Archive for October, 2009

October 30th 2009
The Jazz Session #103: John Abercrombie

Posted under Guitarists & Podcast

abercrombie

John Abercrombie returns with Wait Till You See Her (ECM, 2009), another album of gorgeous, tuneful music from his quartet, featuring Mark Feldman on violin, Joey Barron on drums, and new band member Thomas Morgan on bass. In this interview, Abercrombie talks about how subtle movements in the audience impact a performance; the label “chamber jazz” and whether it applies to his band; and his role as the evil Donald Dastardly in the radio drama Harry Lovett, Man Without A Country, which also featured the voices of John Surman and Jack DeJohnette. Learn more at johnabercrombie.com. (On a personal note, John was on The Jazz Session #3, back when no one had ever heard of this show. I’m grateful for his early support of The Jazz Session, and it’s very gratifying to have him back here 100 episodes later.)

If you’d like to purchase this album, you can support The Jazz Session by buying it via the link below:

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October 28th 2009
The Jazz Session #102: John Surman

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

surman

John Surman is a composer with a broad and multi-hued musical palette. He’s written for everything from solo saxophone to string quartet to choir with organ to contemporary dance. On Brewster’s Rooster (ECM, 2009), Surman reunites with longtime musical partners Jack DeJohnette and John Abercrombie (accompanied by bassist Drew Gress) for a quartet album that explores group interplay. In this interview, Surman talks about finding a place in his music for his disparate influences; why he writes for many types of ensembles; and why he doesn’t play in the U.S. more often. Learn more at JohnSurman.com.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 27th 2009
ECM CD-A-Day Giveaway this week!

Posted under Contest

I’m giving away five copies of ECM’s new compilation CD Anniversary Waltz. To enter, just send an email to contest@thejazzsession.com with “ECM” as the subject line (no quotation marks). I’ll draw one winner at random each day, Monday-Friday. Good luck!

Winners thus far:

  • James from Boise, ID
  • Robert from Silver Spring, MD
  • David from Oakland, CA
  • Carlos from Stockholm, Sweden
  • Mark from Homer Glen, IL

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October 27th 2009
Popdose: Joni Mitchell, Jazz Musician

Posted under Popdose

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My newest column for Popdose.com is an exploration of three Joni Mitchell albums from the late 70s — Hejira, Mingus, and Shadows and Light. The piece looks at Mitchell’s use of both jazz musicians and jazz language on these recordings.

Read the article: Joni Mitchell, Jazz Musician

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October 26th 2009
The Jazz Session #101: Cyminology

Posted under Podcast & Vocalists

cyminology

Cymin Sawamatie was born in Germany to Iranian parents, and that mix of cultures informs the music of her band, Cyminology. On their third CD, and their first for ECM, Cyminology (ECM, 2009), the quartet explores the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz and Forugh Farrokhzad, combining these disparate poetic influences with a rich palette of composed and improvised music. In this interview, Samawatie talks about her culturally rich upbringing; the nature of her compositions; and why Cyminology can’t play in Iran. Learn more at www.cyminology.de.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 23rd 2009
Gene Ludwig

Posted under Jazz Writing & Organists

GeneatClefClub
Photo by Ben Johnson, Sr.

I saw organist Gene Ludwig in concert earlier tonight, and wrote these three pieces while watching the show. If you’d like to know more about Gene, listen to my interview with him on The Jazz Session.

Gene Ludwig

1.

Gone deep inside, he slides
effortlessly across the organ keys,
never losing the sense of weightlessness
every earthbound mortal
longs for.
Unlike most, he isn’t held
down by gravity, not forced to
wear the chains of step-by-step,
inch-by-inch. Instead, he
gently leaves the earth, smiling.

2.

Perhaps he’s the local mortician,
skin made alabaster through
affinity with those he serves;
or an accountant, toiling away
until life’s energy winds down
like the gold watch they’ll give him;
he could be any one of a hundred
buttoned-up Rotarians in grey flannel suits,
friends with the mayor or with
the chief of police.
Then he sits down at the organ, and
joy springs from those ivory fingers.
He strips off the grey shell,
revealing the light at his core.
That light is the only thing
that reaches us faster
than his sound.

