Nonesuch has released the 2002 European hit, Upojenie, the collaboration between Pat Metheny and Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek, here in the States. The recording features reimagined well-known Metheny instrumentals with lyrics and vocals as well as Polish folk songs and originals. This new U.S. issue offers previously unavailable bonus tracks.
Pat Metheny was recently in his home town of Lee’s Summit, Missouri for a Metheny Music Foundation concert. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, he revealed his next project: a new reunion project with Gary Burton with Steve Swallow and Antonio Sanchez.Then, “I’m cleaning off my desk. For the first time in four or five years, I’ll have nothing but blank white paper there. I’m looking forward to that. I’m not sure what will come out.”
Ken Navarro has written and played some of the sweetest melodies I’ve heard in my years of listening to contemporary jazz. So what happens when he steps away from the “smooth jazz radio” sound? You still get sweet sounding guitar and memorable songs! The Meeting Place is the 17th, and latest, recording from the reliable guitarist. It’s hard not to feel the joy he puts into compositions like the peppy “My Beautiful Girls” and sitar-enhanced “Lucky.” All of the songs are originals written or co-written by Ken with the exception of a nice rendition of Pat Metheny’s “Lakes.” I smiled upon hearing “Just Like That” as it reminded me again that Navarro can really write a hook. There’s a lot of energy in that track but he really stokes the fire on “The Challenge.” It’s another uptempo track with solos from saxman Rob Holmes then Jay Rowe, building to a minute-long, fiery electric guitar outburst. To me, it’s a case of saving the best for last as it’s my favorite on the disc. That’s saying something when the entire recording is full of good songs and enthusiastic playing. The Meeting Place is out now on Navarro’s Positive Music label.
After hearing a dozen recordings by an artist, you tend to have an impression of a person based on their playing or compositions. With Navarro, though, you won’t have to guess. He keeps a regularly updated blog (several posts each month), a podcast series, and wrote a diary about the making of The Meeting Place. In his blog, he writes about his life from composing to touring to stories about his family (including a funny story about when his son didn’t listen to Ken about playing the bass). It’s a personal aspect that, as far as I know, no other contemporary jazz musician has dared before. For musicians, the details about the entire production of the new release are very informative. The diary has over a dozen entries that are complemented by eight podcasts. Non-musicians, like myself, will also find it revealing. The podcast on distribution gave me a solid education on what an independent musician needs to do to get their music out to the public. Thanks, Ken, for sharing.
Nominees in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.) Shouldn’t they replace the word “album” with “recording?”
Nominees are: Journey by Fourplay, Unspeakable by Bill Frisell, In Praise of Dreams by Jan Garbarek, The Hang by Don Grusin, and the Strength EP from Roy Hargrove (The RH Factor).
The Academy has nominated Bob James and Larry Carlton several times over the last 30 years. James has won with his collaborations with Earl Klugh (1980) and David Sanborn (1985). So collaborations with James can win but Fourplay has yet to score and the stronger competition will make sure that doesn’t happen this year either.
Garbarek returned to the studio after six years with American-Armenian violist Kim Kashkashian and African-French drummer Manu Katch?. The trio’s emotive recording earned accolades.
The Strength EP, from Roy Hargrove and his RH Factor, is a small follow-up to the band?s debut that is big on sound. The great tunes here are firmly rooted in R&B and jazz making this one of the most accessible fusion projects in a while.
Grusin’s The Hang didn’t impress me when I first listened to it but when I saw the performance on DVD, my impression changed. If the Academy sees the DVD too then they might give overdue recognition to these artists who were an important part of keeping jazz going in the 1980s.
However, I think the Grammy will go to Bill Frisell. Many reviews have credited Unspeakable as Frisell’s jazziest album to date. The fact that it was nominated shows that the Academy knows his work. I speculate that they have been looking for a way to recognize him and this is it. Then again, I thought that the Academy would give Joe Zawinul the award two years ago for Faces and Places. By saying that, I mentally overrode my own recognition that Metheny Always Wins (and, of course, the Pat Metheny Group beat Zawinul for their Speaking of Now release).
The Grammys are televised this Sunday. I would write about the show but I won’t have anything to say. They (and I don’t know who to point the finger to) are completely abandoning jazz on air this year.
There are no real surprises in the list of jazz Grammy nominees for 2004. For Best Contemporary Jazz Album, you’ve got the usual suspects of Yellowjackets, David Sanborn, and Randy Brecker. The reunited Crusaders pick up a nomination as does Nicholas Payton’s fusion recording Sonic Trance. Another “trumpeter gone wild” this year – Roy Hargrove – picked up a nod for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for the RH Factor song “I’ll Stay” featuring D’Angelo. Among his competitors in that category is Stanley Clarke with Glenn Lewis and Amel Larrieux for “Where Is the Love” from 1, 2, to the Bass. In the “what the hell?!” category, Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night CD is nominated for Best New Age Album (but that means someone else will win Best Jazz Album).
The Grand Unification Theory by Stefon Harris gets a deserved nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. Also up for the Grammy in that category are Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Pat Martino, and, most likely to win, Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s “Sacajawea” is a candidate for Best Instrumental Composition, as is Michael Brecker’s “Broadband” from his thrice-nominated release Wide Angles.
Visit the Grammy site for a complete list of Grammy nominations. The awards will be presented on February 8 and be broadcast on CBS.