December has once again produced a large number of year-end “Best Of” lists, and the goal of this post is to present those albums oft mentioned by the critics. While these 21 albums hardly constitute a comprehensive assessment of the “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” lists, it does provide some guidance about 2021 recordings critics seemed to agree about, and suggest we check out more thoroughly.
. . photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress Sidney Bechet at Jimmy Ryan’s, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947 . …..I don’t know about you, but ever since Kenny G made himself known in the world of pop music, the soprano saxophone has been a challenge for me to enjoy. His “smooth” approach to the … Continue reading “Playlist: A sampling of soprano saxophonists”
December has brought the tradition of year-end “Best Of” lists, and the consensus among critics is that – as difficult as it may be to understand given the challenging circumstances – 2020 was a banner year for new jazz recordings.
One of the many rewards of reading Will Friedwald’s comprehensive and lively biography of Nat King Cole, Straighten Up and Fly Right, has been rediscovering gems within the great singer’s expansive catalog. Thanks to Friedwald, I am reminded of Cole’s 1960 album, Wild is Love, an ambitious, electrifying (and “hit”) recording that could best be described as a concept album about falling in love.
Just as it did during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War protests, music is playing an important political and inspirational role in the Black Lives Matter movement and the worldwide protests in support of it.
While preparing for an interview this week with Dominic McHugh. co-editor of The Letters of Cole Porter, I have immersed myself in Porter’s music, which has long been inspiration for a multitude of jazz recording artists.
A recently released jazz album of significance is Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Balance (pictured), a distinctive and brilliant integration of contemporary exploration with the traditional nod to those who have influenced him over the years – in particular Ellington and Monk.
. . . _____ . . New Jazz Music Recommendations . . While much of the listening for this month’s edition of “On the Turntable” took place, as always, while walking the sidewalks and paths of Northeast Portland neighborhoods and parks, much of it also took place during … Continue reading ““On the Turntable” — June, 2019 edition”
A month of walking the dog around the (often frigid) park, ear buds in place, resulted in lots of interesting. discoveries from artists known and unknown (at least to me). This month, an eclectic blend of 18 recently released recordings from all over the globe.
I will soon be interviewing Ms. Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, whose biography of her late husband is a creatively and beautifully told account of the essential mid-20th century saxophonist.
. . . . I am having time to listen to new music more regularly these days, and finding great pleasure in many of the “grooves.” (Full disclosure…investing $10 per month in a Spotify account — while not the sensual experience of laying the needle on the vinyl — effortlessly gets your ears to … Continue reading “On the Turntable — January, 2019 edition”
In June of 2017, the American president chose to leave the Paris climate agreement because, he said at the time, it is an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” It seems that climate change knows no borders, and nobody benefits from our dear leader’s willful ignorance — witness the record heat and fires across the U.S., and indeed now all over the globe.
Oh well, we too can willfully ignore climate change today by finding a cool corner of our world and cranking up Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot,” a song written for the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate” in 1948, and made famous by
I have been fortunate – thus far – to have avoided the many summer colds going around this season, but I have been afflicted, once again, by “Miles Fever.” Every so often, I am struck by an irresistible urge to dig into the catalog of this artist so present during virtually every season of my life, and rediscover the thrill of his sound, and of his cultural significance.
I contracted the virus this morning, and spent the morning (in bed, of course) listening to Miles Ahead, the 1957 recording featuring Miles Davis and 19 musicians under the direction of Gil Evans – his first collaboration with Miles since the Birth of the Cool sessions of 1950, and one of his earliest recordings for Columbia Records. An early example of
Being retired allows the occasional opportunity to lay around and revisit favorite music. Today was such a day…
My key takeaway from today is a reminder that the late trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s music absolutely smokes! For evidence of this, revisit his 1961 album Whistle Stop (including Hank Mobley on tenor) which jazz critic Gary Giddins calls “one of the great jazz albums,” and Una Mas from 1963, featuring the recording debut of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.
In the midst of all this listening, I ran across a colorful and short web biography of Dorham, a native of Austin, Texas. Written in the late-2000’s by
To understate the obvious, our world has not been the same since January 20. Science has become fiction, democratic institutions are being threatened, global relationships that have been nurtured for generations are devalued and misunderstood, and our world is in complete turmoil. Like Hillary or not (and God, how I liked her – her grace, intelligence, experience, resilience, strength, and compassion – all qualities we are starved for today), it is tough to argue with what is now clearly the most honest assessment of Donald Trump during the campaign, when she said, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” Alas, this most basic and obvious warning — which should have elicited a major national conversation before the election — got lost in the noise of campaign coverage more concerned with her oh-so-scandalous emails!
So this is where we are, living on the brink of catastrophic war due to our man-child president’s narcissism, his endless lies, and his addiction to
I’ve been revisiting some favorite recordings this week, among them the classic 1958 Cannonball Adderley-led session Somethin’ Else, with Hank Jones, Art Blakey, Sam Jones, and, in a rare appearance as sideman, Miles Davis. The tune I have been stuck on is “One For Daddy-O,” a blues written by Cannonball’s brother Nat that features a flawless blues solo by Miles.
I dug into the liner notes and was reminded of how the critic Leonard Feather used this particular solo as a platform on which to describe the essence of the “deeper and broader blues of today,” refuting a “misinformed” Ebony piece of the era that suggested that