30 September 2010

Bilal on the Sound of Young America

It's not often my favorite podcast/public radio program tackles jazz, so embedded below is Jesse Thorn's interview with neo-soul singer Bilal, who you may remember from Robert Glasper's excellent 2009 album Double Booked.

Also, check out Bilal's take on Body and Soul (beginning at the 48:30 mark with Glasper at Jazz a la Villette 2010, via Nextbop:

28 September 2010


Jamire Williams' band ERIMAJ has a free EP out, Memo to All. Get it. From the album's Bandcamp page:
The Memo To All EP is a retro, progressive, cinematic piece of work brought to you by world-renowned drummer Jamire Williams and his acclaimed new band ERIMAJ. This is only a brief synopsis of what's to come with the full length album scheduled for release first quarter of 2011. This is the memo to all, rather the wake up call to keep your eyes and ears open for the force that is ERIMAJ. Press play and let the tape roll...
It's a thoroughly enjoyable collection of heterodox tunes, channeling funk, Miles-era fusion, and hip hop. And come on, it's free. Thanks, Jamire!


The MacArthur Foundation has announced its annual genius grants, and among the recipients are pianist Jason Moran, who joins fellow jazz musicians Ornette Coleman, Miguel Zenon, and John Zorn as recent recipients. I certainly won't quibble with the selection, and can't wait to see what kind of project Moran creates with his grant money ($500,000).

From the MacArthur Foundation:

Also receiving a genius grant was David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme. If you did not watch the first season of Treme, be sure to catch it when it comes out on DVD.

25 September 2010

Jaco Pastorius On South Florida

From a 1977 Downbeat profile reposted at Groove Notes and jacopastorius.com:
"There's a real rhythm in Florida," Jaco Pastorius says in a voice saturated in matter-of-fact. "Because of the ocean. There's something about the Caribbean Ocean, it's why all that music from down there sounds like that. I can't explain it, but I know what it is." He pauses to unclasp his hands, like gangly sandcrabs, and drop his lanky arms to the sides of his lanky body. "I can feel it when I’m there." The concept of Florida is not a constant among Americans. Some people think of Miami Beach, others warm to the less hectic conjuration of Ft. Lauderdale or sleepy St. Petersburg; for some it is the gateway to the new frontier represented by Cape Canaveral, for others the far older frontier that is the Everglades. Still others revel in the broad paradox of a mecca for retirees on the site of Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, or the full-circle irony of a land discovered by Spaniards being gradually inundated by the Spanish-speaking. But no one thinks of Florida as a source of American music. No one thinks of it for jazz.

"The water in the Caribbean is much different from other oceans," Jaco says. "It's a little bit calmer down there; we don't have waves in South Florida, all that much. Unless there's a hurricane. But when a hurricane comes, look out, it's more ferocious there than anywhere else. And a lot of music from down there is like that, the pulse is smooth even if the rhythms are angular, and the pulse will take you before you know it. All of a sudden, you’re swept away."
Read the full article here. Jaco and I came of age in completely different South Floridas, but even so his words make me look back fondly on the community where I grew up.

24 September 2010

Review: Never Stop

The Bad Plus

I've discovered that it is pretty much impossible for me not to succumb to fan-boy admiration when writing about a Bad Plus album, so I'm going to go ahead and indulge myself with this here review. The Bad Plus have been together for ten years, and despite their (sometimes) treatment as a gimmicky group that covers Nirvana and Black Sabbath, they have attracted a fiercely loyal group of fans who never fail to express their love of the group (mention the band on Twitter sometime, you'll get a ton of replies from people you had no idea listened to jazz). Their latest album, Never Stop, celebrates the trio's tenth year of playing together. Unlike any of the band's past albums, Never Stop is comprised entirely of original tunes, with none of the adventurous covers of pop and rock tunes that were chiefly responsible for much of the trio's buzz in its early days.1

It is indicative of their charms that The Bad Plus can write tunes that evoke the intricate and driving melodies of prog rock icons like Rush or Emerson Lake & Palmer that absolutely hook me. This is all the more notable because I happen to abjectly despise those bands. On Never Stop, Beryl Likes to Dance falls into this category (and the best example of this type of prog-as-jazz tune is And Here We Test Our Powers of Observation from Give). However, the highlight of the album for me is the title track, which shares some of the proggy energy of Beryl (though, as bassist Reid Anderson pointed out in this interview at A Blog Supreme, the tune was actually composed for an Isaac Mizrahi fashion show for which the band performed a live soundtrack).

   The Bad Plus - Never Stop by dave6834

Many of the other factors which have come to characterize The Bad Plus are present on Never Stop: the tongue-in-cheek song titles (like My Friend Metatron), obscure signifying (Bill Hickman at Home is written for a legendary stunt driver), the slavish devotion to writing quality melodies (as in The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart, which repeats a simple rubato melody with growing intensity for the first four minutes before turning the melody into a delightful little vamp for the final minute and a half), and the enthusiastic free jazz experimentation (see especially 2pm). It is as fitting a restatement of purpose as you would expect from a band which, despite criticisms from certain quarters of the critical establishment, has been developing its identity with flair for a solid decade. Here's hoping we can enjoy this group for decades to come.

