28 December 2009

Time Marches On

Another year has come and gone. Just in case you missed it, below are links to my end-of-year and end-of-decade lists. See you in 2010...

Some Good Albums from 2009
Some Good Albums from the 2000s
Some Great Books from the 2000s

23 December 2009

Some Great Books From the Aughts

Greetings from Miami, the perfect place to get away from a blizzard. We are living in a golden age of jazz studies, as musicologists, historians, journalists, and American Studies professors are all producing great works on jazz. Below are some of my favorite books on jazz from the past decade, all of which I highly recommend. This list is just a starting-off point, as I still have a ton of reading to catch up on (such is always the case with me I'm afraid).
Honorable Mentions (because I haven't read these yet but I'm sure they are good)

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments...

16 December 2009

An Open Letter To Senator John McCain

Dear Mr. McCain,

Since this is a blog post that you will probably never read, and since I still don't believe you know how to use a computer, I will skip the usual pleasantries. Instead, I will cut straight to the point. As Peter Hum and Jason Parker, among others, have pointed out, in your zeal to identify every misspent cent in the federal budget, you recently noted that Jazz at Lincoln Center received an $800,000 grant. You find this prospect to be wholly repulsive, it seems. "Next time you're in New York, go to the Lincoln Center," you said, adding sarcastically, "Jazz lovers rejoice."

I understand the principles of limited government which you hold dear (that is, when you are not calling for the escalation of foolish and unwinnable wars halfway around the globe which cost thousands of times more than these grants for jazz programs). Frankly, I agree with the assertion that the current economic crisis is the result of overextension in both the private and public spheres. However, as the old saying goes, you are being a pound foolish and a penny wise. With the 2010 federal budget deficit coming in at over a trillion dollars, it is simply asinine to be haggling over such a trifle as NEA grants.

I suggest you drop your vendetta against jazz, and try to balance the budget by focusing on programs that actually make a dent in the ledger (like outmoded weapons programs, for instance). Jazz is one of the most important cultural legacies of our republic, but you would not know it from the support (or lack thereof) it receives from our government. Moreso than just about every industrialized nation, the United States depends almost solely on the private sphere to fund and promote the fine arts. Judging by the status quo, you have effectively already won your battle to defund the arts. So leave us the hell alone and allow institutions like J@LC, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the NEA to at least keep the pittance they receive from the federal government.

Most Sincerely,
David Hill

11 December 2009

Bonus Friday Album Cover

Yesterday Patrick Jarenwattananon informed us that Justin Vernon's (of Bon Iver) recent benefit performance with his high school jazz band was recorded and now is for sale. I haven't listened to any samples yet, but check out the album cover:

Referencing the Blue Note Special, but distinctive. Simple, but effective.

December Links

It's the holidays again. You may want to buy some books and music for your friends. On to the links...

08 December 2009

Review: Un Monton de Notas

Emilio Teubal & La Banteuband
Un Monton De Notas

First, a confession. Latin jazz has been woefully underrepresented in this space. Luckily we live in a world that includes people like Chip Boas, whose blog, The Latin Jazz Corner, is essential reading. And today I'll take my first dip in the water with a review of an album that recently landed on my desk which I find representative of the depth and breadth of Latin jazz.

Patrick Jarenwattananon wrote recently that Latin jazz is "not just a synonym for Afro-Cuban jazz any more." Indeed, like other broad subgenres (postbop, avant garde, etc.), Latin jazz can include influences from any number of Hispanic cultures, and those influences can be at the forefront of the music or simply another ingredient in an artist's style.

Emilio Teubal falls in the latter category, employing a style that is informed by Latin rhythms while not allowing it to overshadow the rest of the ingredients. His new album, Un Monton De Notas, is the best kind of multigenre fusion: it reminds me of diffeent things (the opening track, Ping Pong, recalls the melody of Jitterbug Waltz over a faint clave rhythm) but sounds like nothing else.

Teubal uses this album to explore not only melody but also sounds. The instrumentation is very textured; there are very few open spaces sonically (though there are plenty spaces melodically). Teubal is an interesting composer whose tunes feature a strong pulse set against melodies that take their time to bloom. He himself has a subtly percussive style of piano playing, which match the airy flow of the winds on tracks like X-cetera (After) quite nicely. Teubal is still young, but he already possesses a keen knowledge and strong musicality, as well as the perspective to keep things in balance.

Video: Emilio Teubal & La Balteuband play Ping Pong at the Release party for Un Monton de Notas

Track Listing: Ping Pong; Before the Outerspace; X-cetera (After); Un Monton De Notas; El Amanecido; Baguala; (T) La Arania '08; A La Pantalla A; Coda(1:39)
Personnel: Emilio Teubal, piano, fender rhodes, accordion; Xavier Perez, soprano and tenor saxophone, flute; Felipe Salles, soprano and tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Moto Fukushima, bass; Franco Pinna, drums, bombo leguero; Kobi Salomon, Ivan Baremboim, clarinet; Greg Heffernan, cello; Marcelo Wolski, percussion

Thelonious, Nica

I promise I'll review Robin Kelley's new Monk biography, but I'm taking my time with the book. Although I can already tell you it is a good read. Kelley goes into great detail to give the reader the fullest portrait of Monk possible. Kelley succeeds in presenting the inner world of Monk, free of the mythologizing that dominated the popular image of Monk for so long.

Kelley was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air today, have a listen. Terry also interviewed Hannah Rothschild, whose documentary on her Great Aunt, the Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter, is airing on HBO2 this month. Listen to it here.

04 December 2009

Some Good Albums From 2009

As I said last year, 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, so I will leave the year-end lists to the more than capable critics listed below (to be updated as more lists pop up).
Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites from 2009, which was not a bad year for jazz, all things considered.
Also, let me give one final farewell to George Russell, Rashied Ali, Hank Crawford, John Patrick Diggins, John Updike, Ian Carr, Mark Fidrych, Bud Shank, George Tiller, Ed McMahon, Ali Akbar Khan, Les Paul, and anyone else I may have forgotten.

Photo of Joe Lovano at Newport 2009 via A Blog Supreme

03 December 2009

Today's Listening Assignment

Today is Herbie Nichols' birthday (h/t: Destination:Out's Twitter). Nichols is a vastly underappreciated artist in the jazz canon, who, apart from AB Spellman's Four Lives in the Bebop Business, receives little coverage in many histories of the music. Like his contemporary Booker Little, Nichols bridged the gap between bebop and the avant garde of the 1960s.

Nichols grew up in the San Juan Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, an area which produced fellow musicians Thelonious Monk and Denzil Best, among others. In his recent Monk biography, Robin Kelley notes that Nichols was an early supporter of Monk, championing his music in his column for the black-owned weekly New York Age. Nichols was present at the creation of bebop, serving as the house pianist at Monroe's Uptown House during the late 1940s, one of the crucibles of the new jazz.

Though he did not get many opportunities to record his own music (he had to support himself playing Dixieland gigs), Nichols did record a number of sides for Blue Note during the mid-1950s, which have since been rereleased as a box set and are excerpted below. Sadly, Nichols died of leukemia in 1963, depriving the world of a unique talent whose music has since been championed by many of the significant avant garde musicians of the 1960s. These Blue Note tracks are your listening assignments for today. Special thanks to YouTube user leonocusto2009 for uploading these tracks.

Finally, below is Billie Holiday singing Lady Sings The Blues, to which Nichols composed the music, on the 1950s television special The Sound of Jazz, featuring solos from Ben Webster and Lester Young, among others: