Archive for the 'Jazz Writing' Category

October 26th 2013
Your favorite Clifford Brown performances

Posted under Jazz Writing & Trumpeters


I asked folks on Twitter and Facebook for their favorite performances by trumpeter Clifford Brown. Here’s what they said:

Alison Wedding, Justin Smith and Nicholas Urie said “Delilah.” Nicholas said, “They cultivated such an incredibly clear atmosphere in Delilah. The arrangement is also incredible — it is just great! This was one of the first jazz records I bought in junior high. I picked up the Brown/Roach record on a recommendation and Ornette’s Double Quartet record because I liked the cover. I listened to them both on repeat for the better part of a year.”

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August 22nd 2011
The More You Know: Music Biz Edition

Posted under Jazz Writing & Podcast

Earlier today I started tweeting a series of snarky tips for musicians and music industry folks. They were retweeted quite a bit, so I decided to collect them all here. You can follow me on Twitter at @jasondcrane. Enjoy!

  • Every time your web site begins playing music automatically, a puppy spontaneously combusts.
  • Every time someone is forced to visit myspace to learn more about your music, a baby seal falls into a meat grinder.
  • If you’re an active musician whose web site was last updated a few months ago, you’re causing global warming.
  • Every time you send out a promo CD with no track titles or musician names, a butterfly flaps its wings and they fall off.
  • Every time someone visits your gig calendar and finds it was last updated in 2009, Dick Cheney shoots a guy in the face.
  • Every time your bio lists your “forthcoming CD” as one that came out 3 years ago, George W. Bush chops down a redwood.
  • Every time you make me type your CD details into my music software because you forgot, Donald Rumsfeld has an orgasm.
  • Every time you put a comment form rather than your email address on your web site, an old person loses their health care.
  • Every time your bio is a long list of the people you’ve “shared the stage with,” more oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Musicians: If you have a Twitter account & haven’t tweeted in weeks or months, you don’t have a Twitter account.


June 24th 2011
Undead Jazz Festival – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

Posted under Jazz Writing

Here are a selection of my tweets and photos from the first night of the Undead Jazz Festival in NYC.

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“The Mado Ensemble would make most fusion bands poop their pants.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Explosive, surpsrising, delightful playing from trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Amir ElSaffar dancing between the pitches at Sullivan Hall.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Sullivan Hall is packed … with zombies, from the look of this photo. Guess that’s why they call it #undeadjazz”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Ingrid Laubrock. Long unaccompanied sax exploration. Sweet weeping Jesus, she’s good.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Ingrid Laubrock blowing thru mouthpiece & neck of sax into plastic cup of water, making bubble sounds.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Paradoxical Frog just couldn’t be better. Fave jazz group these days? Maybe…”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“RT @adlermusic Orrin Evans just blew some minds – here comes Nasheet …”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“@dingmanvibes is for real. My first time seeing him. Great touch and creative harmonic conception.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Palm tree over @geraldclayton’s piano at Sullivan Hall looks like Rick’s Place. #iamold #casablanca”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Tonight the part of Rick Wakeman will be played by John Escreet”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“This Escreet band is hitting me right in the prog gland. Nice.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Andrew D’Angelo big band taking it to the woodshed at Sullivan Hall”
“60% of the people here are recording this. If there’s an assassination, we’ll have a lot of Zapruder films.”
“Ben Monder, folks. Right next to ‘bad motherfucker’ in the dictionary.”
“Love watching teens and twentysomethings bobbing their heads to big band music.”
“Reid Anderson is funky as he wantsta be with Andrew D’Angelo.”
“Dan Weiss + Ben Monder + Reid Anderson = rhythmgasm”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Josh Sinton, seconds ago. He’s now running through Sullivan Hall soloing.”

From Undead Jazz Fest – Day 1 – June 23, 2011

“Josh Sinton & Andrew D’Angelo Live at Budokan”

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February 16th 2011
I know I can’t be the first person to have made this joke

Posted under Jazz Writing

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January 18th 2011
A jazz poem

Posted under Jazz Writing & Podcast & Poetry

Here’s a poem inspired by tonight’s show at Jazz Standard featuring Jeff “Tain” Watts, Robert Hurst and Steve Coleman:

in which we cross east 27th street at high tide

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September 10th 2010
Review: Sonny Rollins 80th Birthday Concert

Posted under Jazz News & Jazz Writing & Podcast

Let me say right off that this isn’t really a review. More of an impression of a very special episode of Sonny Rollins in concert. Also, I didn’t take any notes, so I can remember what I remember and that’s it. Caveat, uh, you. (UPDATE: See the comments section for song titles provided by an audience member with a much better memory.) (UPDATE 2: Peter Hum posted an article that includes the full set list.)

