Artistic director Vojislav Pantić can recount all sorts of stories about the jazz greats who have played the Belgrade Jazz Festival, now in its 35th edition. There was the time in 1971, the festival’s inaugural year, when trumpeter Miles Davis wouldn’t go on until he was sure that his pianist, a very late Keith Jarrett, had arrived at the concert hall, straight from the tarmac.
London composer Binker Golding has a way with a hook. And not just during his addictive, melody-driven sax solos or in his acoustic versions of broken beat rhythm tracks, but when he writes the mischievous titles that describe his music. You may not understand what he means by Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers, the title of his new release on Gearbox Records, but the music makes you want to find out.
On “Creative,” the first track of Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve) pianist and bandleader Jon Batiste packs what seems like eight minutes of music into a dizzying four.
In the late 1950s, Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto and pianist/composer Antônio Carlos (Tom) Jobim revolutionized American music with the introduction of the bossa nova and the samba to the jazz lexicon. America’s love affair with these lyrical rhythms has never gone away—in fact, we continue to discover more about these jazz innovators and their influence through albums like Samba Jazz & Tom Jobim (Sunnyside).
Bandleader and percussionist Adam Rudolph sees himself as an inventor rather than a composer. Composers generate written music with a pen or an app or a music notation program, but he does more than that. He creates new methods for making music.
The Warrior Women of Afro-Peruvian Music breaks new ground by delving into the rich musical tradition of black female artists in Peru and challenging the racism, sexism, and marginalization that these women face daily in their homeland.
Grammy-winning Brazilian singer/pianist Eliane Elias, a Concord artist, adds an extra layer of romance to her performance on Love Stories, her latest album, which features a full orchestra and all-English texts.
Pain might not be pretty, but honesty is riveting. Thirsty Ghost is an unabashed exploration of loss, heartache and, ultimately, healing. It represents a departure for vocalist Sara Gazarek, whose career began its ascent when she was a teenager singing with Wynton Marsalis at Avery Fisher Hall. It’s also the most exciting recording of her career.
In 2015, a few months after the U.S. lifted a decades-long embargo on travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band made a pilgrimage to the Caribbean island from their home base in New Orleans. This trip, memorialized on film, became the lauded 2019 documentary A Tuba to Cuba (Blue Fox Entertainment). The film’s soundtrack, just released on Sub Pop Records under the same title, stands as an arresting musical narrative even without the colorful visual imagery from the film—the music tells its own story.
Los Angeles singer Gretje Angell’s debut …in any key (Grevlinto Records) comes as a surprise and a delight. A surprise because by her own admission she’s turned to jazz somewhat belatedly in her performing life and a delight because this debut is that good.
On the third night of her June run at Jazz Standard in New York City, singer Jazzmeia Horn leapt into her opener, the Betty Carter signature tune “Do Something,” with a fleet, peripatetic scat. As she progressed further into the improvised number, the references zipped by without pause—Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” Ann Ronell’s “Willow Weep for Me.”
Jazz pianism today stands at an apex. There have been other moments in the music’s history when innovation rushed ahead of performers and listeners. But more than a century after jazz’s emergence, there are countless virtuosic pianists out there composing, recording and seeking a new vision for the genre.
(Elio Villafranca photo by Kasia Idzkowska)
Berlin-based singer-songwriter Céline Rudolph grew up immersed in multi-culturalism, surrounded by different languages, the grooves of several continents, and the tones of various instruments. “It’s a gift being raised with two languages because then your ear is very open to all different sounds,” Rudolph said in a recent trans-Atlantic phone call to discuss her latest release, Pearls, newly launched on her own label, Obsessions. “The ear is my tool—everything comes in through the ear.”
There’s a photo of Sam Rivers (1923-2011) at the White House, most likely from the so-called “White House Jazz Festival” on the South Lawn during Jimmy Carter’s administration. “That blue suit he had on? He made that,” recalled Monique Rivers Williams, daughter of the revered multi-instrumentalist. “He sewed all his own clothes...he wasn’t just a musician.”
First and foremost, Michael Janisch is a bassist. He’s about to drop his third solo album. He’s worked as a side player for dozens of A-list jazz artists. And he’s toured relentlessly with multiple bands. So, yes, a bassist first.
At the end of 2017, Verve Records unveiled Ella at Zardi’s, a previously unreleased live recording of an Ella Fitzgerald club date from February 1956. Excitement ran high over the album, believed to be Fitzgerald’s first live record ever. Until now.
The legacies of our classic jazz singers, once considered popular singers, have considerable reach. These early adopters of the American Songbook still define how these works are performed, even as modern jazz singers shape traditional vocal jazz to their own inspired ends. For this months’ vocal jazz issue, let’s take a look at how the influence of some beloved musical forebears as yet moves through singers today.
Free jazz percussionist Andrew Cyrille introduced tenor player Kidd Jordan from behind the kit at Roulette on June 11, the opening night of the 2019 Vision Festival in Brooklyn, NY. “We’re going to take you someplace else,” he said before jumping into a mesmeric repartee with the saxophonist and monster improviser.
The reason that world-renown clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera likes playing with Mark Walker is that the multiple Grammy-winning drummer “doesn’t play too loud.” D’Rivera says this with a laugh, but he’s more than serious about his appreciation of the rhythmic refinement that Walker has brought to their 30 years of collaboration. “Many musicians, especially drummers, lose their energy when you ask them to play soft,” he explained. “Mark can play with the same energy without raising the volume. That’s really hard to find.”
Violence. Brutality. Segregation. Exploitation. These are the words that singer/composer Sara Serpa uses when she talks about the family legacy that she inherited—a legacy that her latest musical projects tackle head on.