Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 Plus

Here's my contribution to the Village Voice 2009 Jazz Poll:

Top 10 2009

1. Vijay Iyer Trio – Historicity (ACT)
2. Miguel Zenón – Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)
3. Michael Musillami Trio + 3 – From Seeds (Playscape)
4. Henry Threadgill Zooid – This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (Pi)
5. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)
6. Enrico Rava – New York Days (ECM)
7. Jim Hall & Bill Frisell – Hemispheres (ArtistShare)
8. Chris Potter Underground – Ultrahang (ArtistShare)
9. Jon Hassell – Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street (ECM)
10. Dave Douglas – Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music)

1. Louis Armstrong – The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (Mosaic)
2. Miles Davis – The Complete Columbia Album Collection (Legacy)
3. Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um 50th Anniversary (Legacy)

Lisa Sokolov – A Quiet Thing (Laughing Horse)

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)

Miguel Zenón – Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 Coming This Week

What is the definitive Top 10 list of jazz recordings—The Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll—will be published in this week's edition of the newspaper and available online sometime Tuesday evening. Ninety-nine critics contributed to the poll, which is co-ordinated by Francis Davis.

The results are proof positive that there are some exciting young voices out there. Check it out.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Til 2010

When you're a freelancer there are two kinds of Christmas/New Year's seasons: quiet, which does not bode well for the early February cash flow; or crazy, which means you'll be lucky if you find time for all the necessary pre-holiday preparations. This year, it's the latter for me. No complaints, especially at the tail-end of a year that did not begin well for anyone, but it does mean there will be no leisurely, egg nog-fueled year-end retrospectives and look-aheads. In all likelihood, this is it for 2009.

January promises numerous posts around the time of the Winter Jazzfest/APAP blowout in New York City. The Jazz Journalists Association has now been swept up in the activities, thanks to the dogged work of Yvonne Ervin and Howard Mandel, and I'm lined up to participate in at least one panel discussion. More to come on that, but likely not until the new year.

So have a good one. And enjoy some music—live or otherwise; musicians need you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Concerts of the Year?

I've had a few inquiries about this year's list of best concerts. Well, a look back over the past 71 posts on Jazz Chronicles will tell you it has been a light year for travel and concert-going. Just about anything I posted now would merely retread what I wrote during my 10 days hunkered down as media specialist for the 2009 TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival. No shortage of memorable concerts there, so I could easily—and happily—nominate Charles Lloyd's quartet, Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstacy or the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

Not surprisingly, a year without a musical road trip has left me staring at my carry-on bag and fingering my passport. The first week of January will change all that when the Winter Jazzfest kicks off in New York City. I'm really looking forward to making the in-concert acquaintance of artists who have excited me on recordings or through word of mouth over the past couple of years, including: Mary Halvorson, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jenny Scheinman and Linda Oh.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading List

Three thin-but-vital volumes have been on my bedside table in recent weeks. Two are by friends—Mark Miller's biography of pianist/composer Herbie Nichols and Stuart Broomer's examination of the music of Anthony Braxton—so I'm too biased to saying anything beyond, Great work, guys.

The third book is equally welcome: a new Picador softcover edition of Geoff Dyer's brilliant and evocative 1996 book, But Beautiful.

A powerful example of imaginative non-fiction, the book allows readers to peer into moments in the lives of a number of jazz giants. Dyer puts you in the backseat of a car as Duke Ellington and Harry Carney steer toward their next gig; plummets you in to New York City's Alvin Hotel to witness the final hours in the life of saxophonist Lester Young; and puts you on the downward spiral with Ben Webster as he drinks and plays his way across Europe. Dyer can certainly be faulted—as was Clint Eastwood for his portrait of Charlie Parker—for focusing only on the sad loneliness that befalls some musicians who live too long on the periphery of a life tethered to realities like children and home. He may wear his romanticism on his sleeve, but the rich tapestry of his language and his insights into the human condition make that easy to forgive. There are many other places where you can read the facts about Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Ben Webster and Lester Young; allow Dyer his flights of fantasy about small, meaningful scenes in those lives.