Thursday, December 30, 2004

Artie Shaw, Big Band Leader, Dies at 94

Artie ShawArtie Shaw, the jazz clarinetist and big-band leader who successfully challenged Benny Goodman's reign as the King of Swing with his recordings of "Begin the Beguine," "Lady Be Good" and "Star Dust" in the late 1930's, died today, his orchestra's manager, Will Curtis, said. He was 94 and lived in Newbury Park, Calif.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Best: The Deepest Jazz Grooves

The Deepest Jazz Grooves
By Ben Ratliff [NYTimes]
Joe Lovano's graceful ballads, Elvin Jones's last session with his brother and Soweto Kinch's debut album were among the highlights of the year

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jeff Hedberg - 'The Summer Knows'

Chicago-based trumpeter/fl├╝gelhornist/vocalist Jeff Hedberg stands out as a singing musician and makes his voice count on this understated presentation of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook, film scores, and jazz legends Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk. Often compared to Chet Baker, Hedberg's phrasing as a singer has certainly been influenced by his trumpet playing, which is quite apparent on "Let's Get Lost" and "My Funny Valentine," two songs often covered by Baker on several issues of Chet Baker Sings. Hedberg's swinging uptempo offering on "Comes Love" and swaying samba on "Dindi" contrast the quiet romantic moods he sets on "The Summer Knows" and "Cry Me a River." This not only shows his versatility, but is a true testament to the fact that Hedberg is not out to rest his embouchure on these soft ballads, but to show that he can function with finesse on three separate levels — as a leader, instrumentalist, and singer — within one cohesive sextet. His spare approach on "'Round Midnight," has his style technically updated. However, the lonely ambience of his muted horn suggests that Hedberg can play an emotionally appealing set that can stand on its own integrity. Guest artist Judy Roberts offers memorable piano accompaniment that gives this song lift. "My Funny Valentine" is another emotionally appealing ballad that indicates that Jeff Hedberg is capable of expressing his passionate vocal skills on various levels while allowing the listener to interpret and enjoy his brilliant technical skills. He sustains notes on this song without wavering, later double and triple tonguing for more effect. While only a few of today's top brass instrumentalists offer their vocal stylings on their trumpet recordings (Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong all sang and played trumpet), Jeff Hedberg's fans will be delighted to hear his cohesive blend of past and present vocal and brass influences on his debut for Blujazz, The Summer Knows.
Paula Edelstein []

Determined saxophonist makes music with one hand

Kyung Sun Orr always thought it would be "kind of cool" to start his own jazz band.

The 16-year-old saxophonist recently belted out tunes with a couple of buddies, even though he lost his left arm in an accident two years ago.

Orr plays a one-handed saxophone - one of only two in the nation - when he performs.

Jazz: Woody Allen

Allen has never made any secret of the fact that his passion for the clarinet is really an unrequited love. Even after all these years of jamming at Michael’s Pub and elsewhere in Manhattan, the sound he generates is closer to the yelps of an asthmatic fox terrier having its tail pummelled with a mallet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Joe Pass | Virtuoso in New York

This latest set offers more of what's already available in abundance: Pass by his lonesome in the studio circa summer of '75, trusty hollow-body slung over shoulder, his mind primed to the task of doing what he did best. The disc's title dispenses with vagaries and skips right to the transparent. Pass was a virtuoso, a label I feel more than comfortable ascribing despite my somewhat checkered past with its usage. Over a three-quarter of an hour stretch he spins improvistory fantasias on a septet of chamois-polished standards, the solitary original blues thrown into the mix in two takes. True it's nothing too removed from the usual press of the Pass mold, but like his arguable pianistic counterpart Art Tatum, Pass could make the same old tunes shine under the close scrutiny of brilliant new hues and colors.
Derek Taylor []

Saxophone Summit 'Gathering of Spirits'

Brecker, Liebman and Lovano are joined by a world-class rhythm section—pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart—for a set of six tracks that recall the dynamic instrumental discourse long prized in blowing sessions popularized by Jazz at the Philharmonic. Yet stylistically, this music takes it cues from John Coltrane's final epoch, further stretching the boundaries of solo and group improvisation.

Saxophone “battles” have traditionally inspired musicians to play their best. But more than just a cutting contest, this gathering is a multi-faceted musical equation greater than the sum of its parts. Brecker explains that “because we have such well formed musical personalities, when we play together, we create a beautiful matrix, a really fascinating juxtaposition of sounds, colors and rhythmic approaches."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Turning the digital tables

But look a little closer at this London club and you will notice that, instead of turntables and endless sleeves of vinyl, the music playing out of the speakers is sourced from an iPod.

Connick Tops in Jazz with 'Only You'

Wynton Marsalis is arguably the most recognized name in jazz, for his achievements as a performer and ambassador for the genre. His roles as artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and fundraiser for its new Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York have won him deserved praise.

But the charts tell a different story of who's who in jazz. Fellow New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. far outranks Marsalis, claiming the No. 1 spot on the year-end Top Jazz Artists recap. Connick's release "Only You" (Columbia/Sony Music) is No. 1 on the Top Jazz Album tally.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Is jazz dead? A critic takes comfort in history

But unlike his previous collections, "Weather Bird" clears the decks, and it's not always pretty. The subtitle tells the story. Reading between the lines of where Giddins locates jazz in its second century, it becomes clear why he no longer wants to cover the music, regularly, in real time. It's because here, in 2004, there's not much there there. Jazz has become a music of the past, and as opposed to fighting that trend, as he bravely attempted to do for 20 years or so, Giddins is now joining it. Only he's doing it his way, which is to write about history. With no gods looming to take jazz into the future, what else is there for a writer of Giddins' insight and ambition to do?
Review by David Rubien, San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, December 18, 2004

'Living With Jazz': It Does Mean a Thing

Dan Morgenstern has been writing about jazz for more than four decades but has long hesitated to collect his best pieces. At last, ''Living With Jazz'' gathers 136 of his liner notes, critical essays and other writings, and the book is a cause for celebration since it deserves to be on the short shelf of essential books on the music.
[NY Times Book review]

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Count Basie: 100th Birthday Bash & The Count Basie Story

This past August marked the 100th anniversary of Count Basie's birth and in recognition of that august event, reissued are some of the big band master's finest sides from the late '50s and early '60s.
Joel Roberts

Monday, December 13, 2004

U.S. Jazz Artists to Do India Benefit

A group of popular American jazz artists will perform in India next month as part of a U.S. State Department-supported campaign to combat HIV and AIDS, an embassy official said.

George Duke, Al Jarreau, Earl Klugh and Ravi Coltrane will hold concerts in Bombay and New Delhi starting Jan. 13, said David Kennedy, U.S. embassy spokesman in New Delhi, on Monday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday. The tour is jointly sponsored by Black Entertainment Television.

India, with 1.06 billion people, has the world's second largest HIV-infected population, totaling 5.1 million.
[Associated Press]

Smooth Jazz Vibes: Top 10 CDs of 2004

Top 10 CDs of 2004 by Brian Soergel, December 13, 2004 []
These may not have been the best CDs of the year, but they're the ones I played the most.

1. Pete Belasco, Deeper (Comedia): Sublime falsetto vocals and some of the best sax going. Romantic, mellow, sexy.
2. Chris Botti, When I Fall in Love (Columbia): Botti makes the album he was destined to - romantic, standard ballads. Superb trumpet playing.
3. Peter White, Confidential (Columbia): No one makes sweet acoustic pop sound as smooth as the veteran guitarist.
4. Ronny Jordan, After 8 (N-Coded): Guitarist Jordan mixes his acid-jazz and experimental instinct with smooth pop grooves.
5. Ottmar Liebert, La Semana (SSRI): His first album in a few years, and it's more welcome flamenco pop-jazz. No one better at setting a mood.
6. Norman Brown, West Coast Coolin' (Warner Bros.): No one channels George Benson as well as Brown, who sings and plays as good as the master.
7. Paul Brown, Upfront (GRP): Years of producing No. 1 smooth jazz songs obviously rubbed off for the gutarist and vocalist.
8. Boney James, Pure (Warner Bros.): Boney writes some great music, and knows how to select soulful vocalists to inject some R&B magic.
9. Steve Oliver, 3D (Koch): The guitarist/scatter/singer consistently produces top-notch material that's as memorable as it is listenable.
10. Bob Baldwin, Brazil Chill (A440): This CD is by far the pianist's best. Top-notch playing and a samba swing make this the CD to play to escape by.

