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#81 Josh Hurst

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 08:57 AM


Has anyone else heard the new Fred Hersch, Alone at the Vanguard? Thom, I noticed that you praised it over in the New Stuff... thread, and I vaguely remember Christian, perhaps, being a fan of this man. I couldn't help but notice the four-and-a-half star review at All Music-- which hails it as a "once in a decade album." Wow!


I like almost everything Hersch has recorded, but his solo piano work in a live setting usually floors me because you can measure how much growth is there. Alone At The Vanguard is over the top great.


Just a quick note to say that I got the Hersch album last night and have already spun it three times. Wow-- what a delight! There's so much warmth to this recording-- Hersch is so casual about his technical mastery that at first the sheer virtuosity of his playing is masked by his own modesty. But every performance here is beautiful, contemplative but spirited, and intricate without ever seeming too flashy. Really, really wonderful work.

#82 Thom Jurek (unregistered)

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 09:55 AM



Has anyone else heard the new Fred Hersch, Alone at the Vanguard? Thom, I noticed that you praised it over in the New Stuff... thread, and I vaguely remember Christian, perhaps, being a fan of this man. I couldn't help but notice the four-and-a-half star review at All Music-- which hails it as a "once in a decade album." Wow!


I like almost everything Hersch has recorded, but his solo piano work in a live setting usually floors me because you can measure how much growth is there. Alone At The Vanguard is over the top great.


Just a quick note to say that I got the Hersch album last night and have already spun it three times. Wow-- what a delight! There's so much warmth to this recording-- Hersch is so casual about his technical mastery that at first the sheer virtuosity of his playing is masked by his own modesty. But every performance here is beautiful, contemplative but spirited, and intricate without ever seeming too flashy. Really, really wonderful work.




Now I have to get you to listen to Kenny Werner's new album Balloons. It was recorded live at the Blue Note with saxophonist David Sanchez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Unlike No Beginning, NO End, this is a jazz quartet date, top to bottom. That said, it's Kenny at his lyric best as a composer; the four tunes are all long and very different from one another. It looks like it may be a great year for jazz.



#83 Josh Hurst

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 10:02 AM

Waiting on my copy of the Werner CD to arrive, Thom; like that guy a lot and didn't even know he was releasing something new until your review showed up on my screen. I appreciated No Beginning No End as a concept... but wasn't completely in love with it as music.

#84 Thom Jurek (unregistered)

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 12:09 PM

Waiting on my copy of the Werner CD to arrive, Thom; like that guy a lot and didn't even know he was releasing something new until your review showed up on my screen. I appreciated No Beginning No End as a concept... but wasn't completely in love with it as music.


I'll be the first to acknowledge that No Beginning No End isn't for everybody; I love it, but it's not jazz--as weird as I feel about writing that--and I don't think it grows on people; you either dig it or you don't. That said, Balloons is a truly wonderful jazz record and one of the most , dare I say it, "accessible" records Werner has made, without compromising his ambition as a composer and arranger. What I love about KW is how committed he is to growth as a musician. He's very curious and that comes out as excitement in his music, even the quiet piano trio dates.

#85 Josh Hurst

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:22 PM

I wanted to report back on my experience with the Werner album-- which is really sensational stuff. In fact, while there might be certain levels on which the Fred Hersch album impresses me more, technically speaking, Balloons is the jazz album I've enjoyed most this year-- by a landslide. It's warm, melodic, and unfolds so organically; Werner says in the liner notes that it's more like a set of songs than "fractured jazz pieces," and I totally get what he means. Just a pleasure, and absolute joy to listen to from start to finish.

#86 Josh Hurst

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 07:52 AM

NPR is offering a full stream of the debut album from James Farm, an acoustic quartet that includes Aaron Parks and Joshua Redman, and I feel pretty comfortable saying that it's already my favorite jazz recording I've heard this year. The compositions are stellar, drawing from jazz but also rock, electronica, and classical music, and the performances are killer. This thing really SWINGS, though not in a conventional sense-- the drummer plays this stuff more like rock and roll than jazz, I think, but it works. Redman is in really fine form, albeit a little more subdued than I'm used to hearing him, and Parks just knocks it out of the park. Really mesmerizing and infinitely enjoyable music.

#87 Christian

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 03:12 AM

So I finally dived into Bill Frisell's catalog today.

Wow, wow wow wow. I've only picked up <i>The Intercontinentals</i> and <i>Floratone</i>, but both are pretty amazing. I wish I had more insightful stuff to say, but I need to let it sink in. I'm really impressed with Frisell's texturing techniques; I've read that's he's cut back on all of the effect pedal-soaked madness of her earlier stuff, but effects or not, he seems to really <i>get</i> that atmosphere is as important as soul.

David Hajdu has a lovely meditation on a Frisell concert. The piece is less about the music than it is about how we experience music, especially in the 21st century.

The Vanguard set from last week will stay in my memory—a place even more precarious than the digital domain, where it is already morphing without iMovie tools, beginning its inevitable transformation from an occasion into an event of the imagination.

Edited by Christian, 14 May 2011 - 03:12 AM.


