Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If You Are At APAP

As noted earlier, I'll be moderating a "town hall" discussion on behalf of the Jazz Journalists Association at the annual APAP Conference in New York City next week. Here's the official session description. Note that it now has a location assigned to it. If you have any interest in the current and future state of jazz and jazz journalism, please drop in. We'd love to have you.

JJA Town Hall: The State of Jazz Journalism Now, and Immediate Prospects
1/8/2011 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Sheraton - Conference C

Session Description

What's happening now in jazz journalism, and what's happening next? Moderated by James Hale, Ottawa-based journalist/former vice-president of the JJA, this meeting wiil focus on the current landscape of professional music journalism, including developments in online/in-print publication hybrids, multimedia reporting, the rise of musician bloggers, using social networks to maximize audiences, realities of online income, advertising and other entrepreneurial strategies. Confirmed participants include: Darcy James Argue, composer/orchestra-leader/blogger; Jerry Portwood, Manhattan Media/City Arts-New York editor; Jana Herzen, Motema Records principal; Russ Davis, Moja Radio; JoAnn Kawell, Ozmotic Media; David Adler, AllAbout Jazz-New York, JazzTimes, the blog Leterland and editor,; Howard Mandel, JJA president. Attendee participation encouraged.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best of 2010

The results of the Village Voice year-end critics' poll are out today, and as the poll's organizer, Francis Davis, points out, it was Jason Moran's year.

You can follow the link to my ballot from Francis' article, but here it is, slightly annotated:

Top 10 New Releases

1. Jason Moran & The Bandwagon – Ten (Blue Note)
I fell in love with Moran's trio the first time I saw it live, and this recording captures everything that is great about it—the rhythmic movement, the leader's tremendous imagination regarding reharmonization, and the scope of his vision in terms of what constitutes terrific repertoire. I didn't get a chance to write about this CD, and I'm almost glad I didn't because I keep finding more things to love about it.

2. Rova & Nels Cline Singers – Celestial Septet (New World)
I did review this sprawling and engrossing release, and wonder if many of my colleagues discovered it, given that it seems not to have made a ripple. Here's how I summarized it in my DownBeat review: "There is much to explore here, and no shortage of high emotion and ecstatic release." If you haven't heard it, give it a shot.

3. Vijay Iyer – Solo (ACT)
It seems like a long, long time ago that I first encountered Vijay Iyer online during the very early days of the internet, and I can't think of another musician I've enjoyed hearing develop as much. His solo recording allows you to really savor the way he finds his way through a song. Like Moran, his vision is singular, and like Moran, he has demonstrated time and again that he has the stuff to stand beside any of the giants who influenced him. Anyone who still thinks contemporary jazz is in bad shape needs to be tied to chair with Iyer and Moran on repeat.

4. Paul Motian Trio – Lost In A Dream (ECM)
Beautiful, simply beautiful.

5. Mary Halvorson Quintet – Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Halvorson won me over last year with her trio recording and work with Anthony Braxton, and Saturn Sings finds her expanding her scope and cementing her signature sound.

6. Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM – Our Secret World (Word Of Mouth)
This is a relatively late release that I reviewed for DownBeat, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I haven't enjoyed anything by Rosenwinkel as much as I liked his early work with Paul Motian, and I don't usually dig brassy big bands, but this combination really works. I was knocked out by the arrangements and the engineering, which allows Rosenwinkel's guitar to soar over the orchestra with as much clout as an entire horn section. I think my friend Peter Hum and I were the only ones who picked this, and we didn't even discuss it. Was it only released in Ottawa, or what?

7. Tomasz Stanko Quintet – Dark Eyes (ECM)
I came to Stanko late, but 20 years after the death of Miles Davis he has become the trumpeter who consistently moves me. I caught him live this summer for the first time—and had the honour of emceeing his show—and wasn't disappointed in the emotion he brings to his music. Always great to hear an older musician finding young associates, too.

8. Steve Coleman & Five Elements – Harvesting Semblances And Affinities (Pi)
I saw this band a few years ago, playing this same music, and hated it. Walked out, in fact! This recording has all the focus and shape that were missing in that concert, and I'm looking forward with anticipation to the next instalment of this music that Coleman is developing.

