Skip to content

let's call this Posts

Moving On and Moving Up

For about 35 years I prowled various dark corners of the advertising/PR/marketing world, a place that’s governed by deadlines. To maintain my sanity, and to feel that I might contribute something to the world, I started writing cultural journalism as a newspaper freelancer. Both of those paths have come to an end (though I’m keeping my fingers crossed about my newspaper gig returning), but I still crave the adrenaline rush of a deadline. Like caffeine, a deadline is a stressor I simply can’t seem to live without.

To be sure, I’m still writing. That much can be confirmed by scrolling through this blog, but somehow, blogging didn’t satisfy the way bylines did. So I went looking for some, and I found Rob Shepherd, publisher of PostGenre Media, through my membership in the Jazz Journalists Association. Through Rob’s kindness, I’ve published three reviews there with more on the way. You can read them here.

All About Jazz has been around a long time, but I never thought of asking to write for it. A few weeks ago, with the encouragement of Mark Corotto, an AAJ contributor whose Xeroxed newsletter published my first jazz writing a very long time ago, I joined the AAJ staff. My first review for the site, of Dafnis Prieto’s “Transparency,” can be read here.

I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to publish in places that are not, well, this place. No, I’m not going to give up the blog. And who knows, these new writing assignments might unleash a flood of creativity that will spill over to let’s call this. That’s the kind of motivation a bunch of deadlines can provide.

Comments closed

Previewing the Noah Haidu Trio at Bop Stop, Sept, 28

The tribute record has a long history in the music business.  Like a Hollywood franchise film or a celebrity-branded product, tribute records work best when they yoke an unfamiliar to the powerful engine of what is known, loved and pre-sold.

By that definition, maybe pianist Noah Haidu’s new Sunnyside Records CD, “Doctone,” which he will premiere at Cleveland’s Bop Stop on September 28, is not a tribute record at all. Haidu’s CD and the book and documentary film that will accompany it, are dedicated to the late pianist Kenny Kirkland, a name that might be unfamiliar to all but the geekiest jazz fans. Mention him to jazz insiders, though, and they will describe him as a genius and a monster player.

Leave a Comment

Roll Call: September 11, 2020

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 360 new releases so far this year. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. it’s a great writing exercise, and a lot of fun, too.

Think of Something to Say as a map that leads the listener directly to trombonist Matt Haviland‘s musical heart. He gets you there pretty quick, exploding out of the blocks with Freddie Hubbard’s “Arietis,” the adrenalized hard-bop workout that led off Hubbard’s “Ready for Freddie.” That classic Blue Note session was recorded in 1961, and Johnathan Blake’s muscular, post-Tony Williams drum style excepted, there isn’t much on “Something To Say” that couldn’t have been recorded then, either. That’s not a criticism if hot-blooded solos, slashing heads and Jazz Messengers-style thunder is your thing, as it is mine. Pianist David Kikoski, who absorbed the style with bop master Roy Haynes, sparkles in a brawny rhythm section with bassist Ugonna Okegwo. Haviland came up the way the hard-boppers did, in big bands, and his arrangements have the punch and swagger of beefier ensembles. Like his fellow big band vets, he makes the most of his solo spots, like a furiously uptempo take on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and the Sinatrian balladry of “Get Out of Town.” The session’s MVP soloist vote, though, goes to Vincent Herring, who’s a firestarter every time he brings his alto to his lips.

 

With Slipknots Through A Looking Glass,” bassist Eric Revis has delivered one of the year’s most quietly devastating releases. It’s not like we couldn’t see this coming. In every way it’s an extension, maybe an elaboration, of a direction he’s documented on five probing releases for Portugal’s Clean Feed label. Gathering the saxophonists Darius Jones and Bill McHenry from 2014’s “In Memory of Things Yet Seen” and drummer Chad Taylor, also on that session as well as 2017’s “Sing Me Some Cry,” casts “Slipknots” as the latest installment in an ongoing project. Pianist Kris Davis, on whose Pyroclastic label “Slipknots” appears, also returns from “Sing Me” and was on two other Revis-led Clean Feeds. That’s a lineup with no shortage of soloistic firepower, and the saxophonists unleash it on the scouring, frankly ugly duel that blazes up on “Shutter.” But “Slipknot” is ultimately an ensemble record, one shot through with shimmering, sometimes phantasmagoric textures, many created by Davis’ liberal use of prepared piano. At times, Revis’ compositions recall Ronald Shannon Jackson’s 1980s Decoding Society in the slippery dreamlike way that unison horn lines wander in as if from another composition in a different rhythm (is it a coincidence that Ron St. Germain, who engineered for Jackson, was at the dials for “Slipknots?”). Like Jackson’s underappreciated bands and the Surrealist visual art he admires, Revis creates music that holds multiple realities in the same space, and it makes “Slipknots Through A Looking Glass” feel like a culmination.

 

Vancouver-born pianist Cat Toren titled her new CD “Scintillating Beauty,” a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail. There’s beauty here in abundance, but it’s more shimmering than scintillating. Still, don’t let titles such as “Radiance in Veils,” “Rising Phoenix” and “Garment of Destiny” (the latter from another King quote) fool you, though. This isn’t a dreamy, New-Age session, nor a rehash of loopy spiritual-jazz ethereality. Sure, “Radiance” might begin in a “1001-Nights” cloud of oud (Yoshie Fruchter), chimes and piano arpeggios, but when Xavier Del Castillo‘s tenor saxophone shifts from whispered mantras to tumbling, hortatory expression, the breadth of Toren’s vision becomes apparent. “Garment” follows a similar trajectory that eventually veers toward freedom (though never collapsing into chaos), and “Phoenix,” with its big build toward a luminous, “sunrise” theme, recalls Coltrane at his most ecstatic. Toren and her supple New York band, which also includes bassist Jake Leckie and Matt Honor on drums, is on to something new here: call it spiritual jazz for the head as well as the heart.

Comments closed

Roll Call: September 4, 2020

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 345 new releases so far this year. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. it’s a great writing exercise, and a lot of fun, too.

Trumpeter Michael Sarian was born in Toronto to Armenian parents, grew up in Buenos Aires and has lived in New York since 2012. Yet his sound is closest to lyrical European players such as Enrico Rava, Tomasz Stanko and Kenny Wheeler.

Comments closed

Roll Call Extra: Big Band Edition, Sept. 4, 2020

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 345 new releases so far this year. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. it’s a great writing exercise, and a lot of fun, too.

Yesterday I wrote about the gusher of big band recordings that have been an unlikely feast in this summer of musical famine. Now to the tastiest of them, which is also perhaps the most substantial.

Leave a Comment

Roll Call: Big Band Edition, Sept. 3, 2020

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 325 new releases so far this year. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. it’s a great writing exercise, and a lot of fun, too.

Labor Day is this weekend and the prospect of hearing ensemble jazz of any kind seems very far away. When the ensemble crowds more than a dozen players onto the bandstand, most of them playing instruments activated by the breath, big band performances are likely to be the last to return.

Yet at a moment when things couldn’t get much stranger or more ironic, here comes one of the richest crops of big band recordings in a long time.

Leave a Comment