will perform both Saturday and Sunday at Fort Adams State Park. Each day, she will draw from the talent on the bill to put together a different band.

It’s a way to put a bit of improvisational programming/jamming into a performance format that doesn’t see much jamming anymore.

Here's the lineup:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 2011 / 8 p.m.

International Tennis Hall of Fame

Michael Feinstein w Special Guest Joe Negri

Wynton Marsalis

SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2011 / 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fort Adams State Park

Wynton Marsalis

Esperanza Spalding & Friends I

Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band

Al Di Meola World Sinfonia

Michel Camilo "Mano a Mano" with Giovanni Hidalgo and Charles Flores


Mujeres De Agua by Javier Limón featuring Buika

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Regina Carter's Reverse Thread

Steve Coleman and Five Elements

Joey DeFrancesco Trio

Grace Kelly with Special Guest Phil Woods

Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet

Mostly Other People Do the Killing

New Black Eagle Jazz Band

SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 2011 / 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fort Adams State Park

Esperanza Spalding & Friends II

Angélique Kidjo

James Farm with Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland

Hiromi: The Trio Project featuring Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips

Charles Lloyd with Special Guest Zakir Hussain

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Mingus Big Band

Ravi Coltrane Quartet

Randy Weston's African Rhythms Trio

Miguel Zenón Presents the Puerto Rican Songbook

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble with Special Guest Uri Caine

Avishai Cohen's Triveni with Special Guests Joshua Redman and Anat Cohen

Apex: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green

Brubeck Brothers

Berklee College of Music All Stars

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A stamp of approval for jazz

We're a society of pack rats, of collectors. Or so it seems. Some of us collect a few things we find meaningful, others have made it into a warehouse-style art form.

In general, jazz fans collect live music memories and savor the special moments. Many collect them in hard copy as well - CDs, LPs, 78s, images. You name it. Well, probably not eight-tracks. At least not without suffering some level of derision.

But collect we do.

When I was a kid, I was into stamp collecting, and kept up with specialty categories for a couple of decades. The philately bug in me waned after a while. But once in a while, there is a linkage with current interests that brings things full circle.

Next Saturday the U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp saluting jazz. The first day of issue will take place in New Orleans. That's most fitting in its history as one of the music's most influential cities, and, many argue, its birthplace.

The Postal Service says it is paying tribute to America's musical gift to the world and to the musicians who make it (along the veins of the 1995 stamps, first issued at the Monterey Jazz Festival, that honored Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, John Coltrane, Erroll Garner, Coleman Hawkins, James P. Johnson, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker). The latter were part of a Legends of American Music series.

The new stamp, which will be sold initially at 44 cents, is part of USPS's popular "Forever" series. It means that these pressure-sensitive adhesive stamps can be used into the future regardless of any further rises in the cost of a first-class stamp. The first such stamp, still in widespread use today, was issued in April 2007 and features the Liberty Bell. Since that time, more than 28 billion Forever stamps have been sold, USPS says.

Howard Paine designed the new jazz stamp to showcase the work of California artist Paul Rogers. In creating the art on which the stamp is based, Rogers was inspired by the cover art of vintage albums - art that captured the sense of improvisation that was contained inside.

The jazz stamp in the Forever series follows by one week the release in Austin, Texas of Forever stamps commemorating five musicians and performers of Latin music. They include two from the Latin jazz world - Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. The others are Selena, Carmen Miranda, and Carlos Gardel.

Stamp collecting isn't part of my psyche - or interests - any more. But I will make an exception for this one. And I recommend it as a stamp to stock up on for mailings to others in the jazz world (as infrequent as snail mail seems in this e-mail world).

Respect your bridges. Appreciate where they've led you. Don't burn them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Nordic Connect, Spirals (artistShare)
Canada’s mega-talented Jensen sisters, Christine on sax and Ingrid on trumpet, co-lead this quintet, whose members all share Scandinavian ancestry. Their band mates are Maggi Olin on piano and Fender Rhodes, Mattias Welin on acoustic bass and Jon Wikan (Ingrid’s husband) on drums and percussion. The Viking connection seems to have reinforced their musical bond, as evidenced by the performances on this, the group’s second recording.

Spirals is an intriguing CD, built around the band’s cohesion and the quality of the original material that comprise its nine tracks. The tunes I savor most included Olin’s “Song for Inga” and Ingrid Jensen’s “Earth Sighs” (both containing artful dollops of electronic effects) and the quintet version of Christine’s “Yew,” which premiered on her Juno Award-nominated orchestral album treelines (JustinTime). It’s a beauty in both formats. The small group treatment does nothing to diminish its pensive poignancy.

Lisa Lindsley, Everytime We Say Goodbye (self-produced, BlondSongstress Productions)

This is a most pleasant debut CD from a Bay Area singer who we need to keep an eye on – and ears wide open for years to come. Lisa Lindsley has considerable experience under her belt as an actor and voiceover artist. She’s a relative neophyte as a singer, but her lifelong appreciation for jazz artistry is a considerable asset. She was no casual listener. Lindsley’s charming and expressive voice catches your ear because of her natural sense of phrasing, timing and expression.

On this trio project, she was fortunate to call on pianist George Mesterhazy, who is a premier accompanist for singers (Shirley Horn, Paula West, Rebecca Parris, Karrin Allyson, among others), and rock-solid bassist Fred Randolph. She makes each standard her own. The title track, “Alice in Wonderland” and their take on Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema” are prime examples. Mesterhazy reveals another facet of his imaginative talent with every CD he makes and every singer with whom he works. On this one, he uses melodica to add a poignant Toots Thielemans-like tinge to Lindsley’s take on Blossom Dearie’s “Inside a Silent Tear.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sonny’s still on a Roll

The high honors, perhaps long overdue, keep on rolling in for saxophonist Sonny Rollins. His historic 80th birthday concert in New York’s Town Hall three nights after his September 7 birthday was one of the top jazz events of 2010

Then you add in Edward MacDowell Medal, a lifetime achievement award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival, being the subject of an artful and insightful book (John Abbott and Blumenthal's Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins) and induction into to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary society.

Now, Rollins is on the eve of visiting the nation’s most famous address: 1600 Pennnsylvania Avenue.

Tomorrow, Wednesday March 2, Rollins will be one of 10 recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts for outstanding achievements and support of the arts. President Barack Obama will do the honors in an East Room ceremony at the White House. The medal is the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence.

The National Endowment for the Arts, which has announced its intention to eliminate the NEA Jazz Masters awards program going forward, organizes this one as well. And it is good to see jazz have a prominent place.

The other 2010 National Medal of Arts Recipients are theatrical critic, producer and playwright Robert Brustein, pianist Van Cliburn, sculptor Mark di Suvero, poet Donald Hall, musician and producer Quincy Jones (who has firm jazz roots), author Harper Lee, actress Meryl Streep, singer-songwriter James Taylor, and the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

What splendid company.

And it is great to see Rollins and Jones help keep the jazz momentum going on this stage. Past jazz honorees include Ella Fitzgerald (1987), Billy Taylor (1992), Cab Calloway (1993), Dave Brubeck (1994), Lionel Hampton (1996), Betty Carter (1997), Benny Carter (2000), Paquito D'Rivera (2005), Wynton Marsalis (2005) and Hank Jones (2008).

Time permitting, you can tune in via the Web to watch tomorrow’s event at 1:45 pm Eastern Time at