3.

Grabbing two handfuls of
electricity, he
naturally believes that life is beautiful, that
everyone has ready access to this
level of presence, this certain
understanding of the melody.
Doubtless, they all
would trade places
if they could, exchanging
Gene’s grace for their own.

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October 23rd 2009
The Jazz Session #100: Bernard Flanders (My Grandfather)

Posted under Clarinetists & Podcast & Saxophonists

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My grandfather was one of the biggest influences on my life, both in making me the man I am and in pointing me early on to the magic of music, and jazz in particular. To celebrate my 100th episode, I’m taking a break from the show’s normal format to share with you my remembrances of my grandpa and some of the music that he loved.

Here’s a photo of the band my grandfather played in. He’s in the exact center of the top row. This photo was taken in 1930:

grampsband1small

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October 21st 2009
The Jazz Session #99: Robert Glasper

Posted under Pianists & Podcast

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Robert Glasper believes that improvised music can authentically incorporate hip hop rhythms — and he also believes that authenticity is a necessary quality to make the mix work. That kind of authenticity is what he’s striving for on Double Booked (Blue Note, 2009), the new CD featuring both his acoustic trio and his larger electric band. In this interview, Glasper talks about the influence of Herbie Hancock’s genre-busting music; why Glasper decided to feature both his bands on one album; and why he thinks John Coltrane might be mad if he came back today. Find out more at www.robertglasper.com.

If you’d like to buy Double Booked, you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 19th 2009
The Jazz Session #98: Industrial Jazz Group

Posted under Composers & Podcast

leef

The Industrial Jazz Group is a 15-ish-piece large ensemble that plays the inventive, challenging and often hilarious music of composer Andrew Durkin. That sentence, though, doesn’t come close to doing them justice. The band, made up of musicians fluent in jazz, classical and rock — and inspired by the free-for-all spirit of Frank Zappa — is a force of nature, slinking, striding and crashing through Durkin’s charts with an obvious love for the group’s collective sound. In this interview, Durkin talks about how the band grew from its original trio formation; how comedy works to the group’s advantage; and how he’s used social networking sites to expand the band’s audience. The Industrial Jazz Group is on an East Coast tour through 10/24. Dates and locations are available at IndustrialJazzGroup.com.

For more on the IJG, head over to Popdose and read my review of their show in Pittsfield, MA.

If you’d like to buy their album, Leef (Evander, 2008), you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 16th 2009
The Jazz Session #97: Darius Jones

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

darius jones

Virginia-born saxophonist Darius Jones wants to tell his story, and he’s chosen as his vehicle his new album, Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity, 2009). This is an album born of economic poverty and emotional wealth. Joining Jones are multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses. This powerful and beautiful album is an important statement by a voice that needs to be heard. Learn more at Darius Jones’ MySpace page.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 14th 2009
The Jazz Session #96: Joe Morris

Posted under Bassists & Guitarists & Podcast

morris

Guitarist Joe Morris has spent three decades finding ways to contribute to the language of the guitar and to the literature of improvised music. He’s managed to stay true to himself and his sound during that entire time, even as he’s added the bass to his repertoire. On Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity, 2009), Morris continues to explore the place of the guitar in the world of free improvisation. In this interview, Morris talks about his early decision to play without effects; how the masters of the music create their own technique; and the innovative way he teaches his students to do what feels right with their music. Learn more at www.joe-morris.com.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can support The Jazz Session at the same time by purchasing it via the link below:

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October 12th 2009
What is jazz, anyway?

Posted under Jazz Writing

popdose-logo

That’s the question I tackle in my latest “Jazz Don’t Hurt” column over at Popdose.com. Enjoy!