The Beacon is a gorgeous venue. The sound was excellent and the ornate decorations lent the evening the feel of a big-city gala. I think that atmosphere was also helped by the fact that this was a big-city gala. The place was stuffed with famous jazz and arts folks. I sat between jazz writer Larry Blumenfeld and poet Steve Dalachinsky. Behind me was multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Batiste (of the New Orleans Batistes) and up several rows in front was saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Steve Dalachinsky and I both thought we saw the poet Yusef Komunyakaa, but we weren’t 100% sure. Anyway, the list goes on.

Sonny opened the show with the night’s “core” band: Russell Malone on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Kobie Watkins on drums (hear him on TJS #132) and Sammy Figueroa on congas. They played two tunes, the second of which was “Global Warming,” one of my favorite of Sonny’s calypso tunes. Then the parade of special guests began.

First up was trumpeter Roy Hargrove, looking modern and dapper in a tight black suit, fedora, white shirt, narrow black tie and big sneakers. Roy opened up with “I Can’t Get Started” on flugelhorn and then he and Sonny played a second tune together (no, I can’t remember which tune) that featured a lot of trading fours. In fact, probably too much trading fours. At one point Roy just started playing the head and they went out. All very good-natured and fun to watch.

The next guest was guitarist Jim Hall, with whom Sonny recorded some of his seminal albums when, as Sonny said in his introduction, “I was a very young boy.” Hall seemed fairly tentative on the guitar, even for someone famous for often understated playing. Sonny started an unaccompanied version of “In A Sentimental Mood” and Hall began to play along, quickly realizing that he and Sonny were nowhere near in tune. So Sonny added a repetitive tuning note to his solo, Hall tuned his guitar, the crowd laughed, and Hall picked up where Sonny left off, finishing with his own unaccompanied take on “In A Sentimental Mood.” There was also a second tune (nope, can’t remember it).

Following Hall’s set, the entire band left the stage, leaving Sonny there alone. He brought out bassist Christian McBride and someone he said “showed up unannounced,” drummer Roy Haynes. Can I just say that Roy Haynes is easily the baddest human being alive? He looked better than anybody in the Beacon — dressed to kill, walking cool, shades, a shiny suit and a great smile to the audience. The trio played a ballad that featured a typically high-energy solo from Roy. Then they went into a medium-tempo blues (a famous one, too, but I still can’t recall what it was). This dragged on a bit too long, and Sonny walked up to the mic while the rhythm section was playing and said, “I’ve been told there’s someone here who wants to say ‘happy birthday’™ to me, and he’s got a horn. I wish he would come out right now.” Sonny kept soloing while all three musicians looked offstage, waiting.

Then Ornette Coleman walked out on stage. The place went, if I may use a technical term, batshit crazy. Everybody on their feet, yelling, screaming. Ornette soloed, then he and Sonny traded, which pushed Sonny into a more free place than at any other time during the show. It was wonderful. At that point, the band was Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Roy Haynes and Christian McBride. More than 240 years living up there on stage.

Everybody but Ornette came out for a rousing version of “St. Thomas” featuring strong solos and interplay between Sonny and Roy Hargrove. The fifth standing ovation and it was over.

I felt very, very lucky to be there.


May 25th 2010
A poem for Sun ra

Posted under Jazz Writing & Poetry

A poem dedicated to the jazz musician Sun Ra.

to swing you in the arms of the stars


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May 18th 2010
A poem in tribute to Hank Jones

Posted under Jazz Writing & Pianists

I wasn’t going to write anything about Hank Jones. Then I saw an article in the New York Times that changed my mind. The article and the resulting poem are at

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April 2nd 2010
Matthew Shipp — chapter and verse

Posted under Jazz Writing & Pianists & Podcast

I saw pianist Matthew Shipp in concert last night (April 1, 2010) in Troy, NY, as part of a series put on by the Sanctuary for Independent Media and the Arts Center of the Capital Region. It was a powerful and relentless show, and it inspired a poem called Gravity, which you can read at

If you want to hear more from Matthew Shipp, he was my guest on The Jazz Session recently.

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March 5th 2010
Jazz writing: Tish Oney’s Peggy Lee Project

Posted under Jazz Writing

My latest article for the Island Packet newspaper on Hilton Head Island, SC, is a short profile of Tish Oney and her Peggy Lee Project.