#88 Christian

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 07:11 PM

NPR is offering a full stream of the debut album from James Farm, an acoustic quartet that includes Aaron Parks and Joshua Redman


I just pulled up NPR and found a live stream of Aaron Parks in concert!

#89 Thom Jurek (unregistered)

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 11:25 AM

Don;t know if anyone here has already heard him, but he's new to me: British saxophonist Nat Birchall. I own his ladt two albums--the most recent, Sacred Dimension was released on November 21st (I purchased it from Dusty Groove's web site for a very reasonable $12.99)-- but he is a deep player. Very much influenced by Coltrane (circa A Love Supreme), as well as by Charles Lloyd, Kenny Garrett's later work, and fellow Brit Andy Sheppard. He works in the modal tradition, but looks inside it for elegant, even gorgeous melodies. AMG doesn't even have the new one, though we do have Akhenaten and Guiding Spirit listed with samples, so I will be putting my copy of the new one through data entry. I still haven't heard his Ahkenaten, but will be checking it out in house today. His web site is rather humble, but I'd love to know more about him if someone would be kind enough to share their knowledge. Nat's site is here.

#90 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 03:17 PM

NPR is offering a full stream of the debut album from James Farm, an acoustic quartet that includes Aaron Parks and Joshua Redman, and I feel pretty comfortable saying that it's already my favorite jazz recording I've heard this year. The compositions are stellar, drawing from jazz but also rock, electronica, and classical music, and the performances are killer. This thing really SWINGS, though not in a conventional sense-- the drummer plays this stuff more like rock and roll than jazz, I think, but it works. Redman is in really fine form, albeit a little more subdued than I'm used to hearing him, and Parks just knocks it out of the park. Really mesmerizing and infinitely enjoyable music.


Stumbled across this on Spotify. Really enjoying it. I completely agree with your brief assessment. Josh, you still spinning this one?

#91 Josh Hurst

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 03:20 PM


NPR is offering a full stream of the debut album from James Farm, an acoustic quartet that includes Aaron Parks and Joshua Redman, and I feel pretty comfortable saying that it's already my favorite jazz recording I've heard this year. The compositions are stellar, drawing from jazz but also rock, electronica, and classical music, and the performances are killer. This thing really SWINGS, though not in a conventional sense-- the drummer plays this stuff more like rock and roll than jazz, I think, but it works. Redman is in really fine form, albeit a little more subdued than I'm used to hearing him, and Parks just knocks it out of the park. Really mesmerizing and infinitely enjoyable music.


Stumbled across this on Spotify. Really enjoying it. I completely agree with your brief assessment. Josh, you still spinning this one?


I do really like that album, and the compositions in particular. I have come to be a little bothered by the way it was produced/recorded. The sound of the drums is what bothers me, I think. The drummer is talented, yet for some reason the beats sound dull and leaden, distracting just a bit from the SWING I mentioned way back in April. But, I do still think it a fine outing and hopefully the start of a terrific new ensemble.

#92 Christian

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 04:18 PM

Kurt Elling on Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me.

#93 Christian

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 12:22 PM

I used to live right on the border of Rosslyn, Va., about a 3-minute walk to the location of the Rosslyn Jazz Festival. I went about a decade ago, can't remember who headlined. It's a small outdoor venue and has never commanded top talent.

That's all changed this year. I am, frankly, floored by this lineup. I simply have to find a way to talk my wife into letting me go for the entire afternoon/evening.

Did I mention that this event is free??

#94 Andy Whitman

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 12:41 PM

I used to live right on the border of Rosslyn, Va., about a 3-minute walk to the location of the Rosslyn Jazz Festival. I went about a decade ago, can't remember who headlined. It's a small outdoor venue and has never commanded top talent.

That's all changed this year. I am, frankly, floored by this lineup. I simply have to find a way to talk my wife into letting me go for the entire afternoon/evening.

Did I mention that this event is free??

That's an amazing lineup.

#95 Christian

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 06:40 PM

The festival was wonderful, until it was stopped because of the approach of severe weather. I arrived in time to see Rene Marie's 50-minute set. Just four songs, one of which was epic-length. I missed the entirety of the second song because, just as I found spot among the crowd to spread my blanket and sit down, my 5-year-old said, "I have to go the bathroom."

Five-year-olds are so predictable.

I made him wait through the first song, but seeing that the urge wasn't subsiding, took him and his younger brother to the bathroom during the second song. Got back in time for the final two numbers. Sound problems affected one of the songs -- some of the instruments cut out during their solos -- but no one in the crowd minded too much. After the set, I took the boys to the CD-purchase table to be signed ($20 per CD for each performing artist -- glad I brought my own copies) and didn't have to wait too long for Marie to show up and sign those CD jackets.

We returned to our seats and heard the first two Don Byron Gospel Quintet tunes before the event was stopped. Byron introduced the band after the first song, and I was startled to learn that the group's vocalist is none other than Carla Cook! I don't think I knew that before today. I was kicking myself for not bringing my copy of Cook's It's All About Love CD so she could sign it, but I stopped the self flagellation after the approaching storm ended the music -- and any chance I might have had at a post-performance CD signing.

