Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015’s Top 10 jazz listings – one scribe’s take

'Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists always have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she had a chance to hear during the year.* Bottom line, all of these are very subjective. 

My choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the JazzTimes and NPR Music 2015 compilations. (The latter is a Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and Rhapsody.com).

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2015 for posting on allaboutjazz.com, I thought I'd share my "best of 2015" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

The 10 best new jazz releases of 2015

1.    Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (artistShare)
2.    Jason Miles/Ingrid Jensen, Kind of New (Whaling City Sound)
3.    Jimmy Greene,Beautiful Life (Mack Avenue)
4.    Harry Allen/Jan Lundgren Quartet, Quietly There (Stunt)
5.    Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project, Lines of Color (Blue Note/artistShare)
6.    Dave Stryker, Messin’ With Mister T (Strikezone)
7.    Joanna Wallfisch, The Origin of Adjustable Things (Sunnyside)
8.    Kenny Werner, The Melody (Pirouet)
9.    George Robert All-Star Quartet, New Life (GPR)
10.  Bjørn Solli, Aglow: The Lyngør Project Vol. 1 (Lyngør)

The best debut recording of 2015:
Joey Alexander, My Favorite Things (Motéma)

The best historical/reissues of 2015 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):
1.    Red Garland Trio, Swingin’ on the Korner (Elemental)
2.    Wes Montgomery, In The Beginning (Resonance)
3.    Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Legacy)
4.    John Coltrane Quintet, So Many Things: The European Tour 1961 (MVD Entertainment)
5.    Wolfgang Lackerschmid, Wolfgang Lackerschmid Quartet (TCB)

The 10 best new songs from CDs released in 2015, listed alphabetically:

-    Dave Bass, “Baltic Bolero” from NYC Sessions (Whaling City Sound)
-    Chantale Gagné, “Moon Gazing” from The Left Side of the Moon (self-produced)
-    Laszlo Gardony, “Bourbon Street Boogie” from Life in Real Time (Sunnyside)
-    Paul Keeling, “Hearth” from Ancient Lights (self-produced)
-    Jeremy Pelt, “The Old Soul of the Modern Day Wayfarer” from Tales, Musings and Other Reveries (HighNote)
-    John Raymond, “Chant” from Foreign Territory (Fresh Sound New Talent)
-    Maria Schneider, “The Monarch and the Milkweed” from The Thompson Fields (artistShare)
-    Bjørn Solli, “Calenture” from Aglow: The Lyngør Project Vol. 1 (Lyngør)
-    Donald Vega and Lauren Meccia, “If You Can Fly” from Lauren Meccia’s Inside Your Eyes (Spirit Music)
-    Joanna Wallfisch, “Satin Grey” from The Origin of Adjustable Things (Sunnyside)

2015’s best vocal recording

Joanna Wallfisch, The Origin of Adjustable Things (Sunnyside)
2015’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:
1.    Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, CUBA: The Conversation Continues (Motéma)
2.    Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Low Ridin’ (Zoho)
3.    Bill O’Connell and the Latin Jazz All-Stars, Imagine (Savant)
4.    Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, 10 (Zoho)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bud Leeds mixes it up

Leeds, Van Deusen
Clarinetist Bud Leeds always pulls together a band that puts on a good show, you just never know walking in the door what you're going to hear. Such was the case at the South County Jazz Club's November 19 matinee concert at ther Venice FL Art Center.

Bobby van Deusen, a keyboard marvel on the traditional jazz scene, was in town from Pensacola for the gig. He is playing this weekend at the Suncoast Jazz Classic in Clearwater Beach with the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band.

Greg Nielsen
Last year, Leeds played the VAC with van Deusen, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Tony Martin. This time around, he added multi-instrumentalist Greg Nielsen, who is best known on trombone. For this show, he also performed on trumpet and clarinet.
Bobby van Deusen

Van Deusen was a fixture in New Orleans for many years, working with Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, The Dukes of Dixieland, and on the Delta Queen riverboat. He and Martin performed together regularly on the Delta Queen more than 20 years ago.

The afternoon's repertoire ranged from trad jazz to straight-ahead, a bit of classical music, an unexpected tango number, and even a holiday medley.

Favorite moments: their medley segueing between "Lullaby of the Leaves," "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Autumn Leaves"; chops-galore van Deusen's classically tinged romp through "Oh, Lady Be Good" (Leeds introduced it as an "if Bach met Gershwin" moment); and then there were the poignant intermission bookends.