There was lots of quality smooth jazz in 2004. Here are some more titles worthy of your collection:

Swing Out Sister, Where Our Love Grows (Shanachie)
Brian Bromberg, Choices (A440)
Renee Olstead, Renee Olstead (143)
Bebel Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto (Six Degrees)
Keiko Matsui, Wildflower (Narada)
Braxton Brothers, Rollin' (Peak)
Euge Groove, Livin' Large (Narada)
Anita Baker, My Everything (Blue Note)
Maximum Grooves, Coast to Coast (Telarc)
Mindi Abair, Come As You Are (GRP)
Jamie Cullum, twentysomething (Verve)
Theo Bishop, Newport Nights (Native Language)
Michael Lington, Stay With Me (Rendezvous)
Torcuato Mariano, Diary (215)
Gerald Albright, Kickin' It Up (GRP)
David Benoit/Russ Freeman, Benoit/Freeman Project 2 (Peak)
Eric Darius, Night on the Town (Higher Octave)
Ed Johnson and Novo Tempo, Movimento (Cumulus)
James Vargas, James Vargas (Trippin 'N Rhythm)
Wayman Tisdale, Hang Time (Rendezvous)
Soul Ballet, DreamBeatDream (215)
Fattburger, Work To Do (Shanachie)
Queen Latifah, The Dana Owens Album (Vector)
Gary Goin, Going Places (Compendia)
Rafe Gomez, The Groove Boutique: Volume One (Tommy Boy)
Vernon Neilly & G-Fire With Mark Whitfield, G-Fire II (Boosweet)
Pavlo, Fantasia (Justin Time)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Grammy Nominations

Here are the nominations for the 47th annual Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Album (for albums containing 51% or more playing time of instrumental tracks) are: Boney James' Pure (Warner Bros.); Dave Koz's Saxophonic (Capitol Records); Various Artists' Forever, for Always, for Luther, Bud Harner & Rex Rideout, producers (GRP/VMG); Henry Mancini's Pink Guitar, James Jensen, producer (Solid Air Records); Mason Williams' EP 2003: Music for the Epicurean Harkener, (Skookum Records).

Nominees for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, for albums containing 51% or more playing time of instrumental tracks, are: Fourplay's Journey (Bluebird); Bill Frisell's Unspeakable (Nonesuch Records); Jan Garebarek's In Praise of Dreams (ECM); Don Grusin's The Hang (Sovereign Artists); and Roy Hargrove's Strength: The RH Factor (Verve).

Grammy nominations for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (for solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, without vocals; tracks and singles only) are: "Chasing Shadows," Herb Alpert, Russ Freeman, James Genus, Gene Lake and Jason Miles from Maximum Grooves: Coast to Coast, Various artists (Telarc); "Take You Out," George Benson, from Irreplaceable (GRP/VMG); "11th Commandment," Ben Harper from There Will Be a Light (Virgin); "Song F," Bruce Hornsby from Halcyon Days (Columbia); and "Rat Pack Boogie," Brian Setzer from Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy (Surfdog).


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

NPR : Jazz Singer Dianne Reeves

The Tavis Smiley Show, December 6, 2004 · Every great singer has to have a Christmas album. Jazz singer Dianne Reeves talks about her new holiday offering Christmas Time is Here.
[NPR Audio interview]

Monday, December 06, 2004

Botti Update

Don't even think about touching trumpeter Chris Botti these days unless you're wearing asbestos mittens, because he's so very red-hot, which is truly excellent news for Smooth Jazz. Botti's When I Fall in Love is currently the third best-selling traditional jazz album this year and the week's numbers are impressive: No. 1 traditional jazz sales; No. 1 overall jazz sales; a 311 % sales increase over last week; and No. 2 contemporary jazz sales.
Botti's upcoming TV appearances include the Nobel Prize Ceremonies worldwide broadcast from Oslo, Norway on Dec. 11; Tony Danza on Dec. 17; QVC special on Dec. 21; Today Show (Christmas week airing of Christmas song recorded earlier); and The View in January '05 (TBD); plus he's slated to play the national anthem at the L.A. Lakers/Miami Heat game on Christmas Day. Tour dates include Dec. 17-18 at the Chicago Theatre in Chicago; Dec. 31- Jan. 1 at Scullers in Boston; Jan. 18-19 at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA; and Jan. 20-23 at Jazz Alley in Seattle. Stay tuned for late-breaking news.

