Thursday, December 29, 2022

2022: The Year in Jazz

All About Jazz has published my comprehensive look back at happenings in the jazz world during 2022. At more than 14,000 words, it's not for the faint of heart.

Here's the summary lead:

Current events impacted the jazz world in significant ways throughout 2022. In its third year, the coronavirus pandemic continued to lurk in some settings, while others recovered in robust fashion. Russia's war on Ukraine was felt by musicians and triggered an outpouring of support for its victims. Initiatives to ensure greater equity in jazz advanced. 

The 11th annual International Jazz Day blended in-person and livestreamed events around the globe. The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new NEA Jazz Masters and bid farewell to three others who were among the hundreds of industry-associated musicians and figures passing away during the year.

You can read it here at the AAJ website.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A jazzed winter wonderland

Saxophonist and singer Valerie Gillespie added a full holiday twist to the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert season on Monday, December 12 in Punta Gorda FL. She and her talented sextet from the Tampa Bay area coursed through 15 winter- or Christmas-themed musical chestnuts before closing with a brief salute to another holiday. 

Valerie Gillespie
There was a wide variety to the music, performed with both cohesiveness and strong solos. Her band included trumpeter James Suggs and three new faces on the CCJS stage: pianist Jody Marsh, bassist Steve Boisen and drummer Dave Rudolph. 

The leader shifted between alto and soprano saxes and flute, plus vocals on two-thirds of the material. Suggs added beautiful horn solos and fills behind Gillespie's vocals all night long. 

Gillespie has been a familiar face on the CCJS stage in other musicians' bands, but this was her first appearance as a bandleader and singer.

Gillespie said the evening would include "traditional tunes performed in a non-traditional way," an apt description for the rhythmic choices and extended instrumental solos that enhanced them.

Valerie Gillespie
"Angels Heard on High" and "Winter Wonderland" preceded two classic Vince Guaraldi tunes from television's A Charlie Brown Christmas. "Skating" was presented in a friskier arrangement than the evocative original, while "Christmas Time is Here" was more traditional, with Gillespie's vocals beautifully locked into its nostalgic message. She has a charming, no-frills and trills vocal delivery - and a natural sense of timing and off-the-beat phrasing.

Three standout vocal gems this night included material not often heard in jazz settings: "Mary Did You Know?," the Carpenters' hit "Merry Christmas Darling," which featured a poignant solo from Suggs, and "It Can't Be Christmas Without You." The latter romantic ballad has all of the qualities needed to become a true holiday standard. Gillespie's big brother, Chuck Brand, wrote this title track on her Christmas CD. Her cover of "Mary Did You Know?" was particularly powerful, with Gillespie noting that the lyrics speak directly to "the reason for the season." Mark Lowry and Buddy Green wrote this gem in 1984. It was a huge hit for the young a capella group Pentatonix 30 years later.

James Suggs
Other selections included "The Christmas Waltz," first popularized by Frank Sinatra, featuring the leader on vocals and alto sax, a Latin-tinged take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and "Little Drummer Boy" (a natural feature for Rudolph's percussion mastery). Also, "Let It Snow," a frisky cover of the 1954 Eartha Kitt hit "Santa Baby" (with Suggs' growling trumpet complementing the vocals), and Mel Torme's classic "The Christmas Song."

Jody Marsh
If food and beverage had been allowed, chestnuts roasting on an open fire would have been a popular item. The audience started out at nearly 200, but dropped off in size by intermission. Credit that to a very chilly - and unadjustable - room temperature at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center. Hot chocolate, anyone?

The evening wound down with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," spotlighting Marsh's piano artistry on CPAC's Steinway; a salsa-fied take on "Feliz Navidad," with Gillespie shifting to flute; and a brief romp through "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

While past December bands usually played a few holiday tunes, this was the first CCJS concert that featured them for the entire program. That made this night even more special for hardy listeners.

The Charlotte High School jazz ensemble performed a fine and varied pre-concert set.