Nielsen, Leeds, Van Deusen
With a nod to the past week's news from Paris, van Deusen poignantly explored John Lennon's peace anthem "Imagine" with subtle bass and drum support. After the break, Leeds and Nielsen, both on clarinet, teamed with the pianist on Sidney Bechet's beautiful "Si Tu Vois Me Mare" (If You See My Mother), which was prominently featured in Woody Allen's 2011 film "Midnight in Paris." Wow.

Leeds, Van Deusen, Mopsick, Nielsen, Martin

Kenny Washington in Naples (updated)

Kenny Washington
California-based singer Kenny Washington wowed the crowd Wednesday night, November 18, when he was special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for two shows at Daniels Pavilion.

The sextet includes Jerry Stawski on piano, Lew Del Gatto on tenor sax, Dan Miller on trumpet, Glenn Basham on violin, Kevin Mauldin on bass and Mike Harvey on drums. 

Kevin Mauldin
 Here's a link here to my review and photographs published on Jazztimes.com. See more images below.

Trombonist Robin Eubanks will be the special guest at the NPJO's next concert on December 16.  

Dan Miller, Kevin Mauldin

Lew Del Gatto
Kenny Washington

Kenny Washington with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra

Friday, November 13, 2015

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz concert preview

The 2015-16 jazz concert season is underway and will continue through May, bolstered by the gradual arrival of the snowbirds. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through January. I’ll post updated lists as the season progresses.
Dave Pruyn
  • Wednesday, November 18 – California-based singer Kenny Washington joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 13 – The Four Freshmen in concert. South County Jazz Club series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Monday, December 14 – Singer-trumpeter-drummer Dave Pruyn and his Jazz Legacy Big Band in concert, Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Trombonist Robin Eubanks joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 18 – Guitarist Nate Najar’s All-Star Big Band, with Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Lamb. Ken Peplowski, Chuck Redd, Jeff Rupert and others, presents a Big Band Jazz Holiday concert. Jazz Club of Sarasota, Riverview Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 6 – Guitarist Joe Cohn joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
    Nicki Parrott
  • Sunday, January 10 – The Naples Jazz Orchestra opens its seventh season celebrating the 50th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s classic Sinatra at the Sands recording at the big band’s new home, Titans Auditorium, located just off I-75’s exit 101 at 2925 Titan Way, Naples. The 7 p.m. concert will feature singer Walt Andrus.
  • Monday, January 11, 2016 – Drummer Eddie Metz’s trio with bassist Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello. Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 12 – Trombonist Herb Bruce and his Herbicide Dixieland Band. South County Jazz Club performance, Venice Art Center, 390 Nokomis Ave S, Venice. 7 p.m. 
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda, Fandango in Sarasota, and The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, offer jazz steadily. A variety of matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and the South County Jazz Club also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Jazz Songbook investigated with chops galore

Jerry Stawski
Pianist Jerry Stawski's sextet brought more than all-star chops to its Charlotte County Jazz Society concert in Port Charlotte FL on Monday, November 9. Through thoughtful programming, it also brought a reminder that there is much more to jazz than the Great American Songbook.
Dante Luciani

Dan Miller
Stawski & Co. pretty much avoided said Songbook and focused on excellent instrumental material with which jazz fans ought to be familiar. They explored a variety of jazz standards by J.J. Johnson, Tadd Dameron, Lee Morgan, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Thad Jones and Denzil Best, among others.

Geoff Saunders
Mike Harvey
Lew Del Gatto

The Naples-based pianist's band for the night included the outstanding trumpeter Dan Miller, Saturday Night Live Band alum Lew Del Gatto on tenor sax, trombonist Dante Luciani, bassist Geoff Saunders and drummer Mike Harvey. While Stawski, Miller and Del Gatto are based on Florida's southwest coast, Harvey, Luciani and Saunders are based in Miami. Saunders, a graduate fellow at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, filled in for bassist Chuck Bergeron, who was unable to make the gig.

Highlights included their takes on Dameron's "On a Misty Night" (which the pianist based on the standard "September in the Rain"),a romp through Navarro's "Barry's Bop," Jones' "Let's Play One," Del Gatto's "And Friends" and a hornless version of the beautiful but little-heard Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova "The Red Blouse." The band's poignant take on the Morgan ballad "Ceora" led into a very special ballad medley. It began with a Luciani feature on "Darn That Dream," segued into a Del Gatto exploration of "You Don't Know What Love Is," and then Miller's take on "Tenderly" before Stawski closed it out with Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." 

This night was stunning all around, both in tune selection and the band's cohesive, swinging delivery.
Stawski, Del Gatto, Miller, Luciani, Saunders, Harvey

Monday, October 26, 2015

Revisiting a crossover classic

Forty years ago, pianist Claude Bolling shook up the jazz and classical music worlds a bit with his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio recording with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. It was one of the first true crossover recordings between the two musical styles. The public loved it – since it spent 530 weeks (more than 10 years) on Billboard’s classical charts after rapidly topping out at #1.

Fast forward from 1975 to 2015. With Bolling’s blessing – and an admonition not to tinker with the score, American arranger Steve Barta recast the original as a symphonic arrangement featuring the jazz quartet (flute plus rhythm section), string quartet and orchestra. This new version features pianist Jeffrey Biegel and jazz flute master Hubert Laws.

The added cushion of strings and brass wraps the project in a fine cocoon, celebrating the original melody and accentuating the dynamics of its mixed moods. Without offering a mere repertory revisit to the original, Barta, Biegel and Laws have updated Bolling’s suite beautifully. 

Huyssen's 1975 cover

For this self-produced recording, Barta also enlisted Bolling’s original artist/designer, Roger Huyssen, to update the original whimsical cover design, which featured the flute and piano sharing sleeping quarters. On the new version, the pair is still in bed, but surrounded by eight instrumental children.

Such a lavish tip of the hat by Barta & Co. was richly deserved and then some. Bolling’s 1975 piece can be credited for inspiring many fine jazz-classical crossover efforts through the years. They include pianist Donal Fox’s Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project, and the Burgstaller Martignon 4’s Mozart’s Blue Dreams and Other Crossover Fantasies and Bach’s Secret Files and More Crossover Fantasies projects.

The Symphonic Arrangement of Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio will have its live performance premiere on November 20-21 at the Madison Theatre at Molloy College in Rockville Centre NY. Biegel and Laws will perform with Long Island’s South Shore Symphony at those evening concerts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Randy Brecker, Shai Maestro, Bob Merrrill and Dan Trudell...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jazz standard fare done well, twice over

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2015-16 season with a concert that celebrated the depth and breadth of the jazz canon with creative performances by two very different bands. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Exploring the Great American and Jazz Songbooks

Danny Sinoff
Singer-pianist Danny Sinoff let his piano chops carry most of the load Thursday when his trio opened the South County Jazz Club's 2015-2016 matinee season at the Venice (FL) Art Center. While he is busy with steady club gigs, principally in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte, this was Sinoff's first appearance in Venice.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ninety birthday candles – and an extended season of birthday wishes

George Wein
 When you are turning 90, the celebration begins early. So jazz festival producer George Wein certainly can have a 90th birthday event this Friday, October 2, even though he was born on October 3, 1925.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jazz has lost another true master - Phil Woods

Phil Woods
Word spread very quickly through the jazz community this afternoon that alto saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master (Class of 2007) Phil Woods passed away today. He was 83

Friday, September 18, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Joe Alterman, Don Braden, Laszlo Gardony, Paul Keeling and Wolfgang Lackerschmid….

Monday, September 7, 2015

Jazz loses one of its great advocates

Tom the Jazzman at Newport, 8-31-2015
Jazz lost one of its finest ambassadors this holiday weekend. Broadcaster "Tom the Jazzman" Mallison died overnight in a head-on collision as he was driving home to Greenville after his weekly Sunday night radio show on North Carolina's Eastern Public Radio. He had been a steady volunteer broadcaster on the station in New Bern for more than 30 years.

Mallison was a great friend, as well as a tremendous advocate for and promoter of jazz - and a mentor to many younger jazz broadcasters around the country. He was a faithful attendee at the Newport Jazz Festival each summer for several decades. His jazz knowledge and his gentle spirit will be missed at festivals, conferences and seminars galore, and his soothing voice will be missed by his many Eastern Public Radio fans.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The fine art of musical conversation

William Evans
Subbing for vacationing drummer-singer Patricia Dean's band, pianist William Evans brought his Tampa Bay-area trio to JD's Bistro & Grille in Port Charlotte FL Thursday night, September 2, for what turned out to be a top-flight night of music.

Detroit native Evans splits his time between Florida's Gulf Coast and Basel, Switzerland, where he's a longtime faculty member at the Swiss Jazz School. Evans' band mates on Thursday were two other very fine Tampa Bay-area players, bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

The 2015-16 jazz concert season will start heating up in southwest Florida in September and continue through May, mirroring the gradual arrival and departure of the snowbirds. 