Survey: Net file-sharing doesn't hurt most musicians

"What we hear from a wide spectrum of artists is that, despite the real challenges of protecting work online, the Internet has opened new ways for them to exercise their imaginations and sell their creations," said report author Mary Madden, a research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The nonprofit group based its report on a survey of 809 self-identified artists in December 2003. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Ken Navarro's Latest Is Offered Exclusively Through His Website

Ken Navarro's Latest Is Offered Exclusively Through His Website
Love Coloured Soul, the new album by Ken Navarro, is now available though his website, and will be in stores on Jan. 25.

Right now, smooth jazz guitarist Ken Navarro is offering his new album – but only online. You can go to to purchase Love Coloured Soul, but will have to wait until Jan. 25 if you want to buy the album in stores.

The album is being released on the Positive Music label, the same label Navarro founded more than a decade ago. He says Love Coloured Soul has a similar sound to one he released in 1997 called Smooth Sailing, with its warm and peaceful vibe.

Among the album’s 10 songs are covers of John Klemmer’s “Glass Dolphins” and the late Laura Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic.” Original titles include “You Are Everything,” “You Did It Again” and “Summer Of Love.”

As a bonus, you can also can purchase two available DVDs which include full-length audio interviews, photo galleries, video movies and graphics, in addition to the CD itself. These packages are only available through Navarro’s website. .

Love Coloured Soul Track Listing

1. You Are Everything (Ken Navarro-Jay Lang) 4:52
2. You Did It Again (Ken Navarro) 4:46
3. Glass Dolphins (John Klemmer) 3:31
4. Stoned Soul Picnic (Laura Nyro) 4:46
5. Love Coloured Soul (Ken Navarro) 4:17
6. Breathe (Ken Navarro) 4:10
7. Parallel Lives (Ken Navarro) 5:13
8. Gentle Soul (Ken Navarro) 4:33
9. Let It Go (Ken Navarro) 5:35
10. Summer Of Love (Ken Navarro) 4:45

Brian Soergel []

Jeff Lorber Receives Kidney Transplant

The pioneering jazz-fusion keyboardist is recovering at home in Pacific Palisades, CA after undergoing kidney transplant surgery at UCLA Medical Center. Lorber's wife, Mink (nee Mingquan Tungwarapotwitan), who proved a suitable organ transplant match, donated one of her kidneys for the procedure. He told R&R, "I'm doin' good; already back doin' my radio show for Sirius, which runs Saturday and Sunday 6-9 PT; and working in the studio! Mink and I just got back from a -- slow! -- walk on the Santa Monica promenade." Lorber suffers from a common but little-known and usually fatal genetic condition, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), for which there is no cure, but which can be treated with dialysis or kidney transplantation. For more information on PKD, check out The smooth jazz family wishes Jeff and Mink a speedy recovery. We need His Royal Badness!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Joe Sample Featured Guest On World Cafe

Renowned pianist Joe Sample will be a special guest on NPR's popular nationwide radio show World Cafe with David Dye, on Thursday, Dec. 2. WXPN/Philadelphia produces World Cafe, which airs on over 165 stations nationally. Usually reserved for singers and songwriters, the upcoming broadcast will feature a live interview and performance by Sample.

A veteran keyboardist/composer, Sample is known for his simultaneous careers as a member of the seminal jazz funk combo the Crusaders and as a pioneering contemporary jazz solo artist. His recent Verve release, Soul Shadows, is his first-ever all solo piano recording, featuring such traditional jazz classics and ragtime favorites as Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Jitterbug Waltz" and Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreveport Stomp."
Check for show time.