jazz

Remembering Michael Brecker

Remembering Michael Brecker

On January 13 2007, two and a half years after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (1), and just one month before winning his 12th and 13th Grammy awards, Michael Brecker passed away from leukemia.

You’ve heard Michael Brecker…as one of the most indemand tenor saxophone players in New York for the last 35 years or so, he’s played on over 900 albums. Artists he’s recorded with include James Brown, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, John Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Carly Simon, Aerosmith, George Benson, Dire Straits, Charles Mingus, Lou Reed, Dave Brubeck, Diana Ross, Chet Baker, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra and many others. He was a key member of the pioneering fusion groups Dreams, The Brecker Brothers (with his brother Randy), and Steps Ahead; and also released a series of very successful solo albums. read more…

Jazz Speakers JS2105NA digital media player

.Jazz Speakers has added another product for music enthusiasts, its JS2105NA digital media player (portable boom box). It is very simple in operation, one just need to Plug & play. The player supports all USB interface’s storage device (such as MP3 player and pan flash disc) and iPOD analogy input. read more…

Jimmy Raney: Bebop’s Quiet Master

Jimmy Raney: Bebop’s Quiet Master

Jimmy Raney, one of the great unsung heroes of bebop jazz guitar was born in Louisville, KY, in 1927. He moved to Chicago in 1946, where he played as accompanist to piano player Max Miller. He also worked with Artie Shaw and Woody Herman before moving to New York City in the late 1940s. Here, he teamed up with tenor saxophone player Stan Getz, with whom he recorded extensively from 1951 to 1952. He replaced Tal Farlow in the Red Norvo Trio in 1953, and remained with him until some time in 1954. He worked in and around New York, including working in Broadway theater pit orchestras until he returned to Louisville in the 1960s. read more…

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, “A Night in Tunisia” Music Matters Jazz MM BST-4049  Vinyl Double 45 rpm Album

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, “A Night in Tunisia” Music Matters Jazz MM BST-4049 Vinyl Double 45 rpm Album

I clearly remember my first exposure to Art Blakey. I was living in New York during the eighties, in my first job out of college, and around ’85 or ’86 a friend invited me to join him at Sweet Basil, one of the pre-eminent jazz clubs in New York on Seventh Avenue South in the Village (sadly, recently closed). Art Blakey was the headline act that night; I had heard the name, but knew nothing about Blakey. It did strike me as odd that a drummer could lead a jazz band, but up to that point my exposure to jazz had been limited to Dixieland and I knew nothing about the artist. That ignorance ended that evening over twenty years ago. I had always viewed drums strictly as the means by which a beat was achieved; never had I heard drums played quite so polyrhythmically (and almost polyphonically). While I was familiar with drum solos, I was new to the concept of percussion as a lead instrument. Blakey and his cohorts nearly blew me out of my seat. It was a memorable evening, and one that was brought back to mind immediately when I listened to this LP. read more…

Gene Puerling (1929-2008)

Gene Puerling (1929-2008)

Gene Puerling died a  at age 78, and sadly, most obituary editors of newspapers around the nation chose to ignore this event. It’s unfortunate, because Gene’s work in vocal arrangements and performing was admired and outright copied by many.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1929, to a very musical family, he had little or no formal training, but went to work at 17 and never looked back. read more…

Analogue Productions Bringing 25 Classic Blue Note Jazz Albums to Super Audio CD

Earlier today Analogue Productions, the audiophile reissue specialist label owned by Chad Kassem, announced that they are bringing 25 classic albums from the Blue Note catalog to Super Audio CD disc. The albums are being licensed from Blue Note Records, the famed Jazz label owned by EMI/Capitol Records. read more…

The Jazz Side of the Moon in Super Audio CD Surround Sound

The Jazz Side of the Moon in Super Audio CD Surround Sound

A unique Jazz album entitled The Jazz Side of The Moon is the next in Chesky Records series of newly recorded Jazz performances. The album is subtitled “The Music of Pink Floyd” and as you might guess, it presents a new take on the classic album The Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd. read more…