Bonus Material: the EPK

1I'm actually pretty happy the band decided to eschew covers for this album. I've grown pretty tired of having to explain to my non-jazz-listening friends that The Bad Plus is more than "that jazz band that plays Nirvana tunes."

Track Listing: The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart; Never Stop; You Are; My Friend Metatron; People Like You; Beryl Loves to Dance; Snowball; 2pm; Bill Hickman at Home; Super America
Personnel: Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; Dave King, drums

22 September 2010


  1. Happy Apple - Green Grass Stains on Wrangler Jeans
  2. The Bad Plus - Never Stop
  3. Dave Holland Octet - How's Never?
  4. Jason Moran Bandwagon - Crepescule With Nellie
  5. Polar Bear - Bap Bap Bap
  6. Christian Scott - American't
  7. Medeski Martin & Wood - Dollar Pants
  8. Joe Lovano Us Five - Powerhouse
  9. John Coltrane - Your Lady
  10. Robert Glasper - Maiden Voyage/Everything In Its Right Place

14 September 2010

Sonny and Ornette

Lest you forget that the modern world is a wonderful place, here is a video from Friday night's Sonny Rollins birthday extravaganza with special guest Ornette Coleman. Roy Haynes is on drums, Christian McBride is on bass. Read Jason Crane's review of the evening here.

11 September 2010

Weekend Reading

Fall is coming...

09 September 2010

It's About That Time

Via the sports media blog Awful Announcing, here's New Orleans' own Trombone Shorty playing the NFL on NBC theme:

The NFL kicks off tonight, with Shorty's New Orleans Saints hosting the Minnesota Vikings. Back to the music, the NFL on NBC theme is my favorite sports television theme of the moment, only surpassed by the now defunct NBA on NBC theme written by John Tesh (!):

Game on.

04 September 2010

An Unoriginal Lament Concerning Technology

The other night, I was laying in bed reading while listening to Vijay Iyer on my iPod, and I began thinking about our changing relationship with music. This is by no means an original thought, but our relationship with recorded music has moved from the physical realm to an ethereal space which eludes definition. Until a few years ago, we experienced recorded music through physical objects; acetates, vinyl, reels, cassettes, and CDs, among other media. While these physical artifacts did not necessarily enhance our appreciation of the music contained therein (though in many cases I would argue they did, but more on that some other time), because they required work to obtain, they became part of our identity. The first generation of jazz critics were record collectors. Because early recordings of jazz were so difficult to obtain (record stores of the time did not keep much of a back catalogue, and big box music stores had yet to take root), a network of record-collecting magazines and newsletters became necessary for collectors and enthusiasts to share information and discuss the records they had worked so hard to track down. The vast collections of these jazz nerds (the first jazz nerds, long before Jason Marsalis distorted the badge of identity) became part of the collectors' identity, physical relics of their slavish devotion to the music they loved so much.

                  Some of Dad's records, in my living room
This pattern of music collection as identity repeated itself as new media came and went, and it was not limited to jazz. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and other figures of the British Invasion collected pressings of American blues musicians. Early hip hop DJs wore out their copies of Funkadelic records. You could tell a lot about a person by looking at their record or CD collection. These were often displayed in prominent places in someone's home, where guests could see right away what their host was listening to. If you ever got bored at a party, you could take a look through the host's music, and usually you would find something of interest, an album you had never heard of, an album you would have never guessed the host would own, one of your favorite albums which might serve to spark a conversation later on. Looking through someone's record collection allowed you to get to know that person in almost an instant.

When my dad finally decided to get rid of the records he had been storing for three-plus decades, he let me look through them and keep whatever I wanted. Of the 300 or so albums he had, I kept about a third, mostly albums he had bought in high school and college (Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, etc.). Though I rarely listen to these records, they have sparked many a conversation with my dad that eventually veer off into discussions of history, culture, politics, etc. But more than that, these records, which I've moved to three different apartments in the past five years, give me a connection to my dad for which I cannot think of an analog. They are in many ways a physical representation of himself, sitting in my living room, always there. I can call him anytime, but the records give him a presence in my life that a cell phone simply cannot.

A music collection in the 20th century       
Of course, such a paradigm is largely a thing of the past. The people who buy new music on vinyl are an infinitesimal minority. And the replacement for this technology, digital music, is not physical at all. You could store your entire music collection on a hard drive on your desk. And forget about displaying your music. No one looks through someone else's iTunes library, and even if they did, it's not nearly as fun as thumbing through a record rack. Digital music is much easier to acquire, share, and transport than CDs or records, but these advantages are gained at the expense of our physical relationship with the music we own. Music is no longer a thing we can hold, nor is it something we can literally point to as an identifier of the self. This is not necessarily bad or worse, since the tradeoff has its advantages (especially when it comes to portability). But it does leave us with one less easy signifier of identity, which is not easy to replace.

So instead of showing people my record collection, I write this here blog. It's a bit more work, and it does not even begin to capture the entirety of my taste as well as a record collection could. But it's a start.

03 September 2010

Friday Album Cover: Alternate Universe

Jazz and Design linked to some alternate covers to classic jazz recordings by Jeff Rochester this morning, including the version of Cannonball Adderley's At The Lighthouse below. See more of his work, including a delightfully minimalist Blood on the Tracks cover, here.