Read the article.

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February 26th 2010
Jazz writing: Scott Giddens profile

Posted under Jazz Writing & Podcast

My most recent piece for The Island Packet newspaper on Hilton Head Island, SC, is a short profile of the Hammond organ and organists Jimmy Smith and Scott Giddens.

Read the article.

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January 28th 2010
Jazz writing: Noel Freidline

Posted under Jazz Writing & Podcast

My latest mini-profile for the Island Packet newspaper on Hilton Head Island, SC, is about pianist Noel Freidline. Here’s the opening:

Noel Freidline was first exposed to jazz in the usual manner: via National Geographic.

Wait a minute, National Geographic?

“My mom was briefly a member of the National Geographic album club back in the late ’70s,” Freidline said. “One of the albums they sent her that she did not actually order was a compilation album of Dixieland jazz. One day, when I was about 11 or 12, I found the album and put it on. I was fascinated. Shortly thereafter a neighbor gave me a Dave Brubeck album called ‘Time Out.’ He was probably the only person in my little hometown of Clearwater, Kan., who even knew who Dave Brubeck was. Now I was hooked.”

Read the rest of the article.

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January 6th 2010
Jazz writing: John Pizzarelli

Posted under Jazz Writing

Here’s a short profile of John Pizzarelli I wrote for the Island Packet newspaper on Hilton Head Island, SC:

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December 31st 2009
The Jazz Session looks back at 2009: Oh, the places you’ll go!

Posted under Jazz Writing & Podcast & Site Updates

My year-in-review article for All About Jazz is now available online. It’s a look at some of the interesting places at which I recorded episodes of the show in 2009. These spots include:

  • Steve Kuhn’s kitchen
  • The lobby of Vijay Iyer’s apartment building
  • A trailer behind the stage at the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival
  • James Shipp’s minivan
  • …and many more!

Read: The Jazz Session: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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December 8th 2009
My Top 10 Jazz CDs of 2009

Posted under Jazz News & Jazz Writing & Podcast

These lists are always a bit ridiculous to compile, given the near impossibility of rating art and the sheer number of CDs released each year. That said, I compiled the list below for the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll.

TOP 10
Artist – Album (Label)

  1. Fay Victor – The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue)
  2. Vijay Iyer – Historicity (ACT)
  3. Darius Jones – Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity)
  4. The Fully Celebrated – Drunk On The Blood Of The Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity)
  5. The Respect Sextet – Sirius Respect (Mode)
  6. Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls – Seize The Time (Naim)
  7. Digital Primitives – Hum Crackle & Pop (Hopscotch)
  8. Terence Blanchard – Choices (Concord)
  9. Steve Lehman – Travail, Transformation & Flow (Pi Recordings)
  10. Kat Edmonson – Take To The Sky (Convivium)


  1. Art Pepper – The Art History Project (Widow’s Taste)
  2. Tony Bennett & Bill Evans – The Complete Tony Bennett & Bill Evans Recordings on Fantasy (Concord)
  3. — not voting for a 3rd —


Fay Victor – The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue)


Darius Jones – Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity)


— not voting —


November 9th 2009
Sonny Rollins on the relevance of jazz

Posted under Jazz Writing & Saxophonists

2008_0418_SonnyRollins I interviewed Sonny Rollins tonight for the second time. Before the interview, I asked my wife Jennifer, who’s a casual jazz listener, what one question she’d ask Sonny if she were interviewing him. She said she’d ask him whether jazz is still relevant. So I asked him, and this is what he said:

“I think that the relevance of jazz depends on what you think jazz is. For instance, if you think that jazz is a piano trio playing in a small nightclub — they’re good musicians, maybe have a girl singer — and you come in and there are people smoking and sitting at tables … if that is your conception of jazz then of course jazz is not relevant, because that refers to a time and place. Jazz is something which is much bigger. Jazz has to do with freedom of expression. So is jazz still relevant? Of course, because there are always people trying to express themselves in music. I think of jazz as having the big umbrella, so that a lot of styles of music that have merged over the years all fall under the umbrella of jazz. The act of trying to create something musically and spontaneously is something that is a part of life. It’s like the weather — it’s always there. Jazz as something that fits into a narrow little remembrance, no, that kind of jazz is not relevant. But jazz is as relevant today as the yearning for people to be free. That’s how relevant jazz is.”