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through November. I’ll post updated lists as the season progresses.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Another view of Newport

Justin Brown
You could call this one Jazz on Sunny Days. 

Eyewear spotted on the various 2015 Newport Jazz Festival stages last weekeend was a combination of fashion statement, utilitarian - or both. 

Here's a look at some of the more interesting sightings.  Be sure to note the red, white and blue predominating trumpeter Arturo Sandoval's eye wear.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Newport Jazz Festival photo gallery is posted

My 2015 Newport Jazz Festival primary photo gallery has been posted at JazzTimes.com. Take a stroll through it and enjoy. Here's a direct link. Here's a link to more images of New Orleans-related musicians at Newport posted by Offbeat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Newport Jazz Festival marathon

Tom Harrell
The 2015 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, granddaddy of them all, was one of the finest in  recent memory... with spectacular weather, a wide range of engaging music, and combined attendance exceeding 23,000. Saturday was the more robust day at Fort Adams State Park with 8,000 attendees.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Keeping the beat

Want a great summer read that you'll find hard to put down? 

Check out novelist Mary Morris's fine new work, "The Jazz Palace" (Doubleday's Nan A. Talese imprint). This is her 10th novel. It is a beautifully crafted work that Morris worked on for two decades amid other projects.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Jazz singers are in today’s spotlight. Taking a look at a variety of stunning new CDs by Thana Alexa, Keri Johnsrud, Gillian Margot, Joanna Pascale and Charenée Wade….

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Pat Bianchi, Brian Charette, Jason Miles & Ingrid Jensen, Josh Nelson and Donald Vega….

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Looking forward to Newport

There is pretty much something for every jazz fan at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival this July 31-August 2, no matter your stylistic or demographic preferences. A lot of crowd favorites are back - like Maria Schneider's Orchestra, pianists Hiromi  and Michel Camilo, and singer-pianist Jamie Cullum. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What a wonderful change of pace

The jazz concert season is pretty much gone in Florida from May until the snowbirds start returning in the fall. While there are regular club and restaurant gigs to fill in the gap, it was a treat to have an actual concert to attend.
Najar, Lamb, Feinman, Suggs, Ellison

The Venice Art Center and the South County Jazz Club teamed up to present a Louis Armstrong tribute concert on Thursday, June 25, featuring a quintet led by fine young trumpeter James Suggs. He's an engaging player with family roots in Newport RI, but who grew up in Ohio. He moved to St. Petersburg area in 2014 after having spent the prior eight years living and working in Argentina.

Monday, June 22, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Tony Adamo, Dave Bass, Maria Schneider, Chris Washburne and Kenny Werner….

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

JJA's 2015 winners

Congratulations to the many winners announced and awarded yesterday at the Jazz Journalists Association's 2015 JJA Jazz Awards event at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City. Here's a rundown of the winners, including the Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award to Chicago-based Neil Tesser. 

Full disclosure: two of the jazz journalism outlets to which I am a long-time contributor won repeat honors. JazzTimes was named Jazz Publication of the Year. Allaboutjazz.com was named Jazz Website of the year. Kudos to both and all of the other category winners and nominees.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A key to success at Newport

The best businesses – and arts organizations – don’t stand still. They find ways to enhance what they do. They making the experience better for their customers and supporters while building on their success. Need a concrete example? Look no further than the many enhancements over the past decade that the owners made at Fenway Park in Boston, starting with the seats atop the Green Monster overlooking left field. 

Here's a jazz example. The Newport Jazz Festival for many years consisted of a succession of performance sets on one stage. That was the case in the 1950s and 1960s at its succession of homes at Newport Casino, Cardines Field, Freebody Park and Festival Field through 1971. With the festivals’ return to Newport in 1981 after a decade-long absence, it’s new more spacious home at Fort Adams State overlooking Newport Harbor provided the ideal space for a venue evolution.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hitting the jazz highway

Salinger-Ridley, Ko, Jensen, Zamora, Barnick *

Building your jazz skills isn’t just about playing your instrument, singing your songs, developing your style and strengthening your improvisational skills. It’s also about dealing with challenges on the road, disruptive sleep patterns, and getting along with your band mates as you jump on the van and head to the next gig.

Four students from the Boston-based Berklee College of Music will absorb a lot of that experience starting Thursday when they join trumpeter Ingrid Jensen on a five-date concert tour winding through parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic. They’ll perform five gigs in five nights.