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October 12th 2009
The Jazz Session #95: Fay Victor

Posted under Podcast & Vocalists

The Fay Victor Ensemble’s The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue, 2009) is a tour de force of writing, improvisation and performance. Victor and her band paint one fluid word picture after another, linking these composed sections with free playing that is smart, muscular and emotional. In this interview, Victor talks about why she needed a steady band to realize her musical vision; how she arrived at the mix of freedom and pre-determination that characterizes the album; and what the breakdown of Joe’s car says about human relationships. Find out more at

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October 9th 2009
The Jazz Session #94: Julian Lage

Posted under Guitarists & Podcast

lage

Guitarist Julian Lage was playing gigs when he was 5 years old. By age 7, he was the subject of a documentary. At age 12, he played on the Grammy Awards show, and shortly after began gigging and recording with Gary Burton. Now, at the ripe old age of 21, Lage has released Sounding Point (Emarcy Records, 2009), his debut recording. In this interview, Lage talks about his unlikely life; why he chose a band made of up cello, percussion and saxophone; and why he and his band are as likely to be jamming on Bach as on Bird. Learn more at JulianLage.com.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can help support The Jazz Session by buying it via the link below:

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October 7th 2009
The Jazz Session #93: Dave Rivello

Posted under Composers & Podcast

rivello

Composer and bandleader Dave Rivello is a man on a mission. For nearly two decades, Rivello has been writing original music for his large ensemble and performing that music in clubs in and around Rochester, NY, where he teaches at the Eastman School of Music. The result? Facing The Mirror (Allora Records, 2009), a CD of Rivello’s music that highlights his inventive compositions, and the talented members of his unusual ensemble. In this interview, Rivello talks about how hearing one record changed his life; how he cold-called one of his musical heroes and started a lifelong relationship; and why he chose his own particular instrumentation for his band. Find out more at DaveRivello.com.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can help support The Jazz Session by buying it via the link below:

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October 5th 2009
CD Review: Darius Jones, Man’ish Boy

Posted under Jazz Writing & Popdose & Saxophonists

My new piece for the online pop culture journal Popdose.com is a review of the terrifyingly beautiful new CD from saxophonist Darius Jones. It’s called Man’ish Boy, and it comes out on October 13 on the AUM Fidelity label.

Here’s a video of Darius Jones with Cooper-Moore on diddley-bow, Michael Hardin on keyboard and Cleve Pozar on drums. Cooper-Moore is on Jones’ new CD.

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October 5th 2009
The Jazz Session #92: Laurie Pepper on Art Pepper

Posted under Podcast & Saxophonists

pepper

How do you sum up the career of one of the most distinctive saxophonists ever? For Laurie Pepper, spanning the breadth of her late husband Art Pepper’s career was both a daunting and joyous task, one she accomplished with great success on The Art History Project (Widow’s Taste, 2009). The three CDs cover Pepper’s career from the early 50’s to the early 80s, featuring both previously released and never-before-heard music. In this interview, Laurie Pepper talks about the evolution of Art as a saxophonist; why the Contemporary label wanted to erase tapes of Art’s playing; and why she’s changed her mind about fans recordings gigs. Learn more at StraightLife.info.

If you’d like to buy this album, you can help support The Jazz Session by buying it via the link below. Please note that this is a link to Volume 1 of this 3-volume set.

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October 2nd 2009
The Jazz Session #91: Mike Stern

Posted under Guitarists & Podcast

stern

Guitarist Mike Stern has played with everyone. And yes, that includes Miles Davis. After decades in the business, he could easily be resting on his laurels. Instead, he’s pushing himself into new territory, as displayed on his CD Big Neighborhood (Heads Up, 2009), which finds him in the company of everyone from Esperanza Spaulding to Randy Brecker to Eric Johnson to Steve Vai. In this interview, Stern talks about why he likes surrounding himself with fresh ideas; his rockin’ side and his lyrical side; and how guitarist Hiram Bullock once blew Michael Brecker’s mind. Find out more at mikestern.org.

Help support The Jazz Session by buying the CD via this link:

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