November 3rd 2009
The Kareem Kronicles: How I (almost) (sky)hooked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Posted under Jazz Writing


Late this past spring, I read On the Shoulders of Giants, a book by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about the Harlem Renaissance, its music, and the effect of both on Kareem’s development as a person. I already knew about his lifelong love of jazz and his wide-ranging education and passions, and he seemed like the perfect guest for The Jazz Session … if I could book him. Little did I know that the process of not booking him would stretch out from the end of one NBA season to the beginning of the next, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth and one basketball legend short of a show.

On June 3, 2009, I sent the following message to the various addresses listed on Kareem’s site:

Dear Kareem,

I’d love to have you on my jazz interview show, The Jazz Session. I think it would be a lot of fun for my listeners to hear your point of view on jazz, and also on the relationship between sports and music that you’ve so eloquently written and spoken about over the years. In particular, we could talk about On The Shoulders of Giants and then expand into your thoughts on jazz in general.

Recent guests on The Jazz Session include: Sonny Rollins, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Gary Burton, Hugh Masekela, Kenny Garrett and Chico Hamilton. Upcoming guest include Branford Marsalis, Avery Sharpe, Arturo O’Farrill, Gene Ludwig, E.J. Strickland and Henry Grimes. All of the shows are available to listen to at and in iTunes.

The Jazz Session’s 60 episodes have been downloaded more than 200,000 times. The Jazz Session recently joined forces with All About Jazz to bring my interviews to an even wider audience.

I hope you’ll agree to come on the show. I think it would be rewarding for both of us.


Jason Crane

Like any initial contact by email, I felt like I was yelling “Anybody home?” in a dark house, but it was worth a shot. Imagine my surprise when just two days later, on June 5, I received the following:

Hi Jason,

Will be a happy to schedule after the Playoff Season ends.

Deborah Morales | iconomist | Iconomy, LLC  |
Private Office of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar |

Can you believe it? Not even 48 hours after I sent the message, Deborah Morales from Kareem’s office had agreed to schedule an interview. I was thrilled. I posted about the coup on Facebook and on The Jazz Session‘s newsletter, and sent a reply to Ms. Morales:

Hi Deborah,

You mean Kareem’s busy right now?

Just kidding — good luck to all concerned. I’m listening every night, and trying not to think of my defeated Celtics.

Should I contact you, or wait to hear from you?

All the best,


Kareem, of course, was on staff with the Lakers, who were deep into the playoffs on their way to their eventual victory. It was completely reasonable to be asked to wait until after the playoffs and finals were complete, and I was happy to do it. Here’s the note I included in the following week’s newsletter:

If I had a list of people I never would have expected to get for The Jazz Session, I think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would have easily made the list. Kareem is a big jazzhead, though, and his most recent book traces the evolution of basketball from jazz to hip hop. So I sent him an email message, never expecting a response. Within 48 hours, though, his office responded and said he’d be happy to come on the show after the NBA finals. So Kareem will be a guest. Cool, huh?

The response to the newsletter and my Facebook post was immediate and very positive. Most folks who aren’t jazz fans don’t know any of the people I normally have on my show, but everybody knows Kareem. I was even stopped on the street by friends and acquaintances who congratulated me on booking him. I think my newsletter wording (“Cool, huh?”) just about sums it up.

On June 15, after the Lakers had won the championship, I sent a follow-up message to Ms. Morales:

Hi Deborah,

Congratulations to the Lakers on #15!

My listeners have been very excited about Kareem’s upcoming appearance on
The Jazz Session. I’ve received a lot of feedback already.

My show features in-depth interviews interspersed with audio clips from
the artists’ CDs. Would you send me a copy of Vols. 1-4 of On The
Shoulders of Giants so that I can pull clips from those CDs? (And so that
I can listen to them in preparation for the interview. I’ve already read

If you’re interested, I do quite a few giveaways on The Jazz Session,
usually of jazz CDs and DVDs. If there are any items Kareem would be
willing to give away, I’d be thrilled to have them.

As for the timing of the interview, I do the majority of my interviews on
weeknights at 8 p.m. Eastern or later. I can sometimes do them on weekends
if necessary. Here are several open dates when I’m available. If none of
these work for Kareem, would you suggest some alternates? Thanks.


Thanks again for your help.

All the best,

Jason Crane

It was at this point that things started to go south. Ms. Morales’ response was quick and deflating:
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October 23rd 2009
Gene Ludwig

Posted under Jazz Writing & Organists

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


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.


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.


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 12th 2009
What is jazz, anyway?

Posted under Jazz Writing


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

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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 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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