9. Ray Anderson/Marty Ehrlich Quartet – Hear You Say: Live In Willisau (Intuition)
This is another recording that dropped fairly late in the year. I hope people discover it, because it reminded me of a lot of the recordings I fell in love with—by David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Arthur Blythe and others—in the early 1980s. Great to hear Ray Anderson sounding so energized, and Marty Ehrlich is always a joy.

10. Allison Miller – Boom Tic Boom (Foxhaven)
I'm a bit surprised that this recording didn't rank higher with my fellow critics. Myra Melford kills on it, and the compositions are tremendously engaging.

1. Henry Threadgill – Novus & Columbia Recordings Of Henry Threadgill & Air (Mosaic)
2. John Carter & Bobby Bradford – The Complete Revelation Sessions (Mosaic Select)
3. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (Columbia Legacy)

Best Vocal CD
Rebecca Martin – When I Was Long Ago (Sunnyside)

Debut CD
Tania Gill – Bolger Station (Barnyard)

Latin Jazz CD
Marco Pereira – Essence (Kind Of Blue)

Addendum: You can peruse the entire top 50 here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From Europe (and Japan) With Love

I've been on a digital kick lately, as I try to eliminate the clutter of CDs, magazines and newspapers from my office and bedroom, but with Christmas 10 days away it seems appropriate to focus on two European jazz labels that create pretty-looking (and sounding) things to go in someone's stocking or under their tree.

As one of the most-celebrated labels in the world, ECM Records holds few surprises for even the casual jazz or new music fan, but this holiday season it's the fortunate loved one who gets a copy of a new ECM 40th-anniversary catalogue produced by Tokyo Kirarasha. Edited by Kenny Inaoka with contributions from a number of Japanese writers—including my friend, U.S.-based pianist Nobu Stowe—the massive guide features small, glossy reproductions of every ECM release, as well as complete credits, listed separately in both English and Japanese. It might be the ultimate gift for ECM obsessives, and makes a fine companion to Horizons Touched, the book of essays ECM released through Granta a couple of years ago.

My second gift suggestion is slightly less esoteric, but no less interesting and beautiful. Thanks to a new partnership between Naxos of America Inc. and the German label Jazzwerkstatt, the latter will now have distribution in the U.S. Originally the name of West Germany's largest jazz festival, Jazzwerkstatt features recordings from the broadcast archives of East Germany's Rundfunk der DDR, live performances from the revamped Jazzwerkstatt Berlin-Brandenburg festival, and new works by Berlin-based artists.

The first three Jazzwerkstatt/Naxos releases feature small bands led by Dave Liebman, Perry Robinson and Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell, and they have the kind of esthetic values—including striking cover images and cardboard slipcovers—as ECM. Since these debut releases only hit the street on November 16th, chances are you'll be dropping a nice surprise on your jazz-loving gift recipient, and hipping him/her to a bunch of great new things to anticipate.

Happy giving.

Addendum: Nobu just informed me that the ECM guide is best ordered directly from ECM if you live in Europe, and from this site if you live somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Taking The Temperature

I wrote my first online feature about jazz—a profile of pianist Andy Milne—15 years ago and, despite spectacular growth in digital media and significant changes in the channels that are used, there's still no real revenue stream for jazz journalists in 'new media'. Does anyone really know where we're going, and how we'll get there? When I wrote that Milne piece I was rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with some of the brightest minds in the information and communications technology sector, and I still got it wrong.

So, where are we headed? What's the state of the jazz journalism business today? Where are the markets, and where will they be tomorrow?

Those are some of the questions we'll tackle when the Jazz Journalists Association holds a town hall-style meeting on January 8 in New York City. The session is scheduled for 2-4 p.m., exact location TBA, but within the confines of either the Midtown Sheraton or Hilton hotels, headquarters for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters. More details are here.

If you have an interest in this business, bring your comments, questions and predictions, and I'll see you there.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Bird Spice

All those wasted years of reading liner notes and jazz biographies has finally paid off in Andy Warholian fashion. Squirreling away the seemingly meaningless piece of knowledge (from page 73 of Ross Russell's book Bird Lives, to be precise) that Charlie Parker used to get high as a youth in Kansas City by ingesting nutmeg has resulted in my being awarded the Reader Comment of the Week award by Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

That award, and a couple of bucks, will keep you high for about 15 minutes, and keep me laughing all weekend. The glory! I can't handle it.