#96 Christian

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 03:31 PM

I just caught up with this Jazz Times article on the waning/demise of "Smooth Jazz" as a radio format. The whole thing is worth reading, but these artist quotes, with their you've-gotta-laugh-or-else-you'd-cry tone, were a highlight:

Keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who co-produced his latest release with Haslip, has some fun with the suggestion that people involved in smooth jazz might be heading for the exits: “No, they’ve already gone through the exits, they’ve taken the freeway home and they’ve gone to bed.”

Few would argue that smooth jazz is uniquely bad off. Record label dominance is over, digital music and media are ascendant, the business is being entirely remade, and opinion on the brave new online world is sharply divided. “On my desk right here I’ve got a check for zero dollars and 78 cents from YouTube licensing offers,” Saisse deadpans. “I’ve got some Spotify checks here for zero dollars nine cents. So it’s not quite making up for the royalties that we used to get from radio [laughs]. But I’m working on it. I’m collecting my zero-point-78-cent checks and we’ll see what happens.”

I thought Smooth Jazz as a radio format was pretty dreadful, but I liked that it had a following and that there wasn't more than one Smooth Jazz station in my market (Washington, D.C.). The demographics pushed out the format, although I can't figure out why. The reason corporate radio went with Smooth Jazz many years ago was because it was so demographically appealing (higher-income listeners):

Lorber offers a dry-eyed counterpoint. “From what I’ve heard,” he says, “the new stations haven’t done as well as the smooth-jazz stations, but they don’t care. Because they’re looking for something else that has to do with the way these big corporations bundle their advertising. For whatever reason the smooth-jazz demographic didn’t work into that plan.”

We don't have much, if any, discussion of Smooth Jazz in this thread, so I was going to put this post in a dedicated thread. But then I read further into the article, which references several straight-ahead jazz musicians, and thought this was the best place to post the article and have any related discussion.

Edited by Christian, 13 October 2012 - 03:32 PM.


#97 Josh Hurst

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 12:29 PM

NPR has a sampling of a new, limited-edition, seven-disc Charles Mingus box set, out next week and containing a lot of never-before-released material. Based on the sampling available here, the music in this set is absolutely killer. (And hey! Just in time for Christmas!)

#98 Christian

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 04:47 PM

NPR's "All About Jazz" blog linked to this interview with Branford Marsalis. It's full of profanity, so I'm hesitant to link to it. But I like what Marsalis has to say in it about melody. He's pitting melody against ... well, I'm not sure. Against technique, maybe, or perfectionism in jazz.

I've written at A&F about melody in songwriting, and how important it is to me. I do like nonmelodic music, but since I'm not a musician, such listening can feel like a chore sometimes. Sure, it broadens me, expands my appreciation. But when I want to listen to something I enjoy, I go for melodic music. I know that's heresy in some quarters, but I'm too old to care.

Excerpt from the article:

I started to hear melody and I realized there was power to it. And suddenly one day somebody came up to me, a woman, and she said, “You guys played that ballad and I had tears in my eyes.” And I started thinking, “F--k, when has that ever happened to me?” Never, never. That’s when I started understanding the power of melody, and that’s one of the things that Joey learned. After he joined the band he started listening to a lot of music and paying attention to melody—and now he writes these beautiful songs and women and babies are f--king crying when we play these songs. Now, there are other musicians who hear those songs and come up to me and say, “Man, what’s wrong with Joey? Is he going through some kind of depression?” They think these songs are a sign of weakness because they don’t even play gigs for regular people, so they don’t even get the power of this s--t. They don’t get it. But it doesn’t matter that they don’t get it, because I get it.

Earlier in the same article there's this anecdote, which made me laugh:

So they’ll say things like, “We’re gonna play ‘Yesterdays’,” but it’s in 11/4. I mean, really? Why do that to “Yesterdays”? Or it’s like what happened to me with Blakey one time, which was great. Blakey told me I had to play a ballad and I couldn’t play ballads at the time. So I started changing all the chords in the ballad, and he said, “What the f--k are you doing?” And I said to him, “I’m trying to make this s--t hip, man. You making me play it, I’m gonna do what I can do to make it hip.” And he said, “Let me explain something to you, motherf--ker. George Gershwin does not need your sorry a-- to make him hip. He’s already hip. The only thing you’re doing is masking the fact that you don’t know what the f--k you’re doing. So you’re gonna play the song the way it’s written.” And that was a valuable lesson.

Edited by Christian, 23 November 2012 - 04:48 PM.


#99 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 11:58 AM

That's an awesome anecdote.

Anybody know of any great Christmas jazz albums you'd recommend? I'm looking for some albums to add to the Christmas music rotation.

#100 Christopher Lake

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 06:45 PM

I haven't yet found a thread on this artist at Arts and Faith, and my writing about her is long overdue here, but Gretchen Parlato's "The Lost and Found" was my favorite CD of 2011, by any artist, in any genre.

This disc is beautiful and hypnotic, and it works for me at any time of the year, but I enjoy it most during fall and winter. Years ago, Ms. Parlato was the first winner of the (new at the time) "Vocal" category in the Thelonius Monk Competition. Check out the EPK for "The Lost and Found":