27 November 2009

The Art of Criticism 2

An occasional series which highlights customer reviews of classic jazz albums on Amazon.com. Consider all material (sic'd).

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out

Five stars (out of five), Unexpected hyperbole: If Jesus liked jazz...
...he would have had Take Five playing at the Last Supper. This recording has such depth, such intensity, it's hard to believe that it's been captured on a CD. As I sit here now, I am waiting to get home, decompress and play the album in the background of my mind. I won't get into the technicalities with you, but take my word for it, this is a CD that will never end up as a coaster.
Two stars, The rebuttal: Re: If Jesus Liked Jazz
A fine jazz album for people who are not sure if they like jazz. The music is pleasing without being offensive, or particularly moving. Sure it is a fine place to start, but one would hope that a person's tastes would deepen quickly. I always had a suspicion that this album was rediculously over-rated, and seeing the reviews here confirm my feelings. It's a good pop jazz album, not as swinging or interesting as anything else back then, and a bit dated now. One reviewer said "take out your Kenny G and put this in," I am sure it was meant as some kind of slam on Kenny G, but it seems like a fair estimation on the impact this record has had on jazz. I am sure that Jesus likes Mingus more.
Five stars, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little: It *still* tickles.
The 5/4 on "Take Five" baffles, soothes, and delights on a level usually reserved for watching puppies and the springtime. It makes me happy in a primal kind of way.

Holiday Weekend

A little late, but enjoy...

23 November 2009

List: Best of the Aughts

As we approach the end of the decade, requisite best-of lists are popping up, so I thought I would add my two cents. As I mention in my annual year-end roundups, my status as an amateur critic and holder of a day job means I cannot review more than a tiny fraction of the new music that gets released in a given year. With that in mind, the list below is necessarily incomplete, so I will supplement it with other best-of lists from professional critics as well as crowd-sourced lists. Feel free to list your favorites in the comments.

Some Good Albums from the 2000s (in alphabetical order by artist)
And here are some other end-of-the-decade lists by people who listen to far more music than I do (updated as I find them).

Image via Circulations

20 November 2009

Friday Album Cover: In My Element

Robert Glasper
In My Element

In a recent interview on Jason Crane's The Jazz Session, Robert Glasper said something that revealed the inherent trickiness in playing hip hop-flavored jazz:
"As far as I know, most people, you know, when they do do an electric album, it's after they finish doing their acoustic stuff and then they do an electric album."
At the risk of digging too deeply into one sentence from an hourlong interview, it seems like Glasper is implying that if you want to be taken seriously as a jazz musician, you have to start out by playing acoustic jazz. I will not argue with Glasper here, some people will still reflexively dismiss a musician who only plays fusion, and not any kind of straightahead postbop (those people were a convenient straw man to one side in the jazz wars of the 1980s and 1990s). Instead, what interests me is how this line of thinking can be extended to album art as well.

A while back, I examined a common template used on Blue Note album covers during the 1950s and 1960s, which I dubbed the "Blue Note Special." The cover to Glasper's In My Element features many characteristics of the Blue Note Special, including black-and-white photography, minimal text, the color blue, and a simple layout. That Glasper would reference such a classic design makes sense when considering the style of this album (which I would roughly classify as an adventurous postbop album) and his comment that jazz musicians often hew more closely acoustic jazz during the early stages of their careers. It is as if Glasper wanted to make sure we know that he is both referencing and updating a jazz tradition. In this case, the art, and the album itself, manage to deftly point forward while referencing a revered tradition: the classic Blue Note album covers of the 1950s and 1960s and the adventurous hard bop that filled the label's catalogue during that era.

17 November 2009

Read This Today

Whenever I sit down to play, I'm quiet for a couple of seconds. Then I ask permission from the ancestors to allow me to do these things that have already been done.

A joke about that comes from "Sweets" Edison. After I played a drum solo, he said to me, "Yeah, you thought that shit was something, huh?"

I said, "Well..."

"That shit was nothin' but a bunch of old Sid Catlett licks!" Of course, nobody in the club even knew who Sid Catlett was.

-Albert "Tootie" Heath, interviewed by Ethan Iverson

Ethan Iverson posted a wonderful interview with Albert "Tootie" Heath at Do The Math last week in anticipation of the pair's short trio run with Ben Street at Small's this week. Read it! Then go listen to last night's set at Smalls' website. You won't be disappointed by either. Many thanks to Ethan, who is fast becoming the Art Taylor of the new millenium.

12 November 2009

November Links

08 November 2009

Pardon the dust.

I'm switching templates today, so if things look a little off, it's because I haven't finished yet.

UPDATE: I'm mostly done. The label cloud may get a few tweaks, and I can't seem to get my Amazon widget working, but this is pretty much it. Complaints or suggestions in the comments.

07 November 2009

You see, basketball is like jazz...

h/t: The Great Barstoolio

Update: From Jason Crane:

Fascinating talk with basketball writer Nathaniel Friedman from @freedarko about the "jazz=basketball" meme. On The Jazz Session soon. #jazz
I bet this'll be good.

06 November 2009

04 November 2009

Programming Note

Tonight PBS will reair last week's Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize American Humor ceremony, awarded to Bill Cosby. While Cosby received the prize for his contributions to comedy, he will also be acknowledged as a longtime advocate for jazz, with musicians Wynton Marsalis and Jimmy Heath appearing at the ceremony. Cosby has hosted the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles every year since 1979, and has appeared on a number of jazz albums, including Charles Mingus And Friends In Concert, a favorite of mine.

Below, Cosby ruminates on Lester Bowie and Louis Armstrong on the set of The Cosby Show.