Marsh, Gillespie, Boisen, Suggs, Rudolph

Charlotte High School Jazz Ensemble

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Favorite jazz recordings of 2022

‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what they listened to during the year. Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

My favorite choices below (aside from the favorite new songs of the year) are being submitted to the Jazz Journalists Association and the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll 2022 compilations. The latter is the 17th annual Francis Davis-founded and Tom Hull-produced poll, which has been published by the Boston-based online arts journal The Arts Fuse since 2021. It previously was published by The Village Voice, and NPR Music.

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2022 for All About Jazz, I thought I'd share my 2022 favorites lists.

Favorite new jazz releases of 2022

  1. Dave Wilson Quartet, Stretching Supreme (self-released)
  2. Lynne Arriale, The Lights Are Always On (Challenge) 
  3. Wayne Shorter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Leo Genovese, esparanza spalding, Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival (Candid) 
  4. Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize) 
  5. Javon Jackson, The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (Solid Jackson) 
  6. Samara Joy, Linger Awhile (Verve) 
  7. Steven Feifke and Bijon Watson, … present Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra (Cellar) 
  8. Sam Kirmayer, In This Moment (Cellar Music) 
  9. Ricky Ford, Paul's Scene (Whaling City) 
  10. Chris Cortez, Live at Blue Bamboo (Blue Bamboo)

Favorite 2022 vocal recordings  

  1. Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize)
  2. Samara Joy, Linger Awhile (Verve) 
  3. Tierney Sutton, Paris Sessions 2 (BFM Jazz) 
  4. Mark Winkler, Late Bloomin' Jazzman (Café Pacific) 
  5. Carol Sloane, Live at Birdland (Club 44) 
  6. San Gabriel 7 featuring Sinne Eeg, Under the Stars (JRL-SGS) 
  7. Catherine Russell, Send For Me (Dot Time) 
  8. Kim Nalley Band, I Want a Little Boy (self-released) 
  9. Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola, Live in Marciac (5Passion) 
  10. Xiomara Torres, La Voz Del Mar (Patois)

Favorite historical/reissues of 2022 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):

  1. Bill Evans, Morning Glory (Resonance)
  2. Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse1965-1966 (Jazz Detective) 
  3. Dave Brubeck Trio, Live From Vienna 1967 (Derry Music) 
  4. Charles Mingus, Mingus: The Los Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance) 
  5. Ella Fitzgerald, Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Verve) 
  6. Elvin Jones, Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub (Blue Note) 
  7. Chet Baker Trio, Live in Paris (Elemental) 
  8. Clark Terry, Big Bad Band, Live in Holland 1979 (Storyville) 
  9. Frank Kimbrough, 2003-2006 (Palmetto)
  10. Peck Allmond Quartet, Live at Yoshi's 1994 (Eastlawn)

Favorite 2022 debut recording
     Timothy Norton, Visions of Phaedrus (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)

Favorite 2022 Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:

  1. Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre, Visión (Ovation)
  2. Miguel Zenón, Música de las Américas (Miel)
  3. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola, Live in Marciac (5Passion)
  4. Xiomara Torres, La Voz Del Mar (Patois)
  5. Juan Carlos Quintero, Table for Five (Moondo)

Favorite new compositions from CDs released in 2022, listed alphabetically by composers:

  • Lynne Arriale, ”Sounds Like America” from The Lights Are Always On (Challenge)
  • Bob Bowman, “Yae San”” from Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective, Tomorrow is Not Promised (Steel Bird)
  • Yelena Eckemoff, “Like Rain Upon the Mown Grass” from I Am a Stranger in This World (L&H)
  • Yosef Gutman and Gilad Ronen, “Joshua” from Yosef Gutman, Upside Down Mountain (independent)
  • Jo Harrop, Natalie Williams, James McCredie, Hannah Vasanth, “Weather the Storm” from Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize)
  • Timothy Norton, “King's Inn” from Visions of Phaedrus (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)
  • Rick Roe, “Agent 88” from Roe Bickley Kramer, Lucid Dream (RNR Unknown)
  • Jamieson Trotter and Mark Winkler, “Old Enough” from Mark Winkler, Late Bloomin' Jazzman (Café Pacific)
  • Walt Weiskopf, “Other Jewels” from Walt Weiskopf European Quartet, Diamonds and Other Jewels (AMM)
  • Miguel Zenón, “Imperios” from Música de las Américas (Miel)