Barney Kessel – He Played With Everybody

Barney Kessel – He Played With Everybody

If you listen to almost any jazz or pop record from the 1950s and many from the 1960s, you will in all likelihood hear the distinctive guitar of Barney Kessel. From Julie London to Billie Holiday, from Frank Sinatra to Ricky Nelson to the Beach Boys, Barney was there. One of L.A.’s “first-call” studio guitarists (who also included stellar players like Howard Roberts, Jimmy Wyble, Dennis Budimir, Tommy Tedesco, and others), Barney’s distinctive sound and overall musicality and professionalism elevated him to the pinnacle of players, who had the respect and awe of any number of players on the music scene, and is still remembered today as one of the giants in jazz. read more…

The Jazz File: European Offerings

The Jazz File: European Offerings

Some have called the blues the most influential art form that Americans have ever unleashed on the world. Considering these are the roots of nearly all American popular music, including rock ‘n’ roll, I’d say it’s a fair assessment. Rock has proven such an infectious cultural export that many of the greatest bands in history were spawned on foreign soil: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, AC/DC, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, U2…heck, even the Jimi Hendrix Experience was two-thirds British.

But how has jazz, the blues’ “high-brow” offspring, fared globally? Pretty well, actually, although I wouldn’t say there’s anyone on the other side of the pond vying for Charlie Parker or John Coltrane’s throne. I took a listen to some current European offerings this month…don’t take this as comprehensive or any kind of a “best of”, it’s just a collection of recordings that came to my attention for one reason or another. If nothing else, this collection speaks volumes about the diversity of jazz currently happening in Europe, but I found plenty to recommend as well. read more…

The Jazz File: Three on the Six Strings

The Jazz File: Three on the Six Strings

Like many jazz fans, my love for music began with rock. And like many rock fans, my love of rock begat a love of the guitar. It’s an amazing instrument, capable of a wider variety of tonal qualities than any other, with the possible exception of synthesizer. This month I gave a listen to three wildly diverse recordings by jazz guitarists, all released this year, and really liked what I found. Enjoy. read more…

The Jazz File: Happy Music…or not.

The Jazz File: Happy Music…or not.

Interesting couple of albums have taken over my system for the past few months. There’s something of a unified thread running through these…acoustic, improvisational, crosscultural, cross-genre, slow tempos, and not exactly the cheeriest music I’ve ever spun. I’m not sure what this says (if anything) about the current state of jazz or my own psychological state this spring, but I hope you find something to enjoy in this month’s selections. Comments always welcome read more…

Johnny Smith – Gentleman Guitarist

Johnny Smith – Gentleman Guitarist

Johnny Smith came on the scene in New York in the late 1940s, after a stint in the Army, where he learned to play a number of instruments. While “paying his dues” and struggling to make a living, Smith roomed with a number of guitarists who went on to be famous in their own right, including Sal Salvador and Jimmy Raney. Thanks to his musical abilities, including the ever-important skill of sight-reading, he wound up on the staff of NBC as a studio player, playing a wide variety of musical styles from country and western to classical, and everything in between, and lots and lots of commercials. By night, he sat in with all the jazz greats on New York’s famous “Swing Street”, 52nd Street. read more…

The Jazz File: My Grammy Picks

The Jazz File: My Grammy Picks

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why would a self-respecting jazz writer give a rat’s rear about the Grammy Awards?” Well, I never really have before. Not sure exactly what changed my mind this year…maybe it was the pressure to write something before my deadline for this month’s issue, maybe it was guilt over not having a proper “best CDs of 2006” column…this way I can let the Grammy people come up with a list for me, and all I have to do is make comments. Either way, I found that this year’s nominees, at least for jazz, are largely not as bad as I expected, and there’s even some real gems in there. read more…

The Jazz File

December is here, the holiday season…a time for wanton acts of kindness, endless shopping, and (of course) every music critics’ “top 10 best releases of the year” list. Sorry to disappoint, but frankly I don’t pay enough attention to new releases to even list ten total, let alone ten that I could vouch with any certainly that are the best of the year.

That said, I have been listening to some new music of late, so I’ve got something of a list for you. All of this month’s selections were, in fact, released this year, and have provided me with a good bit of stimulating listening. These would work equally well as gifts for your music-loving friends as gifts for yourself, and if you hurry, you can probably still find them at your local soon-to-be-doomed Tower Records for 40% off. Enjoy. read more…

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